For Ana Teresa Ulloa, a garden is much more than a treat for the eye. It is also medicine for the soul.
“With everything going on in the world, with so many people unhappy and stressed, people need a place where they can find retreat,” says the 33-year-old part-Gringa, part-Tica, who lives in La Garita de Alajuela, northwest of San José.
And what better place to retreat than a garden? It is a natural place to clear one’s head of the clutter of modern-day life, Ulloa says.
Two years ago, Ulloa began helping people find solace in outdoor spaces, whether a small concrete patio in the city or a sprawling estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But rather than work with flowers and other plant life, she decided to explore nonliving features.
Ulloa works to enhance garden spaces through objects such as custom-made mosaic tables, self-designed fountains, imprinted stepping-stones and ground lanterns.
“For many people, garden spaces are an afterthought,” Ulloa says, as she connects a column-shaped fountain on her front lawn. “They spend so much time and money in the construction of the home, and the garden is often left unfinished.”
The garden has an immense mental healing power, she says, whether for the sick child kept home from school or for the elderly, who often spend long hours home alone.
“My other idea was to offer something different to the market,” she says. “You see a lot of the same things when you shop around Costa Rica. I’ve found that people are not accustomed to seeing anything good or unique, so they have given up trying.”
All of her products – the nature-themed stepping-stones, mosaic tables, knee-high fountains and candle or electric lanterns – are made on a small production scale, making it unlikely you will see the same item in anyone else’s home or yard. And not only the look of her products is unique; every fountain produces a different sound, every lantern a different shade of light.
When working with clients to develop garden spaces, Ulloa tries to get an idea of their lifestyle. She says more than half of designing gardens is determining how much time customers want to invest in their upkeep.
“A busy mother is a lot different from someone who is retired,” she says.
Ulloa began marketing her products in coastal communities and is gradually moving into the metropolitan area. Her customers find her work at local fairs or by word of mouth.
For Sally Federspiel, who sought Ulloa’s help in the restoration of a family heirloom, the care and thought put into the final product – a stained-glass table – could not have been better.
“I had a glass table my mother gave me back in the ’50s,” says Federspiel, an Alajuela resident. “I was afraid to let anyone touch it. But [Ulloa] handled it with such care and confidence, and it turned out marvelous. I was really impressed with her work.”
Sample prices for Ulloa’s work are $8 for stepping-stones, $100 for lanterns, $200 to $250 for fountains and $1,000 for custom-made mosaic tabletops. To view her products online, go to www.gardenartcr.com, or contact Ulloa at 2487-7566, 8333-5827 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment to visit her in La Garita.