HERMITAGE — An assortment of flowers, shrubs, trees and bricks is par for the course at Cottage Gardens in Hermitage, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year — but now visitors will notice three faces greeting them as they pull in.

Ranging from 36 to 48 inches tall are three steel columns with tiki-style faces and lights inside, giving them a lantern-like appearance in the dark. Wednesday marked their first appearance at the business, said their creator Corey Wise, director of landscape operations at Cottage Gardens.

“The people here are very creative, and they’ve always been supportive of trying new things,” Wise said.

However, the columns have already received national attention due to the Spring Lighting Photo Contest hosted by CAST Lighting LLC. Out of 29 submissions from across the United States, a photo of the illuminated tiki columns received second place in an announcement on CAST’s Facebook page Monday.

Thanking those who went online and voted, Wise said this year was the first time he submitted anything to the contest. Though many of the photos showed similar outdoor photos including houses, gardens or walkways illuminated at night, Wise’s photo was the only photo of something that seemed to use something other than regular LED lamps.

“It was something different, and it was something whimsical, so I think that’s why it stood out to people,” Wise said.

The idea for the columns originally came to Wise about three years ago, but he work on the project didn’t begin until this year before the competition. Designs for the faces started with clip art from the Internet and were tweaked over time.

To physically create the steel columns, Wise reached out to Mike Miller, the owner of Miller’s New Breed Welding and Fabrication LLC of Struthers, Ohio.

“I tried going to a few other places to fabricate them, but they all wanted to do about a hundred of them, where I only wanted a few,” he said. “But I discovered this younger guy and talked to him about what I wanted to do, and he said “Let’s do it.””

The columns are now available for retail, which Wise said could be used for outdoor illumination — a field which Wise said is becoming more popular throughout the 30 to 50 landscaping projects per season.

“I’d say probably six or seven out of 10 projects we do involve some kind of lighting,” he said. “On one hand, lighting allows you to enjoy your landscape 12 months out of the year, while it’s also economical for people who want to leave LED lights on all night for security.”

Aside from the three tiki faces created for the contest, a fourth column has been created with a falling-leaves design with potential other designs on the way. One order for Talbot’s Taproom and Terrace in Mercer can include a custom design featuring bigfoot, Wise said.

“I think CAST has a lighting contest in the summer and in the fall, so I’ll definitely submit something for the next one,” he said.

Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.

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