Garden Wizards are whimsical hit at Mark’s Lawn & Garden

MARK CARTONIO, owner of Mark’s Lawn & Garden on Route 302 in Bridgton, holds one of his more popular garden sculptures, a colorful sleeping gnome. All of his garden sculptures are hand painted, with protective glaze, and are made of cement to be durable and lasting for many years.   (Geraghty Photo)

MARK CARTONIO, owner of Mark’s Lawn & Garden on Route 302 in Bridgton, holds one of his more popular garden sculptures, a colorful sleeping gnome. All of his garden sculptures are hand painted, with protective glaze, and are made of cement to be durable and lasting for many years.
(Geraghty Photo)

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

What began with his first attempts to duplicate his grandfather Edmund Fectue’s wizard-faced woodcarvings has blossomed into a cement sculpture sideline business for Mark Cartonio, owner of Mark’s Lawn & Garden in Bridgton.

Examples of this new business venture, called Garden Wizards International, are tucked here and there and everywhere throughout Cartonio’s Portland Road business. In one corner of his showroom, shelves of angels recline at rest or kneel in prayer. Bearded smiling wizard heads, affixed to poles, poke out of barrels on the floor. A kiosk across the showroom floor holds shelves of strikingly realistic and delicate-looking hand-painted leaves, made from pressing actual leaves into the cement.

Off to the outside patio are all sorts of garden statues, many of them animals, like frogs, skunks, turtles and bears. There’s stepping stones and plaques with inspirational sayings for garden, walkway, patio or pool. Back in the greenhouse, gnomes and angels and wizards co-exist in peace with two of his more unusual three-piece creations — one, a big green crocodile; the other, a bespeckled old farmer taking a snooze in the hay with a book propped on his belly.

Clearly, Cartonio is having fun with this. He’s aimed to keep prices affordable, with pieces ranging from under $10 to $200 and over.

After spending the winter perfecting his methods, experimenting with the best methods for mixing both the concrete and the paint, and creating about half of the molds on his own, Cartonio has created a product line that meets his standards for durable outdoor garden art to last a good number of years.

Early on, he made the choice to go with concrete instead of the resin used for most of the mass-produced garden art available at larger department chain stores. Standard concrete, as opposed to white concrete, is much more durable than resin, he said. Standard concrete will last for five years or more, while the white concrete he also uses, if properly cared for, will last a lifetime, he said.

He’ll be packing up many of the pieces to sell at three garden shows in Cape Cod, Mass. this summer; and this fall, he’ll pack it all up again, to exhibit and sell at the Fryeburg Fair.

“It’s my first time (doing the Fryeburg Fair). It seems like a dream. I’ve never gotten into a juried show,” said Cartonio, who will have a booth inside the Maine State Florist Building.

The positive feedback he’s received from his customers has convinced him to keep adding on to the product line. Just last weekend, he said, a man came in and bought 10 garden sculptures. And two of his larger leaf creations — so large they can be used as birdbaths — sold this past weekend at $125 each, he said.

He has future plans to create outdoor tables from some of the larger leaf art, the kind that uses the big banana or pumpkin leaves. Next up are life-size statues, he said, of angels and/or mermaids — although the molds alone for such a large statue are $9,000, he said.

Cartonio has been at his Bridgton location for 10 years since moving from his former location in Gorham. “I’ve been pushing pansies for close to 30 years now,” he said. “But at least I’m not pushing up daisies.”

The Garden Wizards International sideline will enable him to keep his five employees busy year-round, he said, and fits in nicely to maintain a year-round business profile.

He doesn’t have his creations available to view online. “The best way for people to see them is to come and visit,” he said.  

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