Remembering Our Own Age of Reptiles

For the last few years I’ve been inspired by our friend Pat Webster’s approach to garden art. (You can follow Pat through her blog Site and Insight.) Pat likes garden art that reflects the particular – the life experiences of her and her family, her forebears, the history of her own acreage.

Our new Triceratops before placement in the garden. 

I like this approach. It makes for a garden that is more personal, more unique. And that is why I now have a 3′ long dinosaur in the garden (though I’m not sure if Pat would want to be the inspiration for a garden dinosaur).

For at least a decade, you see, dinosaurs were pretty central to our family life. Our first son, Daniel, was obsessed with dinosaurs from about the age of 2. David, our younger son, was also keenly interested – but not to the same fanatical extent.

danny and dino

For a year or so, Danny’s favorite book for reading aloud was Danny and the Dinosaur. He had God knows how many plastic dinosaurs of many, many kinds, and he knew all their scientific names. In third grade, he was writing fan letters to famous paleontologists (with some adult assistance).

Weekends often involved trips to the Field Museum to see the dinosaur skeletons. There used to be an exhibit called “DNA to Dinosaurs”, but David thought its name was actually “Danny to Dinosaurs”. When we visited my parents in New York, we would always visit the Museum of Natural History, which had even bigger and better dinosaur skeletons.

Finally, one summer the whole family set off on what we called The Grand Tour of the Dinosaurs, which involved driving around Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, visiting famous dinosaur sites.

Dad and Daniel at the Museum of Natural History. This picture is from around 1995.
Danny and his grandfather at the Museum of Natural History in NY. 

After the Grand Tour and the onset of puberty, our dinosaur mania began to fade. This was partly a relief but also a bit sad. The kids’ fascination had allowed me to indulge in a little bit of a second childhood.

So, long story short, I decided that our garden needed a dinosaur in memory of our family’s very own Age of Reptiles. Judy agreed, and so I ordered one – a Triceratops, to be exact. I found it online on the website of Design Toscano.

It was ordered in June (as a Father’s Day present to myself), but was back ordered for so long that it didn’t arrive until last Saturday, just before my birthday. Made of some resinous material, it’s 3 feet long, about a foot tall, and weights 14 pounds. More important, it looks marvelously realistic, once you get past the reduced size.

Danny approves of our new Triceratops.

Danny came over to cook me a birthday dinner the following day, and he was pleasantly surprised to meet our new acquisition.


Now that we have our dinosaur, certain issues must be addressed. First, where to put it? Personally, I think it should be lurking among the ferns, but Judy says that makes it too hard to see from the porch.


It looks good with the Wild Ginger, too.

Second, he (I think it’s a he, though he is anatomically ambiguous) needs a name: Trevor? Terry? Tristen?

And finally: what if he gets bored or lonely? Doesn’t he need a Tyrannosaurus to fight with? Judy says no, but when you consider that I could have bought the full-size Triceratops (almost 18 feet long and a steal at $3,250), so a second much smaller dinosaur seems the least we can do.

Perhaps, with the next generation, our family will enter a new Age of Reptiles. When the time comes, I want to be ready.

46 Comments on “Remembering Our Own Age of Reptiles”

  1. Lovely! How true it is that children open new doors for us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Danny the Dinosaur to my own children, and to my young students … as a literacy teacher I found dinosaurs books were irresistible even for reluctant readers. But I’m with Judy.. one is enough for the garden!

  2. What a wonderful story! I remember “Danny and the Dinosaur” from when my kids were young. Bittersweet to remember youthful enthusiasms. As for dinosaurs in the garden…It is my humble opinion that one will not do, that more are needed. One dinosaur is very lonely indeed. And don’t forget to tell us what you have named him (or her!).

  3. I am sure a dinosaur wouldn’t stay in one place. He can certainly move from place to place as the whim dictates. I am sorry Judy but I would over rule your decision not to have a second dinosaur. Tristan will be way too lonely without another to play hide and seek with. It sounds like you had a very Happy Birthday Jason. May the happiness linger.

  4. Love your new dinosaur! My back garden is actually strewn with dinosaurs of all sizes and colors and types. I buy them on the cheap at the local thrift store. I started adding them around the time I put in an electric fence to keep raccoons out of the stream. I started with a little Jurassic Park-type vignette with a little guy climbing up the fence and a cluster of dinos beneath him, just waiting for him to fall.

  5. Oh that is just fabulous! I want one… Funny also, because it is my second dinosaur story this week. Just this past weekend, a replica of a real dinosaur (Cryolophosaurus elliotii) was unveiled in the lobby of Orton Hall, at Ohio State University, where the geology department resides. It is named after OSU emeritus Dave Elliot, who found it while doing field work in Antartica. I believe the original remains at the Field Museum. 🙂 More info here:

  6. Oh…surely it should be called Danny? That works for a girl or boy…and think of how the grandbaby will love it! Danny was the inspiration…! Such a lovely, lovely post….hate to disagree with Judy but I love it in the ferns, they are as old as it!xxx

  7. What a delightful addition. I’m in absolute agreement that he needs a friend — perhaps an Archaeopteryx would do. It not only could be a friend to the Triceratops, it could tell stories of life in the old, old, really old days to the other birds that gather in your garden. I already know what I’d name them: Archy and Mehitabel.

  8. I’m sure Danny loved being exposed on the internet as a once dinosaur addict. Most boys seem to go through a dinosaur (and alien and pirate and cars) phase but it seemed particularly keen with him. I would call your wonderful new triceratops, Terrence.

  9. Jason, I’ve only now read this post. Moving house has consumed me for weeks and I’m taking a break and catching up on email. (There are several hundred garden blog posts in my inbox still to read!)

    I was surprised and delighted to see the reference to me and to Site and Insight at the beginning of your post, and I thank you for doing that. But I was even more delighted to think that my approach to garden art has influenced your garden. That’s a real tribute.

    As for the dino, I vote for Terrance. It has a nice dignified ring.

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