One basic garden design element is structure. Picking shrubs and trees, for example, that lend a strong shape to the landscape and provide a focal point. Objects d’art can give a similar sensibility with their contrasting materials, colours and, of course, interesting shapes that draw the eye in. My definition of art in the garden is very broad, it can really be anything that strikes your fancy, though it should be weatherproof, durable and provide winter interest (who needs to haul pieces in every season, treating it with kid gloves like some precious heirloom). Low-maintenance and interesting outdoor art is the answer.
Bird bath by Rusty Girl
Let’s start with a basic primer, remembering that gardens are the result of a thoughtful partnership between art and nature. Neither element should overwhelm the other. That old toilet full of bedding plants in your front yard might not be so funny to your neighbours, but all should appreciate this fellow enjoying a good read.
There are different styles which harmonize well in various garden settings. More formal garden layouts often call for traditional sculpture (“The Thinker” comes to mind), fountains, controlled and clipped hedges, and square edges. This is often the most costly as a classical cast figure is laborious.
Some of my favourite garden art is often inspired by nature and our surroundings, which belong in less formal settings like the English cottage style or a relaxed overgrown space like my backyard. Many local craftspeople are designing and producing gorgeous and functional pieces that are very budget-friendly. Throughout the year, check out some craft shows, pick your favourites and find a happy home for your new art. Start with one or two and work your way up from there. Combine your instincts with knowledge and soon you just might have a small collection on your hands.
Metal Sculpture by Waring Works
I would be remiss not to mention art reclaimed from found objects (but not old toilets!). It’s not for everyone, and this is where you must really have space and an idea for that cast-off. It can be really exciting and interesting to repurpose that old copper pipe, used lumber or glass nightshades for subtle outdoor lighting. A pioneer in the art of using recycled materials in garden design is Matthew Levesque, an American artist who takes a stance in opposition to standardized and expensive landscaping. You can get more ideas from his book The Revolutionary Landscape. It’s a good introduction for the use of salvaged materials in landscaping.
It would be great to hear about your adventures with art in your garden in the comments section below.