At The Garden Company, we have noticed a growing interest from our clients in including works of art in their garden space. Whether a sculpture, metal work, painting, mirror, or even a repurposed household item, a well-chosen piece of garden art helps clients to engage with the garden and its wider setting. This adds to an overall ‘sense of place’. In this blog post, I would like to share my thoughts on the potential benefits of garden sculptures, along with providing guidance on selecting and placing sculptures for the best effect.
Benefits of garden sculptures
A sculpture can add a great deal to an outdoor space. The example above shows a David Harber sculpture set in the grounds of a large country garden in Hertfordshire (see full case study here).
Often the sculpture’s purpose is to provide a focal point. By drawing and directing the eye, it helps the whole garden to be gradually absorbed rather than taken in too quickly. The sculpture may be used to frame a view further out in the garden or beyond. Or it may serve as an end destination itself. In a small garden, a sculpture may change the perception of the space available by framing a view out to surrounding countryside. Carefully used, a sculpture can control the visitor’s overall experience of a garden. By drawing people on a journey, a sculpture will influence and guide the likely direction of travel around the space.
Sculptures can also add a touch of drama and life to a garden. For example, human figures, animals or birds can suggest a sense of movement. Picture a family of deer wandering through a wildflower meadow for example.
Sometimes, a sculpture can serve a very useful purpose by distracting from less appealing aspects of the garden or the surrounding setting (for example, being placed to ‘keep the eye in the garden’).
In addition, a garden sculpture can add a new dimension by creating interesting effects with light. A piece can be carefully positioned to catch sunlight at the end of the day, or to be backlit in the morning. Light and shadows can enhance the sculpture’s beauty. Its appearance can vary greatly during the day and throughout the year.
In the example below, we set a modern sculpture in a small contemporary garden – see more images here.
Do’s and don’ts
Common pitfalls associated with garden sculptures relate to their style, location in the garden and size/scale of the piece.
Regarding style, a sculpture needs to ‘speak to’ the garden owner/client and have enduring meaning. It’s important not to rush into choosing something that simply fills the space available. This runs the risk of the sculpture losing its appeal over time. There is also a risk that it will be a common choice that is duplicated elsewhere. A bespoke piece can be ideal for these reasons. At The Garden Company, we enjoy the opportunity to design handcrafted pieces that are meaningful and sit well with the overall garden design concept. This ensures that the piece is tailored to the client and setting. It’s good to know that no one else has the same piece. It makes it very personal.
Location-wise, it’s important to recognise the difference between placing the sculpture in a dominant position or one where it blends into the garden’s ‘flow’. Either of these can work. Consider whether there needs to be an all-round view of the piece or simply a frontal view. Remember that it will draw the eye. Position it in the overall garden scheme with this in mind. To avoid costly mistakes, check out how the sculpture looks from different viewpoints before deciding on a final position.
With regard to size and scale, obviously a large piece can easily be overbearing in a small space. Conversely, a small sculpture piece can almost disappear in a larger garden, having little or no visual impact. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to try out different shapes and sizes in the proposed location, e.g. use a template of similar dimensions.
At The Garden Company we aim for the least negative impact on the environment when selecting garden sculptures and other artwork. We avoid materials with a high carbon footprint. Instead, we rely largely on recycled steel and natural stone. We also ensure that our stone suppliers source their stone ethically. When designing bespoke sculptures, we do so with vernacular materials in mind. This enables us to ‘take advantage’ of local resources where possible. These are relatively energy efficient and sustainable, and also much more likely to be in keeping with the property and the garden itself.
It is hard to generalise about installing a garden sculpture as there are so many variables to consider. In broad terms, a small sculpture can usually be installed by hand. The larger the sculpture, the more likely it is that equipment will be needed, including possibly a crane. Some sculptures require plinths or platforms for stability. It is also important to consider security and safety factors. Sculptures may be provided with welded security rings or subframes and base plates, which may be buried or bolted in. Maintenance is not usually a big factor, with the possible exception of water features. Usually, a stone sculpture will simply require regular spraying or rinsing with water so that dirt or debris do not build up. Metal sculptures may require cleaning with soap and water, but not too often.
A garden sculpture is likely to be looked at every day. For this reason, it needs to provide depth of interest and beauty. It is also vitally important that the sculpture offers some personal meaning to the garden owner/client. Bespoke, handcrafted pieces can add something special, but obviously budget needs to be considered too.
For inspiration (or simply for pleasure), why not visit one of the wonderful sculpture gardens highlighted here.
To find out more about the setting for the bespoke sculpture pictured at the top of this post, please visit our case study here.