Sculpture and Artful Objects in the Garden…
Every now and again, I encounter a place in a garden where something seems to be missing. Usually, the space is calling for artful punctuation. I have discovered that sometimes the design element Â I am looking for in a garden isn’t a plant at all. On occasion the smooth terra cotta surface of an urn, or the roughness of a grey tufa pot, will provide just the right contrast in texture or hue to bring out the subtle beauty of a leaf or a flower. Juxtaposing objects against plant life can bring out the character in both. Â The beautiful vessel above is from A Candle in the Night.
While a space filled with collectibles has never been attractive to my eye, I do like to see things other than plants in a garden. Sometimes an empty chair or a tilted vessel can give a garden a poetic presence; hinting at rest, mystery, calm, magic, history, and many other things. Adding a mossy urn or a water bowl can create a calming mood in a garden room. I also like to use objects as focal points in corner niches, or at stopping places on a path or walkway. Â Some garden objects can be simple, such as a bowl filled with smooth stone set in contrast to the spiky texture of a conifer. Other times the contrasting orange-tinted color of a rusting metal bench or basket might catch my eye as a way to bring out the saphire blue of a flower, such as salvia, in a nearby pot.
With larger objects, such as a commissioned stone sculpture, an entire landscape might be designed around the strength of a single feature. As a focal point or destination in an expansive lawn, or as a dramatic centerpiece in a minimalist garden filled with verdant ground cover, a piece of sculpture can provide essential depth and interest to a quiet design. Below, set in a simple lawn at forest edge, a fire sculpture created by artist Dan Snow becomes a gathering place during evening parties. While not everyone is lucky enough to have sculptor create a piece of artwork for their garden, the spacial concept is simple enough to borrow. Â A thoughtful arrangement of stone or steel, or even an arched skeleton of saplings can bring a strong sculptural element to a garden. Â For further inspiration, look to books on Japanese Zen gardening and large scale sculpture, and to the land art projects of three dimensional artists such asÂ Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd, andÂ Dale Chihuly
And then, sometimes an object suitable for a landscape will appear before a space is available. When in possession of such an interesting or unusual object, it is often wise to hold onto it and wait until the ideal position presents itself. A few years ago, a friend gave me a piece of statuary – a cast guardian angel. I struggled with what to do with this thoughtful gift, since my garden is not the sort of place you might find such a large, classical object. The angel seemed sadly out of place, no matter where she sat. For several years, she waited in the cellar for her new home. Late one afternoon, while on on a walk, it occurred to me that the angel simply needed a bigger room… something like a cathedral. She now makes her home on the edge of my forest path, where she is quite striking and unexpected. With the trees arching 30 to 40 feet above her, the melancholy angel no longer looks awkward or out of place. My hauntingly beautiful forest guardian seems right at home amongst the native ferns and foliage.
I will be featuring more sculpture and artful objects on The Gardener’s Eden over the coming months. In meantime, give a second look to those chipped or rusty, cast-offs in the garage and cellar. Perhaps there is a garden-worthy object hiding amongst the cobwebs in an old barn or shed. Â The garden can be a good place to recycle many things when you think creatively. A piece of found-art or sculpture can be a fantastic springboard for a new garden design, or a way to breathe new life into an old space. When designing a garden, stretch your imagination beyond plant life… Â and watch your ideas grow.
Do you know of some great garden objects, sculptors or artists you would like to see featured on The Gardener’s Eden ? Â If so, please email your thoughts to:
michaela at Â the gardeners eden dot com
Article and Photographs copyright 2009 Michaela at TGE