As the garden takes on its winter attire, it’s an ideal time to consider where you might want to spice up your outdoor décor. You can use flea-market finds, time-honored antiques, or handcrafted objects to help your garden reflect your style and personality. Here are a few tips to help you select and place your garden art.
Decide on art’s role. When we think of art inside our homes, things like framed pictures, vases, and statues come to mind. Outside, the term takes on a broader meaning. Garden art is any decorative object you place in your landscape—anything from a picturesque scarecrow to a large decorative urn. The first step in placing garden art is deciding whether you want it to be the center of attention or play a supporting role.
Grab some attention. As we enter a new area, we look around until we see something that grabs our interest. After we focus on the object, we begin to notice things around it. Many gardens have beautiful flower beds, but lack a way to draw our eye to their unique features. In these situations, a piece of art can help visually organize the area. Another way to use art is to place it at the end of a path, where you can see it from a distance. The added perspective creates a powerful draw, enticing visitors to wander down the walkway to have a closer look.
Heighten interest. Art that’s larger than surrounding items is a natural way to create a focal point, but there are other methods that are just as effective. For example, place a statue on a base that raises it higher than its surroundings. Instead of a single piece of art, use a collection of items that are similar in color or material. Or choose objects in vivid colors and contrasting textures and forms.
Use a backdrop. To give art added significance, place it in front of a trellis or under an arbor. Some wall trellises have wooden slats arranged at slight angles to create radiating lines that give a sense of layered dimension. A decorative item positioned in front of this screen immediately draws the eye.
Serve as a guide. Not all garden art serves as a focal point. In some cases, it plays a more subtle role: helping guide visitors through your garden. Rather than putting a decorative item in a place where people notice it immediately, position it along a path, near steps, or at a bend in a walkway. The art then signals points of transition, reminding the visitor that a turn is coming up or a new area is just around the corner.
Offer supporting roles. Decorative objects can also enhance your garden décor. Items such as colorful containers, sculptures, birdbaths, benches, and arbors support the colors and style of your home and garden. Whether they’re subtle accents that blend into the setting or bold attention-getters that add sparkle and pizzazz, experiment with their placement so they help build interest in your garden.
Define your style. The type of art you choose helps define your garden’s style. Classic art is the obvious choice for a formal garden, while contemporary sculpture suggests a creative spirit of openness. Art pieces designed to look like ancient temples or archaeological sites suggest the excitement of discovery and exploration. Religious and mythical symbols invite visitors to meditate. Ask yourself the question, “What do I hope to create here?” Your answer will lead you toward the style of art that belongs in your garden.
Discover your inner artist. Consider designing your own art as a way to enhance your gardening experience. You may not be a sculptor, but you can tie some wooden poles together in a teepee design and grow vines to cover it. In the right location, your teepee can be not only a plant support, but also a work of art. Or paint an old chair with bright colors and patterns and place it in your flower bed. Even the sides of garden sheds offer a canvas for your creative expression.
P. Allen Smith (www.pallensmith.com) is a garden designer, host of two national TV programs, a regular guest on the “Today” show, and author of P. Allen Smith’s Living in the Garden Home (Clarkson Potter, 2007) and other books in the Garden Home series.