Elevate the garden with Art

Understated garden art can elevate a landscape from an ordinary outdoor space to one that feels personal, unique or spiritual. While there’s a time and place for over-the-top sculptures and eye-catching art installations, we’re not talking about those here. Instead, let’s look at ways in which simple sculptures, empty urns, historical artifacts and other objects of beauty can be used to complement and add meaning to any style of garden.

1. Stacked stone orb. Simple art pieces with organic shapes and subtle colors work in harmony with the landscape, adding to, rather than competing with, a garden’s natural beauty.  .download-1

2. Natural form. Man-made works inspired by, say, the symmetrical wings of a butterfly or the vein pattern on a leaf look perfectly in keeping with a natural landscape. This weathered metal sculpture of an upturned blossom seems almost like an oversize waterlily floating above the shrubbery. Viewed from a distance, such sculptures could prompt a second look to see if the pieces are man-made or natural.

3. Piece of history. Historical artifacts and antique objects can give a garden a sense of time and place. To elevate a historical object to a piece of art, think beyond how it was originally used and look for ways to celebrate the beauty of its form in an interesting manner. This old millstone, for example, may have originally been used to grind grain, but it makes an interesting focal point at the corner of a garden path and could easily be repurposed as a fountain.

4. Meaningful figure. Adding a piece of art with personal meaning makes even a modest, unassuming side yard feel like a sacred space. Choosing an object of meaning is entirely personal, and it can be anything from a spiritual or religious figure to an artwork passed down from a family member or an object brought back from a meaningful trip.

5. Moon gate. Create an intentional transition from one area of the garden to the next with a gateway stunning enough to double as garden art. Chinese moon gates are traditionally circular or semicircular gateways that mark the passage from one space to the next, echoing the natural cycle of birth and renewal.

6. Metal spheres. Although most likely anchored in place, a pair of hollow metal globes set in a contemporary front yard look as if they might roll across the pea gravel patio with a slight push. To mimic this suggestion of motion, look for perfectly spherical forms and set them on a flat surface where they have plenty of room, rather than nestled in a garden bed.

7. Watercolor backdrop. The exterior sides of the home, free-standing outdoor walls and wooden fences all serve as blank canvases in the garden. Use the vertical space to hang an outdoor painting, piece of weathered metal or carved wooden panel to add interest to the space. Here, an abstract color-washed painting hung on an outdoor wall creates a beautiful backdrop for a seating area.

8. Balancing act. Think of this stacked stone sculpture as a more refined version of a stone cairn you might use to mark a hiking trail. Set before a backdrop of fading autumn grasses, the stacked stones have a peaceful beauty.

9. Empty vessel. The simple, graceful form of an empty urn with an earth-toned glaze complements nearly any garden setting. Place the vessel in a garden border to anchor perennial plants and add interest to the bed once flowers fade. Or site a container at the end of a garden pathway for a simple focal point. Smaller pots can be propped up on pedestals to give them more impact as pieces of art.

10. Classic revival. Sundials, astrolabes and compass motifs have long been features of classical European gardens. In this garden in Southern California, a metal armillary sphere topped with a decorative mythical animal anchors the center of a formal courtyard.