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10 Reasons for Adding Art to the Garden

Art is a very important addition to any landscape design. In many ways the addition of art makes the garden, but few people think about this aspect of gardening. In this post I will give you 10 reasons for adding art to the garden.  What purpose does it serve? How does it enhance your garden design. How can it be used to make your garden more interesting?

Sculptures at the Cornell Arboretum, by Robert Pavlis Adding Art to the Garden

Sculptures at the Cornell Arboretum, by Robert Pavlis

What do I Mean by Art?

Some people talk about the ‘art of garden design’ and although that is a very valid point of view – gardening is an art form – that is not what I am talking about here. When I use the word art I am referring to something that could be put into either your garden or your home so long as it is not a living thing. Sculptures, paintings and knickknacks are all art as far as this post goes.

Why Add Art to the Garden?

If you have a piece of art and you want to add it to the garden go right ahead. You do not need to have a reason for adding it. If you like it and you think it looks good in the garden, add it. Notice the use of the word ‘you’. I am a big believer that a garden should reflect your wants and needs and nobody should be telling you what to do with your design. Your design is always right.

However, if you better understand how art can help a garden design you might be able to use that favorite piece of art in a better way. Maybe you will place it more effectively. Or you might select a piece that fits better into your garden. Understanding the ‘why’ of something is always important. It allows you to make better decisions.

Focus the Eye – the Focal Point

Many pieces of art stand out from the rest of the garden. Because of this quality it draws the eye away from other parts of the garden. It becomes a focal point. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your goals for the garden. It is a good thing if you want to focus the eye in the direction of the piece of art. But if you want the viewer to focus in a different direction it’s a bad thing.

A focal point is usually placed farther away from the viewer so that it draws the viewer towards it. To have this effect the piece of art needs to have a substantial size. A 6 inch statue placeg 100 feet away just does not work. It is not important that the viewer can see a lot of detail from farther away, but they must be able to recognize the piece as something of interest. It should attract the viewer to move towards it for a closer look.

Natural quartz stone is a piece of natures art. Located at the end of 40 foot arbor makes it a nice focal point that leads visitors down the path, located in Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis Adding Art to the Garden

This Natural quartz stone is a piece of natures art. Located at the end of a 40 foot arbor makes it a nice focal point that leads visitors down the path, located in Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis

The natural stone in the above picture was selected to be a strong focal point – it is big and interesting. It was positioned at the end of the 40 foot arbor on purpose. The arbor frames the view, and the focal point draws the visitor along the path of the arbor. As visitors get near it, they start seeing the intricate details in the stone and most people go right up and touch it.

Change in Texture and Shape

Most art will have a different texture and shape than the plants in the garden. Gardeners do talk about the various textures of plants, but if we are being really honest, the leaves of most green plants have almost the same texture and shape. They tend to be smooth and small. Up close the shape does vary, but when you look at a bed of plants from even a short distance all you see a field of green.

Art can dramatically change either the texture or the shape, or both.

Recognizable shapes like triangles and rectangles work very well in a garden since their shape is so different  from that of plants. A rectangular painting sitting in a bed of plants sticks out in large part do to its shape.

In the same vain, art that depicts plants or flowers tends to disappear in the garden. A glass sculpture of a rose might be a great art piece for the living room, but it does not do much for the garden.

An unusual carved granite sculpture that adds a different color and texture to the surrounding garden, in Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis Adding Art to the Garden

An unusual carved granite sculpture that adds a different color and texture to the surrounding garden, in Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis

This stone sculpture is very visible in the garden because of its size, shape and color. On the left side of the picture you might be able to see a Japanese lantern. It is not nearly as visible for a number of reasons. It is located in the flower bed instead of the middle of the lawn. It is smaller than the main sculpture and its color is gray. It even has moss growing on it to help hide it even more. Neither sculpture is better or worse. They both provide a different experience in the garden.

Add Color to the Garden

Art can be very colorful and it can use colors that are not normally found in the garden. Even if the color is found in the garden it is usually present in smaller splashes of color. A few flowers just can’t match the impact of a 6 foot tall pole painted bright blue.

Most people use a more subdued palette in the home. Not many rooms are painted bright red, blue or yellow. But in the garden you can be bolder even if bold is not your style. Bright colors in large splashes are acceptable in the garden and in fact look very good in the garden.

Art is a great way to add this extra color.

One of a kind painting that is done on a round cylinder of canvas providing a different painting depending on the view point, in Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis Adding Art to the Garden

One of a kind painting that is done on a round cylinder of canvas providing a different painting depending on the view point, in Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis

The Artist in You

Many gardeners have at least some artistic ability. They may not make traditional art, but they do create artistic views with their garden. Art for the garden can be a great way to express you hidden artistic talents.

You might paint a picture that you would never hang in the living room, but in the garden it looks quite good.

This painting hanging in the window of an arbor provides different colors and texture than found in plants. It is also a great way to exhibit the authors art, by Robert Pavlis Adding Art to the Garden

This painting hangs in the window of an arbor and provides different colors and texture than found in plants. It is also a great way to exhibit the authors art, by Robert Pavlis

Making art allows me to expand my interests. I can create pieces of art and at the same time improve my garden design. The two hobbies compliment each other quite nicely.

Painting, sculpture, welding and ceramics can all be used to enhance the garden.

The Collector in You

You may not be an artist but maybe you are a collector. A garden can be a great place to showcase your collection.

Some gardens are full of bird houses. Some contain lanterns, or wagon wheels. There is an endless supply of antiques to collect for the garden.

A collector of bird houses places them through out the garden. They are more art than functioanl, by Robert Pavlis Adding Art to the Garden

A collector of bird houses places them throughout the garden. They are more art than functional, by Robert Pavlis

Add Winter Interest

Gardeners who live in colder climates spend three seasons outside and then they spend the winter inside or on a beech in a warm climate. Art in the garden can make your winter garden so much more interesting. Once all of the perennials are tucked under ground and the leaves have fallen, art really shines, especially with snow on it.

Garden art really stands out in winter after the perennials have all gone to sleep, in Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis Adding Art to the Garden

Garden art really stands out in winter after the perennials have all gone to sleep, in Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis

This sculpture is a great example of a good piece of winter art. It is large enough to have a dominant presence even with a foot of snow on the ground. In this photo the snow has partially covered it and added interesting little hills at it’s base. The eye is still very visible. As the snow melts, the water runs down the rock, and changes it’s color. The wet areas become quite dark, contrasting nicely with the dry blue granite.

Replace the Functional with Art

So you thought you didn’t have room for art? How about replacing a functional part of the garden with art? A bench is suddenly more interesting. It is both a bench and a piece of art.

Your choice, common bench or functional piece of art, in Chanticleer Gardens, by Robert Pavlis Adding Art to the Garden

Your choice, common bench or functional piece of art, in Chanticleer Gardens, by Robert Pavlis

Set Yourself a Goal

Add one piece of art to your garden each year. It will make your garden much more interesting.

Robert Pavlis
Editor of GardenFundamentals.com
I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

I hope you find Garden Fundamentals an educational site that helps you understand your garden better.

One Response to '10 Reasons for Adding Art to the Garden'

  1. Susan Gilmour says:

    Thanks, I really enjoyed your insite to art in the garden. I like the examples which explain your point, made is easy to understand. I will be more mindful of how I put art in the garden now.

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