The gardener's (literal) art

Weathered iron used in a modernistic sculpture. Photos: Gillian Vine
Weathered iron used in a modernistic sculpture. Photos: Gillian Vine
Art need not be at ground level as this ball demonstrates.
Art need not be at ground level as this ball demonstrates.
Old horseshoes were gathered and used for this garden feature.
Old horseshoes were gathered and used for this garden feature.
Obelisks at the entrance to a 19th-century property, Braidwood, near Canberra.
Obelisks at the entrance to a 19th-century property, Braidwood, near Canberra.
A mixed shrubbery enhanced by a standing figure.
A mixed shrubbery enhanced by a standing figure.
An old log forms a natural artwork in a Southland garden.
An old log forms a natural artwork in a Southland garden.

Gillian Vine says art can enhance a garden. 

Whether stone or wood, large or small, a piece of outdoor artwork can give a garden a lift.

Those with an artistic bent can make their own. Wood is the easiest to work with, metal can be forged or twisted into shape, while stone can be used to create structures as simple or complex as the artist's talents allow.

There are a few things to bear in mind. Each material has some drawbacks. Over time, wood will rot, metal change colour and stone gather a patina of lichen or moss. Obviously, these may turn out to be pluses, rather than minuses, as weathered ironwork can look much better than the shiny new version.

Garden designer Ben Hoyle coloured the water to black to enhance the reflections in his 2012...
Garden designer Ben Hoyle coloured the water to black to enhance the reflections in his 2012 Ellerslie garden. Photos: Gillian Vine
Alongside the choice of material, the size of the piece needs to be in keeping with the space it is to occupy. Before rushing out and buying a huge Oamaru-stone beauty, think of how it will fit into the scale of the garden.

An old bronze in an English garden shows how time has changed the metal.
An old bronze in an English garden shows how time has changed the metal.
Among the advantages of statuary is being able to place it in the best spot without worrying about things like the pH of the soil. However, wet ground may need gravel and a solid base slab to keep an artwork stable: use a spirit level to get it right.

Turning a boring corner into something eye-catching means giving thought to the background. Greenery invariably looks better than a bare wall. Potted ivy trained on wire or netting looks good and if it is grown in containers, the plant will not be able to take over the entire garden.

Boston ivy and Virginia creeper are self-clinging climbers with excellent autumn colour.

To get twice the effect without buying two artworks, position your piece close to a pond so it is reflected in the water. On calm days, they really come into their own.

I have seen black food colouring and coffee grounds used to colour water to enhance the mirror effect, although these additions cannot do anything for pond life.

An old garden practice was to put an arch close to a wall and put a statue under the arch, sometimes with a mirror behind it, while in formal settings statues and clipped conifers were paired for symmetry.

In open parts of a garden, tall contemporary creations, can add height as well as impact.

A good project could be to look around and see whether your patch could be improved with an artwork.

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