Where to place sculpture and garden ornaments

October 4th, 2020 Posted In: Garden trends & design

Garden ornaments – garden art, sculpture and decorations – can lift your garden to a whole new level. They make your garden look good in all seasons, particularly in winter.

Poppy seed garden ornaments

These poppy seedhead ornaments, bought at a National Trust shop, add height and structure to an already very pretty space. And they’d look just as good in the winter.

Garden ornaments and sculpture can add focus to a small garden and create punctuation points in a larger garden. So here are some lovely examples in both private and public gardens I’ve visited over the past few years.

Of course, garden sculpture can be very expensive, but garden ornaments are often affordable. You can also buy second hand from auctions, either online or bricks and mortar.

Car crash sculpture

When a car crashed into the railings at Doddington Place Gardens, Amicia Oldfield decided that it would work as a sculpture. Doddington Place Gardens are open from April till the end of September.

And you can adapt garden sculpture ideas yourself. For example, when a car crashed into the fence at Doddington Place Gardens, Amicia Oldfield decided the tangled metal looked beautiful, so she set it into the gardens as a sculpture.

So whether you’re going commission an artist to make exactly the right piece for your garden, are going second hand or DIY, here are some ideas on where to place sculpture and garden ornaments to inspire you.

Use garden ornaments or sculpture as a focal point

The classic place for a large garden ornament or work of art is as a focal point at the heart of a courtyard or at the end of a path.

Or use it to attract interest to an area that might otherwise be overlooked.

Steel garden sculpture

This elegant steel sculpture adds a focal point to a part of a country garden that would otherwise be overlooked. It’s called ‘Escallion’ by Richard Cresswell and was purchased at Godinton House’s annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibition.

Can you have a large sculpture in a small garden?

The classic advice is to avoid having something too large in a small garden, but all rules were made to be questioned.

Show gardens are very small – often just a few square metres. These two at BBC Gardeners World Live show how a dramatic sculpture can really work in a small garden.

Placing a large sculpture in a small garden

Two large sculptures in two small show gardens. The top garden is designed by Dan McGeoghegan and Ryan Bell. The other is designed by Jacob Botting and Laurence Senior.

Jacob and Laurence’s sculpture is light and airy. You can see through it and even talk across it. So it works well in the centre of the garden where it doesn’t occupy too much visual space and can be seen from all angles.

Dan and Ryan’s sculpture is much more solid. It would dominate if it was in the centre of a small garden. You wouldn’t be able to see or talk across it. But on the back fence, it creates a dramatic focal point.

So when placing large garden ornaments or sculpture in a small garden, think about how much vertical space and light they take up.

Garden ornaments and sculpture – contrast or harmony

Think about whether you want to choose contrasting materials and shapes or ones that harmonise.

Garden designer Mark Lane has a small courtyard with a modern sculpture as a focal point. The strong, dark geometric shape is a good contrast to the prettiness and softness of the flowers. (Read more about Mark’s garden here).

Contrasting sculptural shapes

A strong dark shape contrasts with the prettiness and froth of the flowers in Mark Lane’s garden.

A stainless steel sculpture by David Harber at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 (top) is a contrast to the soft greenery and planting around it. But the ‘Copper Creatures’ by Emily Stone are in colours you’d find naturally in a garden. Both looks work – just decide which you personally prefer.

What does your garden ornament or sculpture look like from your house?

Garden ornaments and sculpture look great in the winter. They may be the main thing to look at in your garden. But you will probably be looking at them from the house for most of the time. So look out of your windows when deciding where to place your garden sculpture or ornaments.

Place sculpture where you can see it from the house

This praying statue is the focal point for two benches, but it can also be seen from the house. As you walk down a corridor towards a floor-to-ceiling window, the statue is straight ahead of you.

It’s also a good idea to walk round your garden ornaments or sculpture to see how they look from different angles.

Use garden ornaments or sculpture as punctuation points

In summer, sculpture and garden ornaments add structure to a flower border. In winter, they are often the main point of interest.

I have some wrought iron plant supports with bird heads from Cranbrook Iron.  Such supports are both practical and add to how the border looks.

They’re useful in the winter to mark the spot where a perennial is buried and they look beautiful in the frost. And in the summer, I use them as plant supports.

Ornamental plant support from Cranbrook Iron

I love the way this plant support ornament from Cranbrook Iron looks in an empty border in winter.

Classical bust garden sculpture

‘Antonia’ was bought at an antiques fair. In summer, she is framed by roses and in winter, she adds interest.

For example, this classical bust gives structure to the soft planting behind it in summer, while in winter it’s the main story.

And this rotating sculpture which moves with the wind adds impact in a border in summer or winter. It works well surrounded with quite chunky shrubs, because they move relatively rarely, so that part of the border needs a little movement.

Parasols garden sculpture by Richard Cresswell

‘Parasols’ by Richard Cresswell, purchased at the annual Godinton House Sculpture Exhibition

Choose a theme for your garden ornaments or sculpture

Having a theme can be a good way of choosing sculpture or garden ornaments.

Here in Jonny and Dale’s garden in Australia, there is roughly a bird theme. So there are two cranes in a little glade, a procession of stylised chickens, a bird beside a pond and various other birds including some tin chickens or chooks as they would be called.

Bird themed garden ornaments

Jonny and Dale’s garden has a number of bird themed garden ornaments and sculptures, such as these two contemporary corten steel birds. You can see more of Jonny and Dale’s garden here.

Other people might choose a seaside theme, an abstract theme or to concentrate on one particular material, such as stainless steel or corten steel.

Echo your surroundings when choosing garden ornaments

This is quite closely related to choosing a theme. So in a country garden, you might choose geese, rabbits, deer, sheep or even horses, either abstract or naturalistic.

bird themed sculptures

The painted cockerel at the top scratches around a garden which has chickens. The beautiful seabird below it overlooks coastal marshes and  a small marina. It’s a very appropriate spot.

Garden sculpture that reflects the houses architecture

Top: the slate shell/fossil sculpture by Tom Stogdon echoes the slate roofs of the urban terraced houses that surround this tiny garden . Below it, a stone pineapple in a courtyard at Parham House Gardens picks up on the ancient stone wall.

And this curling sculpture (above, top), made of slate by sculptor Tom Stogdon, sits in the small courtyard garden of a terraced London house. The house has a slate roof, so the sculpture echoes the materials of its urban surroundings.

The stone pineapple below it is in an old stone and brick courtyard at Parham House Gardens in Sussex. It, too, is completely harmonious with its surroundings.

Garden ornaments and water features

Ponds and water features are the perfect place for garden sculpture and ornaments. You can be naturalistic about it and have human or animal figures sitting by the water, such as the classical seated girl.

Nixie by Christine Baxter

‘Nixie’ by Christine Baxter, bought at the Godinton House annual ‘Sculpture in the Garden’ exhibition

Of course, the side of a pond is an excellent for many animal and bird sculptures, as animals and birds would naturally drink from ponds.

Affordable sculpture and garden ornaments

You can often buy garden ornaments and sculptures at auctions, including online ones. I was passing an auction rooms after a very good lunch and put a very low bid in for the statue below. I was surprised to get her, and there really wasn’t a place for her in our tiny London garden.

Garden sculpture

This is Artemis and she cost very little at an auction. She is not very good quality, but looks atmospheric at the back of our borders.

We also have two concrete stone dogs, which I bought at a vintage shop, which sit on either side of our steps.

You can also adapt things yourself. This sculpture is just five corten steel panels. A friend decided what shape they should be and had them cut to order. Corten steel panels can easily be found on the internet.

DIY modern sculpture made of corten steel panels.

Another friend of mine has used shop mannequins, bought second-hand, as sculptures in her garden.

And here at Doddington Place Gardens in Kent, they decided to turn a fallen tree into a sculpture.

DIY tree sculpture

An old tree stump converted into a ‘sculpture’ at Doddington Place Gardens.

Visit sculpture in grand gardens…

Garden designer Mark Lane is also the author of Royal Gardens of the World, reviewed here. When I spoke to him about the book, he said that sculpture, and the way sculpture is placed, was one of the things worth looking out for when visiting great gardens. The way they use sculpture can give you inspiration for your own garden, even if you can’t afford the same kind of works.

I’d also recommend visiting gardens with good sculpture to ‘get your eye’ in. Even if the works are beyond your budget, you can still enjoy them. And when you do come to place a work of art or garden ornament in your own garden, you’ll have a better idea of what you really like. Type ‘sculpture garden near me’ into a search engine and you may be surprised at what comes up. I was.

See the sculptures and garden ornaments in the gardens in video:

There are better views of some of these sculptures and garden ornaments in this video, plus a few more ideas and examples:

Shop my favourite gardening books, products and tools

I’m often asked for recommendations so I’ve put together lists of gardening books, tools and products I use myself on the Middlesized Garden Amazon store. (Note that links to Amazon are affiliate, so I may get a small fee if you buy, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay.) For example, there’s a list of my favourite gardening books here.

Pin to remember garden ornaments and sculpture

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