As I meet both new and experienced gardeners and tour their gardens, I have noticed something interesting: adding sculpture or other hard lines to the garden makes a lot of gardeners nervous.
Of all the wonderful residential gardens I have visited, very few had even one significant sculptural display. In searching for the answer, I began as usual by evaluating my own garden and interviewing as many gardeners as possible.
Developing your yard
The addition of sculpture to the garden appeared to be linked to the maturity/
experience of the garden or the gardener and their desire to develop their yards into something more. The “something more” was the critical link. I asked gardeners who had sculpture when they made the decision to add something besides plants. The overwhelming answer was when they looked around their garden and felt something was missing. After all the years they had been digging, dividing, and moving plants around, they decided that plants were not quite enough.
What a revelation for me, because I had been having these same feelings about my garden and now I understood. Plants are incredible and they are what truly makes gardening fun, but adding large sculptures, statues, pedestals, or another form of artistic expression to your garden allows it to take on a whole new life.
Size and scale
All the things that you have learned and know about selecting and placing plants in your garden hold true for selecting and placing a piece of sculpture or art into the garden. The size and proportion of the piece must suit the surrounding plantings. What you choose—its color, style, shape, or material—is purely personal and should reflect your life and personality. I know two gardeners who have pieces designed by a Louisville resident, sculptor and artist David Caudill. The expression of his talent is formed from stainless steel, reminding me of wind, water, and the earth. His work looks right at home snuggled into a lush garden.
New or castoff sculpture?
You may choose a cast-stone bench, a fountain, a marble pillar, or a tall birdbath. The pieces you choose don’t have to be expensive and in some cases may even be castoffs from other gardeners or friends. While on a consult some years ago, a client told me of her disappointment that one of the stone urns at her front entrance had cracked over the winter and one whole side had broken off. I suggested she lay it on its side, broken side down in her garden near the matching urn that was still intact, but close to an annual bed so it would look as if annuals were spilling out of it. Reminiscent of an old ruin, this expression would bring a feeling of comfort and welcome to her formal entrance.
Although she chose not to display the broken urn as I had suggested and instead purchased two new matching ones, to my excitement she gave the broken urn to me. What a wonderful gift. It lies on its side with flowers spilling out in a small display garden at my garden shop. It serves as a beautiful and kind reminder that plants are not always enough.