Subscribe via Email

If you're not receiving email notifications of new posts, subscribe by entering your email...

Art in the Garden

Stone garden plaque

Stone plaque in the garden

Art in the garden. Art has had a place in the garden for centuries. Archeologists found pools, fountains and statuary in the ancient gardens of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Nowadays it would be hard to find any public garden or park that does not include art.

We home gardeners have also found that we desire art in our gardens. Water is considered by many to be the most basic artistic element. By definition the Chinese garden includes water and stone. This is true of the Japanese garden as well. Centuries old grand gardens in England, France and Italy have elaborate fountains.

I was happy to know that a handsome birdbath could be considered an artful source of water, and I was thrilled when I received the gift of a solar birdbath fountain. How fortunate we are that the entrance to every garden center is graced with bubbling fountains that only need access to an electrical outlet to keep flowing and recycling their water. In addition, there are more and more fountains that are powered by the sun

simple urn fountain recycles water

Urn fountain recycles water

.On my travels I have seen many simple fountains from millstones that burble at ground level, silently slip over the sides of urns, cascade from level to level, or splash over the tiers of the fountain. All are easily available at garden centers and online.

Stone is essential to the Chinese and Japanese garden, but not always appreciated in American gardens, but I think that is changing. About 25 years ago a friend asked me what he could do with the outcropping of ledge that he felt spoiled his lawn. I suggested that he had a ready made rock garden and could turn to small spring bulbs, and low growing plants like a prostrate veronica, sea pinks, dianthus, purple blossomed aubretia, thyme and, of course, sedums. However, in that particular case, the lawn won out with the help of loads of loam.

Some of us can take advantage of stone that is on site, but others of us may import the stone. We have local quarries like Goshen Stone Quarry to cut stone for us. A newer friend arranged to have a very large boulder installed in her garden making quite a statement. We imported stone and stone masons to give us a low stone wall.

Stone turtle 'sculpture'

Stone turtle ‘sculpture’

There are other ways to use stone. I saw a stone turtle comprised of several differently sized stones that,T placed together, formed a little turtle sculpture on the edge of a small lily pond. One of my favorite ways of using small stones of slightly different shades is treating them as mosaic material. I have seen them used in small projects and large. In a garden magazine I saw a photo of a pebble mosaic that took the form of a large oriental carpet. On the other hand I saw a stone stairway with a mosaic landing, as well as a path made of plain circular mosaic stepping stones.

Pebble mosaic

Pebble mosaic

Statuary can be the easiest thing for any of us to add to our gardens. There are always charming gnomes to be had, arranged to peek through the fern foliage. I have enjoyed the appearance of St. Fiacre, patron of gardeners and cab drivers in many gardens, but  I think the Buddha may be creeping up in popularity.  St. Fiacre may stand, breathing deep, taking a moment to recover from his chores, but Buddha is always sitting in peaceful meditation. I have a friend whose Buddha sits at the edge of a quiet woodland, and if he should open his eyes they would rest on the view of a stony brook singing its way down the hillside.

Buddha on stone

Buddha on stone

Some people have the talent and skill to make their own statuary. Many gardeners are now taking classes to learn how to turn cement into garden ornaments and troughs.  However, there are artists who make their own statuary. This past summer I was on a garden tour in Minneapolis and environs. The final garden was Wouterina de Raad’s Sculpture Garden.

Wouteriana de Raad

Wouteriana de Raad and metal mesh base

De Raad is a Dutch artist who emigrated to the U.S. about 40 years ago. She bought her small property with a rickety farmhouse and no plumbing 10 years later. She set to work building herself a garden and a workshop where she now creates concrete mosaic sculptures. She has turned her wilderness into a sculpture garden that attracts visitors who come to view and enjoy, and students who want to learn her techniques.

Wouteriana de Raad

Wouteriana de Raad’s greeter

Her sculptures begin with wire mesh that is then covered with concrete and then the mosaic pieces. Her subjects include many creatures of the wild, jaguars that she remembers from her childhood in Indonesia, snakes, birds and fish. There is the jaunty man who greets visitors when they arrive, sprites who line the lush paths through the one and a half acre garden, mosaic chairs and gift boxes, and concrete couches for party gatherings around the fireside.

De Raad's self portrait as an American Citizen

Wouteriana de Raad’s self portrait of herself as an American citizen

De Raad’s garden is exotic, always luring the visitor around the next corner. If any of us wanted to make our own concrete sculpture we could attend one of her 2-3 day workshops at her studio. Her  website  will also answer questions about the process, and give you an idea of what to expect. And you could always make a try on your own.

concrete and mosaic bird by Wouteriana de Raad

Bird and bath by Wouteriana de Raad

What kind of art do you have, or desire in your garden?

Between the Rows   January 28, 2017

For those who would like to see more of Wouteriana De Raad’s sculpture, Pam Penick who writes the Digging Blog has written more fully, and taken better photographs here and here. Pam also wrote two excellent books: Lawn Gone and The Water Saving Garden

3 comments to Art in the Garden

  • Wonderful to read each day. I am planning new gardens come Spring!

  • Pat

    Judith – When the morning sun is this strong I start reviewing my plant lists and thinking about what I need to add.

  • Great post! I also think art is important to the garden. I think one has to be careful, however, not to overwhelm the garden with too much. Certainly, I have to watch myself in my small backyard to make sure what I’m putting out complements the plants and doesn’t take over, if you know what I mean. Wouterina de Raad’s Sculpture Garden is awesome.

Leave a Reply