For centuries we have used statues and ornaments to enhance and decorate our gardens and parks. Today, they help make our gardens an extension of our homes. Garden ornaments can be anything from a bird bath to a fountain, an obelisk to a sundial. They include sculpture, statuary, garden furniture, lighting and really anything else we wish to place in our gardens to enhance the design or just add a bit of ourselves into the mix. Have you ever wondered where this trend of decorating our open spaces began and why? And if you are interested in choosing an ornament or statue for your own garden, where do you start?
Statues and ornaments in history
The first to use garden ornaments in western culture were the Romans. Remains of ancient Roman sites today offer evidence of a great love of majestic statues, some of deities and others of famous or eminent Romans. Their use of ornaments complimented their love of formal symmetry in garden design. We can see this tradition carried on in great style in Italy, with the grandeur of the Italian Renaissance gardens in the fifteenth century which were inspired by the classical style and designed for pleasure. Indeed, the first known English gardens were planted by the Romans who settled here and it is highly likely that they passed on their love of ornaments to decorate and enhance in garden design.
In ancient Egypt temple gardens were decorated with statues of the gods, however, much of the statuary still used today is influenced by classical designs. Copies of famous statues like the Venus de Milo remain a popular way to remind us of the grandeur of classical culture. But you don’t have to stick to tradition when choosing a statue for your own garden. If your tastes are more modern, there are many modern statues to be found. Our reputation as animal lovers means that every conceivable animal, insect or bird is available as sculptures to enhance our gardens.
A wide range of materials is used to produce garden statues today, including stone, concrete, metals like lead and copper, and terracotta. This range of available materials makes statues affordable for any garden.
The earliest sundials date back to ancient Egyptian astronomy. Known as shadow clocks, sundials work by casting a shadow in different positions, at different times of the day, according to the elliptic orbit of the sun. So their place in a garden is both practical and decorative. Placed on a pedestal that can be either classical or modern, sundial faces are made from brass or other metals, they can be many shapes, from round to octagonal to spheres. Designers of sundials have traditionally used mottoes as part of their designs. These mottoes are often a reflection on our place in the natural order of things.
Pots and urns
Perhaps the most versatile of all garden ornaments are pots and urns. In Roman times, boxes for growing plants in are known to have been attached to the windows of Roman houses. Garden planters allow us to decorate our gardens with something which combines man made materials with plants to create an object of beauty. Pots and urns come in all shapes and sizes, can be made from anything from stone to plastic. Combined with existing flower beds, pots and urns enable the gardener to highlight plants by height or colour. We often plant exotic plants in containers to make them objects of beauty. The many pots and urns available today offer many possibilities for us to add architectural and natural beauty to our gardens.
Using ornaments in your garden
Of course, while the choice of ornament and where to place it is entirely your own decision, there are a few common sense rules to consider. Try not to use too many ornaments in your garden, while a few carefully placed pieces can enhance the effect you are trying to achieve, too many can create a sense of clutter. Consider the proportions of your garden when choosing a garden ornament. Something too big for example, will dominate the space and detract from the garden as a whole. Think very carefully about the placement of your ornament. It should draw the eye and act as a focal point. Lastly, make sure your garden ornament is something you yourself love!