When art becomes part of the garden

It is only recently that I have taken a fresh look at art in the garden and the difference in how it is displayed.   Is it a garden with art in it, or art in the garden?    I think there is a big difference.   Let me explain.  Several years ago I paid a visit to West Dean Gardens, with someone who was not really a gardener, let alone interested in gardens.   At the time West Dean were exhibiting a variety of sculptures around the gardens.   My companion was quite rude about the fact there was art in the garden and couldn’t see its place, commenting that art should be in an art gallery.   The problem, I suppose, was that it didn’t blend with the surroundings, the sculptures were placed in the open, with the gardens being used as a backdrop.   I enjoyed looking at them and tried to uphold the idea of displaying art in surroundings other than indoors.

Gardens are used a lot for displaying pieces created by local and national artists and the way they are displayed is important.    Obviously, as art is seen differently by us all, the manner in which we view it is a matter of taste also.  I have come to realise that I like seeing art within the garden, strategically placed to become part of the garden, rather than standing alone as in an outdoor gallery.

So what has made me think about art in the garden?   A few weeks ago I stayed at The Mill at Gordleton near Lymington in the New Forest.

The privately owned hotel is a 400 year old mill set in two acres of garden with a river running through the grounds.  It is here you will come across some interesting and varied pieces of art.  They are unusual and different and rather than being “set down” in the garden,  the sculptures have been used within and have become part of the garden.

I am not in a shape or form an expert in art and the comments I make below are purely my own personal opinions but I would be interested to know what you think about art in the garden.

I liked this bronze straightaway and found it fascinating the way a face is nestled within the flowerbed.    When we sat in the dining room at breakfast and looked out at this part of the garden, it can be seen at the end of the garden.   I can imagine it is quite a talking point over dinner and breakfast by many.

This chandelier made from Recycled glass, plastic and copper  hangs over the river and is viewed from the bridge.  Initially I didn’t like it but sometimes art grows on you and the more I walked passed it the more I liked it.  I suppose because it was not  what you would expect as you cross a river.  I began to see how clever it positioning was, amidst the trees.

I thought the oversized stone apple and pear were ideally positioned next to a tree as though they had just fallen from the branches.  Ok, a stretch of imagination but isn’t that what art is all about?   They look so smooth, even now I feel I want to touch them.

An amusing piece of art which is used for a purpose.  This is a gate I would have in my garden, just to make visitors smile.

  • Tree Fountain – Julian Bailey

There is a lot of garden  to wander around at The Mill, and as you cross one of the little bridges over the river you arrive at a tranquil place to sit, either with a cup of tea in the afternoon or a gin and tonic in the evening.

Here you will see the Tree Fountain, which also lights up at night.   Another beautiful setting for a clever piece of sculpture.

These are just a sample of what you will find as you walk around , I could fill this blog post with many more, and if you are interested take a look at  Art at The Mill.

Just one more though.  As we sat outside, overlooking the river, eating the most delicious lunch, we could see a number of  insects happily sitting around.

As you look around you will find lots of  these sculptures made from recycled metal, all carefully placed so they don’t look out of place.

We had a lovely short stay at The Mill at Gordleton.   Maybe I have seen to many episodes of  The Hotel Inspector,  there were one or two things that I don’t think would have passed muster, such as the mucky grouting around the shower and an old sponge left in the bathroom bin.  I would have liked a bowl of  fresh fruit for breakfast instead of the various pots of dried fruit for the “make your own” muesli, but  if you are a cooked breakfast person you would be spoilt for choice and I was reliably informed the scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages were excellent.

The upside was that the staff were exceptional, friendly and helpful.  We were greeted by Liz, the owner, who clearly is very hands on and made us feel very welcome.   What more could one want?   I also learned that you have cucumber with Tanquery gin – now that is not something many bar staff  would  know!  It wasn’t a cheap weekend but The Mill at Gordleton  is definitely one place I will return when I am in need of a chill-out weekend.

Now back to where I started and the whole point about this post.  What is your  view of  using art in the garden, either as an  exhibition or integrating it into the garden as part of the design?

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6 thoughts on “When art becomes part of the garden

  1. another vote for the apple and pear!


  2. I think its great when art and artefacts in a garden get people talking. Although I love the almost naturalised approach used in e.g. the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, sometimes it is really fun to just be taken aback by something. In the case of the apple and pear, and the recycled metal insects, I’d happily give them a home too. Interesting post! I think good art, or architecture, or even garden design, demands a response. Thanks for sharing yours.


  3. I think art in the garden is fine if it blends in with the surroundings and becomes part of the whole scene, but not if it’s the dominating feature.


  4. I think my favourite has to be the tree fountain because it is the most natural and does not”jar” with nature.


  5. I love to see sculptures in a garden. In winter it brings an added dimension when the trees and ground are bare. Rosemoor has an exhibition most winters, I posted some pics here http://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/rhs-rosemoor-a-garden-in-winter/ on a link at the end. Also in Devon there is the Mythic Garden, it is more of a sculpture and tree garden than floral. http://stonelanegardens.com/ if you ever get to Devon you might like it!


  6. Love those sculptures in the garden, especially the Tree Fountain!!


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