Garden Ornaments: To Have or Have Not?

Ilona Erwin

Garden ornaments are a tricky topic. You are going to risk offending someone or another if you say something is tacky… and it is just your opinion, anyway, right? Well, though my own taste tends towards the garden of little and classic ornament, I have seen all sorts of flourishes done well.

From the Medicis influenced by Hadrian’s sculptures and garden to fifty’s style flamingos and those ubiquitous garden gnomes, there is such a breadth of design sense in gardens that we might almost say there is none at all, but I actually think that, like style, the choices are broken up into categories.

The only real rule is to not gather so many things together and of such competing ideas that the viewer is confused. Our brains tend to turn off when we have too many things competing for attention- and the same goes for enjoyment of a garden when there are exclamation of this and that all over the yard.

gnome

Garden Gnome takes a break

I used to think I didn’t like any ornament at all except for a birdbath or urn or two, onl the glorious plants and flowers, but seeing the creativity that people put into using ornament for purposes as divergent as showing a sense of humor in placing a gnome figure to displaying all sorts of sculptures in one favorite color has changed my mind.

One example was of a garden filled with ornaments all colored a beautiful shade of turquoise blue- always a visually interesting color in the garden.

So what is your sense of the right finishing touch?

Formal and Classical:

Whether on the grand scale or the small, holds to simple lines and Grecian proportions. Whether a bird bath or column, a statue or fountain, the lines of simple fluting or a statue filling a niche, a fountain in the middle of the axis of pathways… the style follows classical garden design. If you have symmetry, simple geometric lines, then garden ornaments of large urns, circular pools, centered statuary -even if it is an abstract one, is in this formal style. Obelisks, traditional Japanese accessories, and the English garden

Rustic and Natural:

Old plows, twig furniture, grapevine tuteurs, and castoff furniture have all been utilized as rustic garden ornament. Careful placement is the key here, and lush planting. Be careful that you stay clear from a junkyard look, although a jungle of plants can cover a multitude of design sins. Even junk can become sculpture in the right hands. [Junk Beautiful Outdoor Edition]

Informal:

Think of the way we often adorn our gardens, with birdbaths, feeders and birdhouses, with benches, and supports for our vining plants, arbors, and trellises, these all are often informal in design and placement. But rarely is this boring or trite. It can be as exciting and beautiful as the gardeners creativity, in creating scenes and using layout to surprise, can invent.

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Playful and Fun:

There are some people who have a knack for inserting a playful moment where you least expect it, and that can be true of garden ornament. The thing here is to have fun, but in a way that means something to you and your viewers.

I drive by a house around here that has some owners like that. Ever seen those grapevine reindeer that go up in yards at Christmas time? Well, these inventive people took it a bit further. Maybe they forgot to take their reindeer inside one year, maybe they felt too lazy at the time, who knows? But somehow they started arranging a pair of deer in ever changing vignettes in their otherwise unadorned yard. At first it was, “how tacky is that?” -but as the genius behind this turned it into an event, I am now delighted to see what they come up with. Sometimes the reindeer are doing yardwork, one hauling the other in a cart, sometimes they are having a picnic with large ketchup and mustard bottles on the table, …it’s always something new. Like yard theater.

Whirligigs, spinners, fun little creatures, unusual metal sculpture all have their place in a playful sense of decoration.
See Garden Accents.
John and Lisa’s Garden has a great sense of fun which showcases ornament and plantings. It is a delightful place to visit online and I bet is double the fun to live with.

Japanese Stone Lantern

Japanese Stone Lantern
Photo credit: christilper

Photo credit for garden gnome: earl53

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.