Why not make your succulent garden even more inviting with outdoor art? By using your garden as a gallery, you'll engage in a fun pursuit that expresses your special style. One key to getting the look right is to repeat, in the pieces you choose, aspects of what you love most about succulents. This will make you (and guests) aware of the plants' beauty in fresh ways, and create memorable, tour-worthy spaces.
In my latest video, Mark and Marsha Rafter's Art-Gallery Succulent Garden (6:42), we visit husband-and-wife artists near San Diego. You'll love how these professionals beautifully showcase works of metal, ceramic and mosaic in their own garden.
Mark and Marsha use bold hues of red, orange and blue that repeat and contrast with the colors of aloes, sedums, senecios and crassulas. They explore textures and reflective surfaces, and aren't afraid to experiment.
When hunting art for your garden, have fun discovering artists and collecting their works. Or become an artist yourself. Don't protest! Art is the expression of creativity that everyone has. What "artists" tend to possess that you may not is perseverance in the face of failure, the desire to acquire new skills, and a willingness to try new things.
You might learn a few techniques, then display the results in your garden---after all, you have only yourself to please.
Ten Tips for Adding Art to Your Garden
Here's how to take your succulent garden to the next level, aesthetically.
- Notice how the elements enhance works of art. Sun illuminating a sculpture enlivens it and make mosaic glass shimmer. "Kinetic art" moves in the wind. Fountains use water to engage the senses.
- Enjoy textures. As with cacti and fuzzy kalanchoes, art objects with rough or smooth surfaces make garden vignettes more interesting.
- Celebrate symmetry. Use art to echo the spirals, whorls and firecracker shapes of echeverias, aloes and agaves.
- Group smaller pieces (like pots) to give them greater visual impact. I cluster mine on my deck, where I'll enjoy them up close when dining outdoors.
- Look for items to repurpose as art objects: birdbaths, bird cages, wrought iron candle holders, brass fire pits, terra-cotta pots and more. Perhaps all a thrift-store statue needs is a verdigris patina or a necklace of ceramic succulents.
- Take a community college class in metalworking, glass blowing, ceramics or sculpture. Artists you admire might offer classes as well.
- Make sure items are weatherproof. Objects made of wood will deteriorate if not sealed. Expect metal to rust, corrode or patina. That's not necessarily bad, but you don't want such changes to be a surprise.
- Display outdoor art well, because after all, it's an investment. Use sculptures as focal points, positioned where sight lines and pathways lead to them.
- Become a discerning patron of talented artists. Owning more than one work by the same sculptor will lend continuity to your garden.
- Tour estate gardens that are open to the public. Traditionally, adding art to gardens (as well as to interior walls) has been a pursuit of the wealthy. But do think beyond the obvious. If you're not into life-sized figures of Greek gods, then that's not the art for you. However, do notice their placement in the landscape.
Your Own Art: Show Us!
Are you proud and pleased with art you've added to your garden? Send me a photo that shows it in situ (if possible, with succulents). Include the name of the artist or the source, the size or dimensions, what you like about it, and what it's made of.
Learn More About Art and Succulents
Read about outdoor art and sophisticated whimsy on pp. 68-75 of Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.).
Gallery of garden art
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