Landscape Design with Outdoor Art

By Claire Larrabee

Landscape design is certainly on my mind these days. We’ve just completed a house addition, and now the surrounding land looks something akin to a bomb site. We need to start working on a landscape design pronto!

Traditionally, landscape design focuses on patios and walls, lawns, garden beds, and water features. Indeed, these form the backbone of a beautiful garden. But sometimes landscapers miss the element that can really make a garden stand out – outdoor art. Art can elevate the experience in any garden, bringing structure, function, surprise, and fun to any plot of land, large or small.

Bring Focus to the View

Gardens, especially large gardens, sometimes lack a coherent plan. Stunning trees here, lush beds of shrubs, perennials and annual flowers there, masses of green lawn spreading in all directions – it can be hard to know where to look.

Just as a well-done painting is structured to lead your eye through the piece, art in the garden can do exactly the same thing, drawing your attention to a particular point in the scenery and enticing you further into the landscape.

I love how the colorful steel sculpture shown in the photo enhances the space. It not only brings the flower beds and trees into focus, tying them together, but also helps to create depth, leading the eye down the path and into the distance where a hint of sky beckons.

One way landscapers often choose to create focus in a garden is to use a water feature. Who doesn’t enjoy the soothing sound of a rippling waterfall or the cooling sight of a quiet pond? But we don’t all have the space, dollars, or inclination to let the bulldozers loose in our gardens.

Louis Pomerantz artfully combines stone and water in his natural and carved stone fountains.

Sculptural fountains can serve the purpose admirably, defining a space and offering respite and serenity. For example, Louis Pomerantz’s fountains blend natural and hand-carved stones with flowing water to create a garden nook that invites us to pause and engage with the surroundings.

Artfully Functional

An important trend in landscape design is the outdoor “room,” replete with comfy furniture. We New Englanders especially appreciate spending as much time as possible outdoors. Couches, chairs, rugs, dining tables – I’m pretty much ready to move the entire house outdoors when our lovely summers finally arrive!

Folding cherry Camp Chairs by Daniel Gomes

Artists have moved far beyond the standard Adirondack chair to create outdoor furniture in a wide range of styles and materials. Take Daniel Gomes, who has elevated the basic camp chair into a work of art. While designed for comfort and portability, his fire-pit camp chair, scoop chair and clever clam chair designs effectively combine style with function.

Of course, our need for utility in the garden isn’t limited to furniture. Gates and fences to ward off pesky critters in the vegetable garden, stakes to keep tall plants upright, trellises to contain those rampant climbing vines — all of these are necessary for the well-ordered garden. But they don’t need to look like they came straight from the big box hardware store.

Garden utility with style. Metal flower gates by James Takaki

Outdoor artists are turning these humble utilitarian items into appealing works of art, like the imaginative metal work of James Takaki. James uses a variety of techniques from traditional blacksmithing to state-of-the-art welding and cutting fabrication technology to create garden gates, stakes, and other useful outdoor items.

Seriously, It’s Time for Some Fun

Gardens are meant to be places of pleasure, and to me that means they should be places of fun as well as beauty. A garden should be quite capable of surprising us or making us laugh. I would love to come around the corner to find by a pair of Roger DiTarando’s life-size bronze sheep waiting to greet me, or watch a trio of his bronze herons scour the water’s edge for a tasty snack.

Roger DiTarando: Ram & Ewe in cast bronze and fabricated copper, Herons in cast bronze, welded fabricated copper, and stainless-steel legs

Then again, what could be more fun than to come across one of Whitmore Boogaerts’ whimsical metal sculptures that often incorporate glass and kinetic elements to create color and movement in the garden?

Whitmore Boogaerts brings whimsy to the garden with his large, colored sculptures.

Focus on Your Garden at the Paradise City May Arts Festival

If you are intrigued about the idea of adding art to your outdoor world, the upcoming Paradise City Arts Festival, May 26, 27 and 28 is a great place to see work by all of the artists featured in this blog and many more. The festival will take place at the Three County Fairgrounds, 54 Old Ferry Road, Northampton, MA. Complementing the outdoor work will be outstanding artists working in all sorts of media including paintings and photography, ceramics, fiber, wood, jewelry, and metal. Click here for more information on the show, including hours, location, admission and exhibitors. Or, buy tickets here. Hope to see you there!

Missed the May show? Be inspired by garden sculpture and furnishings at the October 6, 7 & 8 show in Northampton.