Using Statues as Landscape Features

If you’re looking for something to brighten up the garden and catch the eye then there is a plethora of different statues and ornaments to choose from. The choice is so vast that we’re not even going to try to catalogue them in this article, just try to give some general guidelines about how to use them as part of a garden landscape.

We’re thinking specifically in this article about statues in the classical sense and similar ornaments, not contemporary pieces or sculpture. The question of taste will largely be avoided but, like the Chelsea Garden Show, this article will remain a gnome-free zone.

Background to Classical Garden Statues

Many ornaments are classical Greek or Roman statues and this reflects the beginnings of garden ornaments. The practice in the west was first popularised by statues of Greek gods placed in sacred groves or sanctuaries. Greek statues were set up in order to be worshipped but when the Roman Empire occupied Greece they took statues back to Rome, and made copies of the ones they couldn’t move.

For a Roman a statue was just a pure ornament, not an object of worship. But putting statues outside stopped when Christianity became the dominant religion. Classical statues were considered pagan and there were no real alternatives at the time.

Classical statues became popular again in the United Kingdom after the Renaissance as interest in Greek and Roman culture heightened. In the Victorian era they became even more popular as their naturalistic beauty complemented nature and connected the Victorians to a simpler age.

Purpose of Statues and Ornaments

If you decide that your garden could benefit from a statue or an ornament think first about you want to achieve. Are you going to get small stone frogs and put them on the edge of your pond in the hope of fooling visitors into thinking they are real? Or will it be a classical alabaster statue of a maiden carrying a water jug, situated in a grove of shrubs, designed to draw the attention and pull visitors around the landscape in a set pattern?

The latter sounds as if it would be in better taste but it is all subjective. And many people simply don’t have the space to have guests being ‘drawn around the garden’. More often today it’s a case of: ‘there’s the whole garden’, particularly with modern houses.

Thinking About Placement

If that’s the case in your garden, think about placement and backdrop. A white marble (or imitation marble) statue looks good against a dark green background but a dark grey stone one would not stand out so well.

Equally almost any statue would be lost against a multi-coloured floral border so don’t try to complete with it. Let the flowers have the limelight and place the ornament where it can enhance the landscape.

Explore Other Subjects for your Landscape

You don’t have to stick to a classical statue either. There are statues of animals, artefacts, all sorts of subjects. The materials are usually marble, stone or cast iron, but other materials are used too.

Many of the stone or marble ornaments are reconstituted. This means they are made of stone or marble dust and fragments held together with resin. This isn’t a necessarily a bad thing, as long as it is made clear when you are buying. They are a lot cheaper than the real thing and so many garden landscapes would be without them otherwise.

The Question of Taste

We have largely avoided the question of taste in this article and it’s tempting to leave it there. The truth is that one man’s classical statue is another mans piece of out-of-place tat and it really is a very personal thing.

The best way to conclude is to suggest that you take a look around a few garden centres and catalogues. Then buy the statue or ornament that you want to see in your garden landscape, and just leave it at that.