Ornaments in the garden are very much a thing of personal taste. Some people cannot have too many whereas for others one is too many.

To make ornaments work in the garden, the same care that you would apply to putting up a painting or a piece of art inside the home needs to be applied outside. The idea is to add to the picture and experience of the garden. To add an element of surprise, to lead the eye, to tell a story and hopefully to add an emotional connection.

Some of the very best gardens use artwork or ornaments as unofficial signposts to guide you around the garden. Great public and private gardens around the world use ornaments or art in the garden in this way. Interesting pieces of garden art take you on a journey of discovery around the garden. Once you find the first piece you are on the lookout for more. An owl carved from an old tree stump, two nuns looking inquisitive or a quirky duck in an unexpected spot all add to the experience and delight of a garden.


An object of art can add a point of interest in the garden. Perhaps the best place to site an ornament is in a focal point such as at the end of a path or where the eye naturally settles. A hidden corner is also a great spot to give an element of surprise.

Art can be fun. Pieces can be used to stimulate the imagination of children and adults alike. Brightly coloured garden art or interesting characters placed well in the garden can be an eye-catching addition. This type of garden art can be very much contextualised to children’s interests at any stage of development, and also encourage the use of the garden by the whole family.

Japanese lanterns and bowls are some of the most common pieces of art used in gardens around the world. In traditional Japanese landscaping, each piece has a special meaning and is always placed carefully. For example, a stone lantern will be placed on a path leading to a temple or home.  The pivoting bamboo pipe water features, kakehi, were traditionally used to scare deer with the water placed to balance stone and other hard surfaces. The concept is to provide balance between hard and soft, and living and non-living.

Incorporating large pieces of artwork does require some skill. Large pieces can work really well in large gardens. Large water features and stone artwork can make a real statement when they are in scale with their surroundings. Conversely, large pieces that are used in small spaces can leave a feeling of claustrophobia or a sense that the owners are being ostentatious. Of course, sometimes gardens use ornaments as a means of conveying status.  The idea is to create the illusion of opulence to impress and perhaps intimidate visitors. The key to creating a garden space that feels comfortable and welcoming is to choose artwork that is in scale with the size of the garden, and fits with your personal story and taste.

Words and images by Brian Sams