Voice of the Land
Art in the Yard! Right Where It Belongs.
(The following article was published as the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado’s “Tip of the Week” on August 31, 2012. You can learn more about that group of professionals at this link.)
More than ever, art is thriving outdoors – and it’s not just at the mall and public buildings. With Coloradans preferring to spend as much time as possible outside, it only makes sense that we want artistic objects in or near our outdoor living areas.
Many landscape designers create gardens just to showcase a treasured art form. Other landscape pros work with local artists to commission pieces that will complement a particular outdoor space – or they procure artifacts, reproductions and architectural objects from around the world. And some of us just find things at an auction or resale store that we re-purpose as art somewhere between the peonies and the trumpet vine.
If you’re looking for something artful to embellish your yard, here are some options:
- Architectural elements can be as simple as part of old metal fence or as elaborate as an imported Asian gate. The shape, color and material add interest among plants.
- Art that serves a dual purpose – some artwork can become a trellis for plant vines or as a habitat for birds. Its interest and appeal is partly what it looks like and partly what it does.
- Sustainable art is a new trend in outdoor art. Objects are made from natural materials like twigs from pruning debris. With time, this art disintegrates and goes back to nature. Sometimes it also serves a dual purpose as a habitat for birds or other wildlife..
- Art for its own sake – these objects are meant to be enjoyed in their own right and can include objects made from bronze, marble, steel, copper, wood, concrete, stone and any material that is durable outdoors.
Whatever the art form, when it goes outdoors, it needs to be protected from the elements and not too disruptive to ongoing maintenance activities. Know the composition of the piece and if has specific care needs.
Here are some tips:
- Place art where it has some protection and where it will not be overgrown by plants as they mature.
- For long-term life, select pieces that are weather-resistant and need little maintenance. Bronze and marble, for example, are very durable and only need occasional cleaning or polishing.
- Wooden art may need a hardy paint or finish to give it a long life outdoors. Consider placing it in a protected location.
- Know how the piece may change over time. Steel is typically left to rust; copper is allowed to develop an aged patina.
- Some art is made of materials that are intended to go back to nature. Many sustainable pieces are designed to disintegrate over time, so enjoy them for what they do and as long as they last.
- Re-purposed items, especially items already used outdoors, can serve as interesting and long-lasting art. Metal gates, antique farm implements and architectural artifacts from old buildings all qualify.
- Pay attention to the sprinkler system. No matter what the material, water should never be aimed directly at artwork.
- Avoid placing art in or next to a lawn area where it might be damaged by mowers or “weed eaters.”
Need help placing art in your landscape? Contact Nancy Eastman, Art of the Land, here.