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Art for gardens

By garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin. The last five years of garden design have all been about bringing the outside in and the inside out, making rooms out of the garden and connecting the two spaces in every way imaginable. Has it been successful?

Well to an extent it has but only when, like most things, its done well and with true attention to the detail. For my mind one of the most important pieces of the detail is in how we decorate the garden with sculpture, art and artifact. Whether bought or made its art for gardens that will bring the inside out.

Hannah pescharA piece of sculpture adds focus to a space, use it at the end of a long path to provide a full stop, or use it in a place where its hidden and you'll come across it quite suddenly like an exclamation mark. Remember you can move a piece around from year to year and place it in different settings. My garden includes various pieces that I don't really see until the leaves drop and then something is revealed and a new focus comes to the garden in the Winter. And what's most important is that it doesn't have to be expensive. I have a pot that cost just £5 sitting on a piece of green oak that came out of a skip and it works brilliantly. My most expensive item is an enormous olive jar (with an admittingly large hole in its base that you can't see) that cost £100.

Not only will a piece of sculpture look good all year round but it's also often a great investment. There is a huge range to choose from you just have to know where. At the top end there are places such as the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in Surrey, Sculpture at Goodwood, West Sussex and The Garden Gallery in Hampshire (details at end of article). These all sell contemporary works ranging in sizes to fit most gardens and settings.

For classical sculpture you can't beat the main auction houses but you can pick up some great bargains at local country sales. Sotheby's West Sussex specialise in garden statuary and hold dedicated sales twice a year. Other reclamation companies also have good stocks of the sort of aged antique look that is so desirable. I have found some great pieces through www.salvo.co.uk that covers most of the best reclamation companies in the UK and Eire. There are also a great many reproduction statuary suppliers - a particular favourite of ours is Cranborne Stone based in Dorset.

If you do spend more than £100 then get the piece onto your household insurance. Security specialists can also tag sculptures to aid security and recovery. I'd really avoid putting anything on too visible display if you pay a lot for it because there seems to be a great trade in stolen sculpture - even the very biggest and heaviest pieces.

You really don't have to spend a fortune. I regularly see some great work from as little as £25 and if you want to then why don't you have a go yourself. Visit the local DIY store or garden centre and set yourself up with some stone, timber and driftwood and let your imagine take control. Whatever you do don't strip pebbles off beaches and only buy from approved sources and suppliers with published environmental policies.

Summer's here so if you need an excuse to get out into the open and spend some money then I can't think of a better way than to invest in some garden art that you'll enjoy for many years to come.

Sculpture galleries
Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in Surrey 01306 627269
Sculpture at Goodwood, West Sussex 01243 538449
The Garden Gallery in Hampshire 01794 301144

By Andrew Fisher Tomlin

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