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Adding Art to the Garden Artfully

Art in the Garden - Ted Lare - Des Moines

Gardens on their own are an expression of art, but sometimes adding a tangible piece of art to the garden can elevate the whole space in a new way. Art and gardens blend quite naturally together. There are plenty of garden and yard art ideas available online to help you get started. If you’re considering adding art to your garden, or if you’ve impulse-purchased a piece of art and need to decide where to put it, there are a few things to consider.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

7 Steps to Creating an Elegant Art Installation

1. Start with inspiration

There are plenty of options for finding garden art inspiration. The first one that pops to mind is Pinterest. Even if you don’t find much inspiration on Pinterest, it’s a great place to start a photo collection of garden art that you like. You can also gather ideas by visiting botanical gardens around Iowa and observing their art installations, wandering through your local garden center, watching garden shows on TV, attending home/trade shows, and even observing how your town or city has integrated art installations.

2. Refine your style

Once you’ve collected a variety of inspiring ideas, it’s a good idea to narrow it down. If you haven’t browsed through Pinterest before, now’s the time to start! You can easily review the things you’ve added and start to notice patterns in your choices. You can also easily remove things that you don’t love as much as when you first saw it. You should be able to see patterns in the personality or feeling your choices evoke. You’ll also notice consistencies in what mediums you like. 

Since a piece of garden art is going to be exposed to the elements year-round, you’ll probably want to stick with either metal, wood, stone/concrete, or something that will hold up to rain, high heat, wind, and below-freezing temperatures. Garden art pieces are most commonly sculptural, in some way. In fact, many famous sculpture gardens are planned exclusively to complement art installations.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

3. Source it

Once you’ve refined your style, it’s time to decide if you want, or if your budget allows, for a custom piece of art made by an artist, or a commercially available option from a supplier. There are plenty of options for where to find your art piece once you’ve decided what you’re looking for. 

For commercial art, garden centers and boutiques typically carry a nice selection of garden art pieces.  You can find art pieces that glow or move in the wind. As well as art in all sorts of shapes and sizes from contemporary to traditional.

For custom art, there are a few options you may not have thought of. Most garden centers and boutiques in Iowa (like us) are likely to have custom art from local artisans, so they’re still a great option. But if you want a truly custom piece, it’s worth doing a little more investigation to find an artist local to Iowa. If you like metal art, talk to local welders, machine shops, or blacksmiths. They may have someone on staff or know of someone who creates beautiful art on the side. The same goes for wood pieces— check with a local carpenter, cabinet maker, or furniture builder. For stonework, check with your local stonemason, concrete company, or landscaping company. We have a nice list of artists we refer our customers to help them create 

You can also often find artisans at local farmers and craft markets. We offer a spring and fall art market where you can find dozens of artists.  Several other popular art shows in central Iowa such as Artfest MidwestDes Moines Art Festival, and Reiman Gardens Art Show are some great ones to check out local artists. Don’t hesitate to reach out— most skilled tradespeople have a surprising amount of creativity in them and are capable of creating some amazing things with their day-job skills. There are plenty of talented artisans in Iowa, so keep your eyes peeled for something that aligns with your ideal aesthetic.

Last but not least, and perhaps the most obvious, you can check in with local art galleries, or browse through the Etsy marketplace online. 

If you’re artistic yourself, it can be fun to create your own custom piece of beautiful homemade garden art for your space. If you need some inspo, search for some DIY tutorials on fun, easy art projects to do at home.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

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4. Start simple

Some of the best garden art installations are the simplest. It’s a good idea to start with just one piece, or you’ll risk overcrowding or mixing too many styles that don’t mesh well together. If possible, try placing your art piece in a few different locations around your garden before permanently installing it. Leave it in one spot for a while, even a day or two. Notice how the light hits it at different times of day, and how it looks from different angles and perspectives in your home.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot, install it, or get it professionally installed. If you’ve had a custom piece created by an artist they can probably advise how best to install it. If you’ve picked up large commercial pieces, it’s probably best to consult with a local landscaping company, or your local garden center, about the best installation method.

5. Enjoy it

Observe and enjoy your art piece for some time, even up to a year. Notice how the plants interact with it, complement it, or don’t. 

6. Document the process

If your art piece is integrative, if it is part of a fountain, or if it’s a frame that climbing plants will grow over, document it throughout the year. You’ll love being able to look back on how your art piece has changed your garden over time. 

7. Consider adding another piece of art to your garden

Chances are you’ve fallen even more in love with your art piece (or maybe you secretly hate it now?!) Either way, after you’ve had your art in the garden for a whole year, you’re probably ready to add another art element, or replace the first one— whatever suits you. It’s your garden!


The Ted Lare Look

Our garden style and trend blog, dedicated to helping you design and shape your dream home, garden, and outdoor retreat.

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