Art in Context: Inspiration from England

So many gardens, so many ideas….I'm just back from leading my tour England in Full Bloom and have so much to share with you. I tried to post daily highlights on Facebook but thought I'd take this blog post to share some of the fun art installations we saw on our travels that varied in materials, scale, and subject matter yet  share a sense of context within the environment.

Art of any kind needs to be placed strategically in order for both the art and the garden to be enhanced in a symbiotic way but is essential when incorporating life-life pieces in my opinion.

Finding A Sense of Place

A herd of bison roaming the Sussex prairie – perfect scale and placement

Context is key for lifelike sculptures and this herd of bison was a perfect illustration of that. Sussex Prairie Garden is the largest naturalistic style planting in Britain with a series of interconnecting arcs and pathways taking you deep into the matrix of perennials. Throughout the garden are sculptures of different styles but all thoughtfully sited – this was my favorite.

Subtle yet striking – a baby elephant meanders through a meadow of hardy geraniums and native grasses at East Ruston Old Vicarage

There is nothing subtle about East Ruston Old Vicarage or its wonderfully eccentric owner Alan Gray (more about him in a future blog post – he needs his own space!) – so this charming vignette was all the more surprising. Theatrical statements are briefly held in check in this meadow-like area tucked around a corner from the cafe.

A life-like bark sculpture by Tessa Hayward at Hampton Court Palace.

We had the opportunity to visit the Hampton Court Flower Festival – which I thoroughly enjoyed being less crowded than Chelsea and having more of a community feel about it. The walk to the show grounds itself were also a treasure trove of ideas and I loved this tree bark sculpture of a gardener toiling away. You can read more about this project from the artist here.

The art isn't immediately obvious is it? The rusted metal fern fronds at the center of the pond are easily mistaken for a living fern. East Ruston Old Vicarage.

There is so much to absorb in this image: bold colors, symmetry, sight lines, a portal, focal points that the art is almost missed – which is exactly the point. Skillful placement of life-like art on a small scale that we could all copy (although personally I'm lusting after a bison or 3).

Topiary pig at Hever Castle

Or a pig. He's pretty cute! There are several topiaries on the approach to Hever Castle but this one caught my eye standing patiently in the field minding his own business.

Back at Home

Now I'm thinking about some of the art in my own garden. I have a little dog sculpture who is permanently nose-down-bottom-up in a border and a rusted fern frond emerging from a group of autumn ferns. But I'm sure I have room for a small herd of buffalo…..

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