Clients love plants; clients love hardscape features. Presenting an integrated plan for a backyard oasis that incorporates their favorite shrubs, grasses and perennials with a welcoming patio, pergola or pool surely will win them over. But for that unique, personal touch, nothing beats a little bit of art.

Chihuly glass crowns a gate in the Gladney Rose Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

That’s not to say that the garden itself is not art. And there are functional aspects that can be artful, such as scrollwork on a garden gate, or a sunburst pattern embedded in a bricked patio. A found object, a small sculpture or even a collection of globes, however, adds the special something that signifies this garden is like no other. What we’re really talking about is purely decorative, just-for-fun, stately or signature pieces that serve no practical purpose other than to draw the eye and please the viewer. Whether delightfully whimsical or deeply meaningful, art in the garden finishes the job.

A small Cupid bestows grace and blessings upon a shaded garden.

The eye of the beholder

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. What is lovely to one person may be a snooze to another. So your clients need to be queried about their special interests and their tastes, whether they prefer a particular style or if they have a favorite artist. Do they like classical forms and sculpture, or do they celebrate the whimsical? Is the garden formal? Is it wild?

Sculpture need not be “serious” to qualify as art.

If they already have an item they’d like to incorporate, by all means, give it a fitting home. If they’re open to suggestion, be ready to offer a range of ideas befitting their lifestyle and unique point of view.

Natural objects used as sculptural elements lend a dramatic counterpoint to surrounding flora.

There are so many avenues to pursue when it comes to incorporating art in the garden, but we’ll narrow it down to two:

Take advantage of breezy days to lend a little whirling motion among prairie plants.

Money is no object

Say your client can afford to commission Dale Chihuly, the renowned glass artist whose installations have graced botanical gardens across the country. Then go for it: See if he’ll consider taking on a private project. Barring that, original sculpture may fill the bill.

Collected bottles anchored in bedsprings help to disguise a cinderblock wall.

Let’s recycle

Unusual objects, craft fair oddities: You name it, and someone will make it art. Janet Rademacher, sales rep with Mountain State Wholesale Nursery, has long been a fan of repurposed materials, and her private garden in Arizona is filled with fascinating pieces made from some surprising materials.

Sometimes it’s a bird bath, sometimes it’s a bird feeder. But it’s always a sculptural element made of tractor discs.

It’s a garden bed. Get it?

Colorful bowling balls line a garden path.

Tubes, wires, springs and hoses mimic the vertical flora in Janet Rademacher’s garden.

Inspiration is everywhere, from the sublime and solemn to the silly and scandalous. To help jump start your imagination, we’re highlighting a few examples. But we’d like to see what you’ve selected for clients or for your own artistic garden. Email us at, and we’ll provide the gallery.