How “garden art” can add class to an outdoor space

Barbara Hepworth would be delighted. Just like Henry Moore or, for that matter, Sir Antony Gormley, arguably our greatest living sculptor.

All three are known for their outdoor creations – and so it can be assumed that all three would applaud the growing trend for what can loosely be called ‘the art of the garden’.

It’s a broad genre and nothing new, but it has grown in importance over the past 18 months as people put more emphasis on outdoor space.

Refined: a golden bust will become a focal point in any garden patio

There is also a utility element. If you are going to have an outdoor table, why not have one made of stone that you can leave in the elements all year round and which will become more and more beautiful over the years?

And if you’re going to be spending more time with friends huddled on your patio under a heater, why not invite a stone urn planted with floating weeds to join in the fun?

“Art and garden furniture have taken off in recent years – and they have become particularly in demand during the pandemic as we all spend so much time at home,” says Julia Skinner, of J’s Garden Antiques, based near Upton Snodsbury in Worcestershire.

Most of Julia’s collection is from the UK, although her copper cheese vats are from France and have proven to be best sellers, no matter how big a size can cost around £ 5,000 .

“We turned some of them into bubbling fountains, which make wonderful centerpieces,” she says. “They just need a simple pump, which comes to around £ 200 more.”

Travers Nettleton and his wife Katie have run Garden Art Plus in Hungerford, Berkshire for almost 20 years, in a two-acre former wood and salvage yard.

They sell everything from arbors, benches, birdbaths and doors to fountains, florets and statues, and supply both Soho House, the private members’ club and the famous The Pig hotel chain.

“The reason we were so busy during the closings was because of the renewed interest in gardening,” says Travers.

“And that led to thinking more about garden furniture. Unlike wood, stone improves with age and people always look for a cross between what is practical and what is beautiful. ‘

Visiting his backyard has almost become a local attraction in its own right, especially now that he has invited several other “like-minded retailers,” as he puts it, including a wine merchant, clothing store and merchant. art, to open their own stores on the site.

Some of her statues – like a 17th-century headless figure of Athena – cost over £ 12,000, but you can also pick up a bust of Aphrodite on a fluted column for £ 595.

Tina Bird started decorative garden antiques shortly before the first lockdown. She ran a business that specialized in team building, but there was no team building to do during the pandemic.

At the time, her mother had just passed away and rather than selling her house, she and her brother decided to rent it out to vacationers and wanted to beautify the small patio garden, the focal point of the property.

Centerpiece: a decorative stone planter from Tina Bird's Garden Antiques

Centerpiece: a decorative stone planter from Tina Bird’s Garden Antiques

“Sometimes things are supposed to happen at specific times in your life,” says Tina. “Suddenly, having all the time in the world during Covid, I jumped like a salmon and became totally engrossed in the antiques in the garden, something that I have had a passion for all my life.”

Tina still runs her team building business. This means that she has the luxury of only buying what she likes for her garden antique business.

“If I make a little bit of money, it’s a bonus,” she says. “And I’m happy to say that right now the market has gone crazy.

“It seems like young people now want things with a certain history for them. They don’t want to think that there are 50 or 100 benches or tables that are exactly the same. Tina is especially proud of her benches, especially those with ends sculpted in the shape of swans or animals.

And its range of urns and planters is impressive. Currently she has a wonderfully heavy antique marble urn on sale for £ 348.

One particular area of ​​growth for Travers at Garden Art Plus is his older Kadai fire bowls, which start at £ 395.

He supplies them in India and restores them if necessary. They are certainly a lot more appealing than a regular barbecue – and embody the new vogue for outdoor living.

Although what Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore would do with them is another matter.