Structures as Art In the Garden

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Structures as Art In the Garden

It’s not unusual to hear people talk about the art and science of gardening.

Some argue that gardening is all about the science, while others consider it to be an art form. For me it is both. Weather, soils, the life cycles of plants and pests are all part of gardening, but so is color, texture and form. When it comes to garden art, I am drawn to structures that are not only beautiful but functional too, including gates, pergolas, arbors, walls and fences. And, while I love seeing oversized sculptures in large public gardens like this head at Chanticleer in Wayne, PA, in my own garden I tend to be more practical.


Years ago while taping an episode of “A Gardener’s Diary” in Connecticut, at the garden of Michael Trapp, I was fortunate enough to purchase an iron tutuer, that I knew would be perfect to grow roses and vines on in my garden. The problem was how I would I get this 12’ tall structure back to my garden in Atlanta. Fortunately, Michael was planning to travel by truck to Georgia for an antique show and offered to transport it for me. Today this tutuer resides in my garden and while it supports one of my favorite roses, ‘Zephirine Drouhin,’ as well as a few different clematis, it is ornamental even when the flowers are long gone. Over the years the iron has rusted, which means the plants are the stars but if I ever decide to paint it, it would provide another source of year around color.


A tutuer similar to this could be used in place of the standard tomato cage and would add an ornamental flair to your vegetable garden. I still remember a vegetable garden that I visited in late winter. A few cool season crops were growing but the raised stone beds and the metal structures in the center of the beds were the main attraction.

Tee pees made of bamboo work well as supports for climbing beans or cucumbers and add welcome ornamentation too.

When it comes to garden gates and fences, there are myriad choices and many are both ornamental and functional. On a recent visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden I discovered a newly installed garden gate called Sunflower Gate (2012) by Andrew T. Crawford. Forged and fabricated out of stainless steel, it measures 68 “ x 97” x 6”. I like the artist’s choice of materials and the attention to detail.

This is a gate I would never tire of opening.

Sunflower Gate by Andrew T. Crawford

Arbors are useful for providing support for plants and sometimes shade, and they can be quite decorative. I dream of one day having an arbor off the back of my house with a flagstone patio where I could grow climbing plants, relax and dine with friends. I think something made of cedar would be nice but iron is also a possibility. For now I will take photographs of what inspires me and save my pennies.

Structures as Art In the Garden