ARTISTRY AMID THE GREENERY
A carefully chosen and well-placed sculpture can help provide essential structure to a winter garden
Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781), a Belgian artist considered the father of modern sculpture, wrote, “The best sculpture represents an ideal harmony between subject matter, material and situation.” This is an outcome that comes naturally, perhaps, to great artists, but may be elusive to many of us. His work can be found at Cottesbrooke, a wonderful garden just north of London.
In winter, when many trees are bare, gardens might rely on sculpture to create interest and excitement. Along with evergreen trees, carefully chosen and well-placed sculpture can provide essential structure to the winter garden.
In Glennis and Peter Rodeck’s garden, Scotchman’s Hill, at Warwick, west of Brisbane, temperatures are extreme, with winter days of minus 5C and weeks of over 40C in summer.
To manage the cold and frost the Rodecks create microclimates using overhead trees and buildings.
“To protect more tender plants outside of the microclimates we cover with frost cloth or hessian until the last frosts are gone,” Glennis Rodeck says. “Very frost-tender plants like ferns and succulents go into the glasshouse for winter. “And we rely on our sculptures to provide yearround interest in the garden whatever the weather conditions. They also give an element of surprise as you move into different areas of the garden. In the midst of winter the sculptures create silhouettes above a white frosty garden when there is little else of interest.” At Scotchman’s Hill, a spider web created by local artist Alain Colfs and spun between two trees glistens with early morning dew. “The web makes me think of the many spiders in the garden and just how clever they are to construct such an intricate work,” Peter Rodeck says. “One of my friends, in passing by the web, said: ‘It looks like the spider is waiting for his dinner — fly in, no fly out.’ ” At Lucindale, a garden just south of Hobart, several sculptures are placed throughout the garden, all created by Matthew Dick. A stream of bull ants crawls up a tree trunk and a large scorpion stalks a meadow of poa grasses. A butterfly rests on a tree stump.
When contemplating sculpture, you would consider the size of your property along with the location, style and age of the garden. Whether your taste and funds run to classical sculpture of museum quality or a piece of driftwood collected on the beach, you’ll want the work you choose to sit happily in its location.
Artists create works in myriad styles and a variety of mediums, from stone to clay, marble, wood, bronze, steel or concrete.
You might finish an avenue with a piece relevant to that part of the garden: an apple in polished granite at the end of a walk to an orchard, for instance. Vernacular materials — local stone, for example — anchor and contextualise any garden.
The scale of the piece should relate to the size of the garden and the height and scale of the house. A large piece in a small space can turn an uninteresting space into a dramatic area. You might covet a Dragonfly, by Todd Stuart, hovering above a flower border.
As the Persians have shown us across centuries, sculpture in conjunction with water is a beautiful el-
Sculpture in conjunction with water is a beautiful element in any garden
ement in any garden. Christopher Trotter’s Pelicans, on a pylon in the Brisbane River, relates perfectly to its setting at Southbank, near the Captain Cook Bridge.
At the National Rose Garden at Woolmers, in northern Tasmania, stainless steel birds and water plants, including reeds and lily pads, have been created by sculptor Folko Kooper to disguise the mechanics of the central rill, set in a 120m by 35m parterre that dissects the garden.
And less must be more. A beautiful piece of sculpture that you cannot live without will make you more content than several items of questionable beauty.
If you can have only one piece, choose something with which you have fallen in love. In a small space just one carefully selected piece will be more effective than a collection that may be disparate. (Although you could rotate several pieces as your mood and the seasons change.)
As with any work of art, find something you love and treasure it. And as Ji Cheng wrote, in 1634 in his
Yuan Ye, or The Craft of Gardens, “There is no definite way of making scenery; you know it is right when it stirs your emotions.” After nearly two decades and 900 columns, this is my last for The Weekend Australian.
It has been a great joy and a privilege to bring to you each week the history, beauty and meaning of landscape, and gardens old and new, from throughout Australia and around the world, to interview so many different garden owners and to photograph so many great gardens.
And, during my darkest days since my diagnosis and treatment for cancer from 2012, my weekly column has kept me sane. I am proud to say I have never missed a deadline. Thank you all for your support, your letters and emails. Holly Kerr Forsyth attained a PhD in 19th and 20thcentury gardens. Follow her on Twitter: @hollykerforsyth. Clockwise from above, Christopher Trotter’s
Pelicans at Brisbane’s South Bank; stainless steel birds and water plants by sculptor Folko Kooper at the National Rose Garden at Woolmers; the spider web created by local artist Alain Colfs at Scotchman’s Hill; inset, Matthew Dick’s scorpion at Lucindale