A care­fully cho­sen and well-placed sculp­ture can help pro­vide es­sen­tial struc­ture to a win­ter gar­den

The Weekend Australian - Life - - GARDENING - HOLLY KERR FORSYTH

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

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