The Garden Guide

Metal art

Landscape and Garden Product Directory

'Metal art' is an unfortunate term for an important aspect of garden design: the use of metal in garden art, ornament and structures (railings, gazebos etc). Feng shui theory accords a vital role to metal in gardens and it is difficult to explain without speaking of feelings. A statue, for example, can be made in bronze or fiberglass so that it is difficult for the eye alone to know the difference. But once the mind knows which is a genuine metal artefact the eye sees it differently. It is the same with costume jewelery: an artificial diamond is all very well but a genuine diamond partakes in the deep mystery of its astounding geological history.

The use of metals can be overdone, as can every type of design, but each has welcome qualities and a pattern of associations:

  • Iron is inflexible, immovable and upright, either the colour of rust or the colour of paint. The metal is connected with the worlds beneath and beyond the everyday. Iron is used for railings, ornaments and urns.
  • Steel is supple and flexible, traditionally taking the colour of its paint, now available as stainless steel, promising purity and eternity. It is a dynamic metal. Wrought iron, the product of blacksmith’s hammers, is the traditional material for decorative fences and gates.
  • Copper is malleable and dependable. It used to be painted but is now valued equally for its copper hue and for the greenish patina which the metal develops. Symbolically, copper is involved in rites of passage.
  • Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. It combines the softness of copper with the sparkling glint of tin, making it the metal of choice for sculptures of the human form.
  • Gold symbolizes royal power and divine power. Kings and noblemen have used gold leaf in gardens to impress visitors and symbolize their personal power. The metal has generally been too rare and valuable to use in solid form.
  • Lead is a soft accommodating metal of great durability and considerable weight It has a gentle unobtrusive quality which harmonizes with gardens. and permits a delicate yet soft modelling which would be impossible in stone. Lead develops a patina, which tends to be silver-grey in the country and slate-grey in the town Both shades are a foil to the luminous green of fresh leaves and bright hues of flowers. The metal has long been used for tanks, pipes and ornaments.

Lead cherub and iron frame

Gold statue at Sans Souci