Archives for May 2015

Garden focal points – Statues and sculptures: How to choose the right ones

Here’s a little excerpt from the new Great Garden Formula 3.0 online course…

A garden statue or sculpture make a perfect focal point when positioned correctly. The job of a good focal point is to draw the eye to certain parts of the garden as well as break up the monotony of the planting to create additional interest. They are especially valuable in the winter months when the plants are not flowering.


Where you put a statue comes down to the design and layout of the garden. A well-designed garden will utilise the space well, and the shapes of the lawn patio areas will draw the eye from one side of the garden to create interest and the illusion of space, if needed.

Focal points, like statues, pots, seating and sculptures can then be placed at each turn in direction, as shown in the example image below.


The effectiveness of the garden focal point placement all comes down to what it lines up with. So, for example, the end of a view from your kitchen window might be the perfect place to put a statue. Or, you might wish to have it at a diagonal to your window to draw the eye to the far side of the garden. Other great places are at the end of paths, like a visual full stop.

What type of statue should you choose?

Well, let’s first start with what shouldn’t choose. Unless you have a baroque style of garden then I would suggest you avoid the pure white classical looking statues. Now, I should point out that this is my personal taste, rather than a major design faux pas. I don’t like the white statues because to me they look out of place in most modern garden settings, and if anything, they tend to remind me of cemeteries.

If you do like the classical style of statues, then considered the weathered versions that you can buy. These tend to be a more grey colour and look older and therefore don’t stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of the garden, as shown below.


Classical garden statues that have been ‘aged’.

There are plenty of modern looking statues and sculptures available in garden centres these days. Everything from modern art to natural rock formations, some of which have had a hole drilled in them and everything in between.

Modern garden sculptures

Choosing statues and sculptures is a very personal thing, it’s really it’s down to your own personal taste as much as anything. If you love the white classical statues then go for it. If you’re not sure exactly what is going to work well in your garden, then take a look at the other materials that you can use.


Sculptures from Burghley House and Hanna Pescar Sculpture Garden, UK

If you’ve gone for very modern paving and rendered retaining walls, then a more modern statue is obviously going to work much better than something very traditional and vice versa.

If you have a very natural garden style, then sculptures made from more natural materials like wood look good. A natural setting will take pretty much any type of sculpture though, because there is nothing to clash with it material wise. Both classical and very modern sculptures will look good in a natural setting, as shown in the example photographs above.

A quick cheat to tell if you’ve got the right statue or sculpture

If you take a photograph of your garden and then one of the statue or sculpture that you wish to use and either Photoshop it in or trace over the shape or cut it out and stick it on to the photograph in the location that you plan to put it in, that will give you a really good idea of how it’s going to look.

On a tight budget? Make your own garden sculpture

Of course, you could always make something yourself. My parents garden was absolutely littered with my DIY sculpture attempts. I think my mother was very relieved when that particular phase came to an end. I realised this when they moved house – they left them for the new owners to enjoy!

In Part 2 of garden focal points we’ll look at alternatives to buying traditional statues and sculptures and look at more natural alternatives as well as everyday objects that you can easily turn into an attractive focal point with a bit of paint and careful positioning.

Need Help to Design Your Garden?

If you’d like to know much, much more then take a look at the all new Great Garden Formula 3.0 Course that will tell you in details how to design your own perfect garden.

I will warn you, it is a BIG course, suitable for very keen amateurs that are possibly thinking about doing garden design for a living or for professional designers who want to get faster at designing and improve their current skill set.

If you’re looking for a smaller, basic course on garden design, then check the Long Garden Formula and the Small Garden Formula courses here:

Not ready for a full course yet? Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

[DESIGN SHOW 15] Planting ideas, long & wide garden plans

Get the WOW factor garden cheat sheet now!
Enter your best email address below

To see more about the Great Garden Formula 3.0 visit:

In this episode Successful Garden Designers Rachel Mathews and Ali Conway walk you round the Cambridge Botanic Gardens to look at how to effectively repeat plant in your garden.

They also show designs they have been working on for a long garden and a wide garden.

You can find out more info about the Cambridge Botanic Garden in the UK here:

You can contact Trisha (just outside of Chicago) from Roots Nursery here:

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

Awkward shape garden design solutions – Case study

Awkward shape garden before design

Awkward shape garden before design

Having a garden that is an unusual or awkward shape can often feel like a nightmare to deal with.

Actually though, an awkward shape garden often as not is a blessing because it enables you to come up with a design that is very unique, that you wouldn’t have been able to do in a regular rectangular shape garden.

So how do you transform an awkward shape garden?


Step 1 The main thing to do here is take the eyes away from the awkward angles of the garden.

Curves and circles are fabulous at doing just that, as your eyes naturally follow the shape of the curves.

However, you can also use interlocking box shapes equally well. The most important thing to remember though, is to always, always follow the lines of the house i.e. you put the box at 90° to the house and not following the angle of the wall fence. If you follow the fence angle, you end up accentuating the look of the angle rather than disguising it.

You will, of course, end up with some odd shapes, but don’t worry about these because you can easily disguise them with planting.

In the plan examples below you will see two designs for the same awkward shape garden. One using interlocking ovals and the other interlocking box shapes. Whilst both work and do the job well, the oval design is a bit more pleasing to the eye, as it is softer to look at and the curves create more interest than just straight lines.


There is no right and wrong time to use curves as opposed to straight lines, it does come down to personal taste. Most people do seem to prefer curved shapes though. Straight lines are better if you have a very modern and angular house.

Step 2 Add some height to take your eyes away from any awkward shapes.

Adding a tree, pergola, archway or something that draws your eyes up, will also help take them away from any awkward angles. In our case study garden we had both a pergola and an arch with a seating area built in. Having strong focal points like these forces your attention on something else and away from the odd shape.

Step 3 Use the leftover spaces around the lawn and planting to create an interesting meander around the garden.

The beauty of an awkward shape garden is the angled leftover bits that you end up with once you’ve got a very defined lawn shape in place. You will see in the example garden that we made use of the space with a stepping stone path winding its way through the garden. Again, this draws the eye to follow the path and, because you can’t quite see everything in one go, it makes the whole garden look larger and more interesting.

Need more ideas?

If you’d like to learn more about exactly how you can transform your garden, then check out the online garden design courses we run here at Successful Garden Design.

If you would like the Successful Garden Design cheat sheet and video on how to add the WOW factor to your garden  please add your email address below (don’t worry we don’t spam and will NOT pass on your address to anyone else!).

Download the ‘WOW Factor’ cheat sheet & video

Enter your best email address in the box below

Every business has got to have one these days, so here it is - Disclaimer: Please note, the information contained on this website is for educational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to provide accurate, up-to-date, reliable, and complete information. No warranties of any kind are expressed or implied. Readers acknowledge that the author is not engaging in rendering professional advice. By reading this website, the reader agrees that under no circumstances is the author responsible for any losses, direct or indirect, that are incurred as a result of use of the information contained within this website or related downloads, accompanying videos, or other supplementary materials. This includes but is not limited to errors, omissions, or inaccuracies. The material contained on this website is not meant to be a substitute for formal training nor a replacement for professional training or services. Please note some of the links on the site go to affiliate websites where a small commission is earned if you purchase. Please do your due diligence on all linked to products before buying.   Find Rachel on Google+
Google+ Google