Metal in the Garden

Metal ornaments and art in the garden can take many forms, from small, manufactured pieces all the way to freestanding sculpture. Applegate metal artist Jana Larson specializes in one-dimensional figures cut the old-fashioned way, with an oxy-acetylene torch, giving a traditional "welded" look to her realistic and whimsical cutouts.

Katy Reed, owner of Medford's Wild Birds Unlimited, says metal can even be safe for bird baths. "They are heavier and more stable," she says. "They don't break due to water expansion and contraction."

The shop carries a selection with cast-iron bases and recycled-aluminum basins which have been colorfully sealed.

We looked back through the Homelife archives for other examples that demonstrate metal's versatility.

(Photo 1) With this inviting entrance, stepping into the garden has extra appeal. Using two manufactured arbors — and placing them in good aspect to each other — creates a broad and dramatic entryway. Here, clematis is being trained up the trellis sides of the arbors.

The peaked style imparts a classic feel to the garden, and with the wide variety of styles available it's simple to choose a design that complements the rest of the garden, whether funky cottage or Zen-like simplicity. Some arbors even have built-in benches, which will put your seat comfortably in the shade.

(Photo 2) The modern take on the sunburst pattern on the back of this sleek bench provides ample support and great style. Metal benches will absorb the sun's heat, so placement and color is important. If your bench will be in the sun, see whether the style comes with a pale finish, which will reflect more heat. Dark metal will be comfy in the cool months. This bench is light enough to move as the seasons change, and the simple flagstone underneath matches its sleek style. A firm level surface keeps you sitting straight. A cottage garden, with its more casual approach, might use patio block or brick with a floral-design bench.

(Photo3) This custom arbor shelters a koi pond, which lies behind the pool and garden. The design complements the home's architecture and provides two functions for the pond. First, it protects the fish from hunting herons by making it impossible for them to land. Second, it increases the amount of shade, which helps minimize the algae content by keeping water temperatures lower. Evergreen clematis is being trained up the side, which will substantially increase shading.

(Photo 4) The rich red on this custom gate is a perfect match to its Japanese maple design. Metal will often rust to this shade, but that's not appropriate for cement areas. Larson, who uses recycled metals prone to rust, tells her customers to protect porous surfaces, which can be stained by rust, with a tile. That's not appropriate for larger pieces like this gate. Using powder-coated paint or metal patinas adds color and seals metal that is prone to rusting.

(Photo 5) This jubilant crane looks ready to dance. Sculptural elements can be placed in natural settings, such as this pond for the crane. Other pieces are more striking because they are out of their element, such as saints and Buddha heads. These define a space instead of blending with it. This is true of pieces designed for fun, like this pelican, cut from sheets of metal rather than poured into a mold. Set on his "pilings" in a corner of the garden, he adds a nautical element to an inland garden.

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