Garden statues

A garden is really not complete without a statue.

By Lee Ann Bramwell
Guy Bowden

‘A garden is really not complete without a statue’

In my parents’ day there was no such thing as garden art. The very wealthy might have had a fountain, but the nearest most people got was an old wagon wheel leaning on a fence.

Today, decorating the outdoors is as important as hanging paintings inside, and a garden is not complete without a statue or a piece of sculpture, no matter how
unpretentious it may be.

New Zealand can lay claim to an impressive number of internationally acclaimed sculptors whose work is suitable for display outside, as well as talented craftspeople producing a wide range of pieces made specifically for the garden.

Not for a cottage garden, but a bronze by Paul Dibble would enhance the right environment
Not for a cottage garden, but a bronze by Paul Dibble would enhance the right environment

But if buying such a piece is outside your experience, the task can be a bit daunting. Just grabbing a sandstone plinth at the garden centre and plonking it down on the lawn may not give you the impact you want, so check out what’s on offer at studios, galleries and sculpture parks, and consider how a certain piece might enhance your environment.

When it comes to budget, you can spend anything from $10 to $100,000 and more, but price can be irrelevant. My favourite piece of outdoor art, which I’ve had for about 25 years, is a free-form ceramic “thing” I bought at a sale of students’ work at Otago Polytechnic.

I wish I could remember who made it. Perhaps someone who’s now as famous as Paul Dibble. He’s a leading contemporary figurative sculptor, who creates cast bronze works that range in size from small maquettes to sculptures more than 5m high.

Equally well-known is the work of Kerikeri sculptor Chris Booth. His sculptures are usually associated with the land, earth forms, and indigenous people, and he has been involved in many international land art projects, as well as exhibitions here and overseas.

This kangaroo has charm and character and  provides a focal point in an open space
This kangaroo has charm and character and provides a focal point in an open space

Ceramic artist and sculptor Paul Laird, who works in Nelson, is a second-generation potter and ceramic artist. He set up Waimea Pottery in 1964 and his work has since evolved into contemporary and often abstract sculptural ceramics.

Alongside New Zealand sculptors are many artists making superb pieces. They’re often for sale at markets, garden centres and galleries.

If your budget is zero, don’t discount making your own. With a little artistic flair you can put together something from found objects, such as driftwood, rock, or iron. As long as it brings you pleasure, it’s a valuable addition to your garden.

‘Matapouri Virgo’ - a stunning new hybrid Brugmansia
‘Matapouri Virgo’ - a stunning new hybrid Brugmansia


Mahurangi West near Auckland, is an open-studio sculpture garden displaying artist Terry Stringer’s work. Also featured are works by Greer Twiss, Chris Booth, Mary-Louise Browne, plus occasional guest artists.

At Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens you can stroll along a gentle 1km sculpture and garden trail set to create special spaces for site-specific sculpture.

Te Puna Quarry Park offers an artistic feast of sculptures on permanent display. Media used include Hinuera stone, pottery, and ponga, and sizes range from small to man-sized sculptures.


“Russell introduced us,” I tell my partner, when I have to confess I’ve fallen in love again. “Russell” is sub-tropical plantsman Russell Fransham, and he’s been responsible for most of my affairs of the heart.

Last time it was a tropical apricot. Now it’s ‘Matapouri Virgo’, a stunning new hybrid Brugmansia he developed while trying to make something else. Nobody’s complaining – Virgo has huge, icy white flowers and plenty of them. Fast-growing Brugmansias originate in tropical South America.

They’re frost-tender and need good wind shelter, but other than that, don’t seem to require much more than a decent haircut every year or two to keep them looking lush and youthful. Russell describes their fantastic flowers and heady perfume as having a “spooky, forbidden glamour”.

Work by Terry Stringer suits a garden setting

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