How to design your garden using antiques
Landscape gardeners often use salvaged garden antiques in their designs. Here, we explain how you can do this yourself to create a unique garden design
We're all guilty of tending to our homes more than our gardens, but with summer days stretching out into balmy evenings, now is the time to stamp some style on your plot. Whether you're on the look out for garden antiques or want to give old pieces new life, here's how to hunt out unusual pieces of salvage and and reclaimed stonework for your garden...
How to design your garden with antiques
Shop around at reclamation yards and antique shops
Reclamation yards and decorative antiques shops – even skips, for that matter – yield old pieces of beautifully weathered or aged garden furniture, statuary, gates, terracotta pots, plant supporters and unusual objects, which can accentuate an existing theme or bring character to a specific area in your plot.
Visit one of our picks of the best antique shops in the UK.
Hunting for such items can take more time than buying new, but it's well worth the effort. Not only will you save money and find unique pieces that will make your garden an expression of your style – you’re also helping the environment, by reusing and upcycling. Find out how to spot a fake antique here.
Choose pieces carefully
Giselle McCarthy, senior buyer at Petersham Nurseries, recommends taking time when choosing each piece. 'We’re always looking for genuine character, authentic patination and beautiful form when we’re sourcing architectural salvage, whether it's a petite stone goose or a life-size 19th-century statue.'
If you're not sure where to start, check out our list of the best places to buy garden antiques in the UK.
Apply the same design principles that you would use in your home
When decorating your garden, apply the same principles that you would use in your home, considering proportions, texture and colour. Remember to have a mix of different materials and don’t be afraid to put things in the middle of the space, rather than just along the perimeter.
A small garden doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be bold with colour or put something large in the space. To make sure that your garden antiques stand the test of time, take a look at our guide to how to clean and protect antique garden furniture.
Adapt garden antiques to suit your outdoor space
While an old carved stone plaque is a thing of beauty in its own right, it can easily be converted into a wall fountain by drilling some holes into it. Tom Hart from LASSCO Three Pigeons also suggests cast-iron boilers as fountain centrepieces, old iron gates as trellises or panels used as screens.
Experiment with placement and positioning in your garden design
Once bought, take a look at the garden and think carefully about placement. Giselle McCarthy suggests considering the existing textures and tones of the setting to see what will blend in. Enjoy it – play with scale as well as expectations.
Sculptures can provide a great focal point in a garden, for other pieces to point to or focus on. If you're interested, have a read of our guide to buying antique garden sculptures and what to look out for.
Create points of interest in the garden
Unusual garden accessories are the perfect way to create a decorative, vintage look in the garden. Bench ends, pot stands and painted garden chairs all add visual interest among potted plants, especially when placed to the front of an outhouse or shed.
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A wrought-iron garden bench makes a beautiful focal point and creates a relaxing area in your garden. Vintage watering cans and tools make interesting display pieces as well as being practical items.
An antique plant stand is an easy way to bring height and character to your garden, no matter what its size. Simply stack with herbs and flowers in reclaimed terracotta pots to create a fragrant and beautiful display.
Use salvaged garden antiques as the focal point
Alternatively, use salvaged pieces as a focal point. Tom Hart explains: 'Rustic doors, for example, can be used purely decoratively to add interest to high garden walls. Garden fireplaces are becoming increasingly popular, with stone chimney pieces evoking a baronial feel to evenings spent outside around the fire.'
If you want to use garden antiques indoors...
Using garden antiques indoors is an easy way to lend an organic and rustic look to your home all year round, even if the weather outside is miserable! Pots, trowels and planters are really made for manual labour in the garden, also make brilliant interiors accessories, and help to usher the bloom of the great outdoors into your home. For inspiration, check out our guide to how to incorporate garden antiques into your interior design.
Feature Catherine Muxworthy. Images Stephanie Wolff/Petersham Nurseries & LASSCO