Visiting The Botanical Gardens
Every year Leicester University puts on a sculpture exhibition at Leicester Botanical Gardens. It’s free to attend and there are several sculptures from a range of different artists displayed around the gardens.
The outdoor sculptures vary in style. Some of the garden sculptures are designed to blend into their surroundings, organic forms made from natural materials, designed to weather through the seasons. Some garden sculptures are designed to reflect the gardens, with highly polished surfaces, creating an unreal effect when you look at them and it feels like you’re looking through them.
Some are outdoor sculptures designed to be playful and interactive, you can walk into mazes or hide inside fabric constructions and watch visitors go by. Others are simply decorative, beautiful sculptures in their own right, which could work just as well indoors or on a plaza as they do in an outdoor garden setting.
Whilst Leicester University may be best known internationally for its work on discovering Richard III and pioneering DNA analysis, the Botanical Gardens are my favorite. Every summer I visit, take some time to walk around, photograph some of my favorite sculptures and enjoy the gardens.
Some people visit the Botanical Gardens to study the plants, but most people go because they’re beautiful. Some people choose them as a great place to spend some time with friends, others are dragged along against their will. For those people there’s plenty of benches to sit and rest. The gardens are relaxing, and I think the statues add to that feeling of relaxation. Garden sculptures give people a focal point, beyond the plants, which remain constant throughout the year whilst the natural colors of the garden change with the seasons.
A plain stainless steel sculpture makes a great statement. It’s striking and bold, yet it reflects its surroundings. Best of all, stainless steel sculptures are perfect as an outdoor artwork as they require very little maintenance.
For an even bolder look try a colored sculpture. These really do stand out and add a much needed dash of color to the garden when there’s little coming from the plants themselves, either in the dull winter months, or when the sun has bleached the color from everything. For those in snowy climates, a splash of colour really pops against the white of snow or frost.
Outdoor Figurative Sculptures
There’s always plenty of figurative sculptures, or statues. Some of the garden statues are scarily realistic, some are smooth marble, with Madonna and Child being a regular choice, along with curious forest people.
Some of my favorites have been wire frames of people or angels, but they’re really not easy to capture on film. As the summer wears on the gradually develop a little moss, followed by a little bit of plant growth. Sadly they’re removed at the end of the summer when the gardens return to their primary purpose as an educational space for the Botany Department, so I’ve never seen what would happen if they were left to grow wild.
Many of the garden statues are just plain creepy. This little group looked like leftovers from a Dr Who episode to me.
Fun Garden Sculptures
Some of the garden sculptures are more accessible than others. Every year I see at least one that makes me think “I could make that”. I never do, but all the same, it’s nice to feel that way.
Some look like kitchen implements welded together, others look like yard tools left to rot. Some look like papier mache that the children have painted on a rainy Saturday afternoon. If I wasn’t so confident that any attempt to create a garden sculpture myself would result in a visit to the emergency room, I’d give it a go.
Not willing to make your own garden sculpture? Choose this cheery chappy to have a new yard ornament every season.
With interchangeable hats, your friendly gnome can adopt a new look whenever the mood takes him (or you, clearly he’s an ornament, not an actual gnome with real emotions).