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Taking Things Outdoors: Great Garden Ideas with Metal

Updated on October 14, 2016

Each year the Chelsea Flower Show sets some of the trends for garden development, and 2016 saw lots of ideas for using metals in the garden. From big, bold statements to the small, clever details, metals were used to show off beautiful planting ideas, and glorious blossoms and greenery set off delightful pieces of metal sculpture.

Big, Bold Garden Features

The grand statements included metal shipping containers turned into a colourful three sided, sheltered space within the garden. If you have room in your garden, you could follow this idea through and make a writing hut or a craft hut, an office space or just a comfortable area in which to sit and relax, read a book or chat with your friends. A metal brazier or fire pit nearby can make this idea attractive late into the evening.

Large sculptures of bronze or zinc are popular this year, as are decorative metal arches and screens. The latter can separate your garden into areas making up a whole other suite of rooms outside the house.

Reused metal is also becoming a trend, with craftsmen reworking old boilers and garden machinery to turn them into novel pieces for the garden. Old pieces of stamped and cut metal sheeting make perfect screens, and even old metal mirrors can be given a new lease of life outside rather than being completely discarded.

Traditional Brass or Iron

Brass is the traditional choice for your garden taps, and this can be echoed in your door knobs and handles, and other door furniture - letter plates, knockers and suchlike. Even the garden gate can have the brass treatment with hinges and fastenings. A ship’s bell is both decorative and practical to let you know you have visitors.

Other small, decorative, brass pieces dotted around could be planters, small statuary, bird baths and feeders, even a sundial. Brass features also blend well with other metals so will happily sit beside, say, a chrome or copper water feature.

If you don’t want to overdo the brass on your doors and gateways, and prefer to hark back to an earlier period, you might choose iron hinges, handles, knockers and door stops. Then you can include some iron features in the garden as well.

Big and Bold or Thin and Subtle

Another idea for using metal in the garden is to have metal edging. It can be as thin and subtle as you wish, or made bigger and bolder if that is the required effect. Metal provides a sophisticated edging system to divide flower beds or wilder patches from manicured lawns or gravelled areas.

Zinc is a metal which can be subtle or grand. A single zinc planter amid an array of different materials can go unnoticed, whereas rows of planted up zinc buckets and troughs either side of a path make a grand parade. Zinc also resists corrosion which makes it a very practical option.

Mixing those Metals

You are certainly not limited in choices of metal to decorate your garden. As with interior design, garden design this year permits mixing metals for effect, but this needs careful thinking through. When mixed metals touch where the weather and the elements can get at them, this makes some of them more prone to corrosion. So, for example, it is important to match all screws and bolts to the metal of the structure they are to support.

While some corrosion can appear pleasantly distressed, you don’t want severe damage to your garden features. A good plan is to use corten steel for some of your planters and other features. Corten steel is a steel alloy that will turn an attractive rust colour but will not rust away.

However you choose to decorate your garden in 2016, including a variety of metal pieces will bring you right on trend.

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