Tasteful and elegant statuary that’s thoughtfully positioned can add a real touch of class to your yard. But what’s the best material to make them from?
The best material to choose for your garden statues depends on your budget, preferred style, local climate and where you want to position your statues in the yard. Statues can be made of wood, metal, stone, concrete, resin and glass – and all have their relative merits depending on your needs.
So let’s dive down into what the pros and cons of each garden statue material are – and look at where you can position your statuary for optimal results.
What is The Best Material For Outdoor Statues?
Claude Monet said, “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”. From Neanderthals to millennials, humankind has adorned our most beautiful masterpieces with garden art. Statues honor people or are simply glorious. They remind us of history, can be calming focal points or – they make you smile.
Art is a personal choice, but for outdoor statues, there are practical considerations.
Climates with salt air, freeze/thaw cycles, high humidity or one that has high acid rain (like in a city) can be hard on statuary. Depending on your climate, some statuary materials may last longer than others.
All gardens have sunny spots and shady areas. Some materials can withstand harsh sun better than others. In shady spots, you may want to choose a material that cleans up easily.
Statuary placement is important, but many statues are very heavy. Consider using something lightweight, like cardboard, to test out locations. Can (or should) your statue be viewed from all sides? Will it be in the sunshine most of the day? Can you position a bench nearby or see it from a window or a pergola?
A statue is defined as a three-dimensional representation of a person, animal, or mystical being. Statues can be created from an almost limitless range of materials, but here are the most classic ones.
The Best Materials For Garden Statues
Wooden statues are earthy, warm, subtle, and natural. Wood has a unique texture. Grains and knots in wood are more beautiful the more weathered they are. A wooden statue is light and portable.
Wood isn’t brittle like stone. It has been used for centuries for intricate designs and realistic figures. Wood’s warm browns and greys blend into a natural garden. Wood can be painted – bright, eye-catching colors, like totem poles or patron saints.
The biggest downside to wood is durability. Wood weathers, which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing. If you want your wooden statuary to last, you may need to help preserve it.
In damp, hot climates, wood can crack and rot. Insects and fungus love wood. In hot, sunny climates, wood’s warm tones will bleach.
Wood and soil are a bad combination. Wooden statuary that sit on the ground should be treated with a sealant. Consider putting your wooden statue up on a pedestal.
Wooden statues can be made from hardwoods and softwoods. Popular wood choices are oak, ebony, cedar, boxwood, pine, elm, walnut and limewood.
Metal has been used in statuary for many millennia. Many famous statues have survived, but many more were melted down and lost, particularly gold statues.
Garden statues can be made of brass, stainless steel, copper, bronze, lead or aluminum. Metal is strong and durable. It is easy to work metal into lifelike forms. Metal can be cast or worked. Metal statues can be constructed with recycled materials.
Bronze is the traditional metal choice for garden statues. Bronze is an alloy, a mixture of copper and tin. Bronze statuary can be sculpted or cast.
Although a bronze statue can be pricey, it will grace your garden (and your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s garden) for years. Over time, a bronze statue’s value may appreciate. Bronze ages to a mellow green, blue, orange or even purple patina and maintenance is minimal.
Copper is another traditional, durable, and beautiful garden statuary choice. Copper, in damp climates, develops lovely shades of green patina.
Steel is exceptionally durable but it will rust if not maintained – although some artists use the rusting as part of the art. Steel is very heavy and durable. Experts recommend treating steel statues with an oil mixture of linseed and turpentine periodically.
Stainless steel is also used in metal statuary. It will not rust but has the other good qualities of steel.
Aluminum, unlike all the other metal choices, is lightweight. Aluminum is an excellent, contemporary choice. It is strong and durable. Aluminum statues can be made from recycled materials and finished to look like bronze (aka “Poor Man’s Bronze”).
Aluminum may need some upkeep – but there are many exterior spray colors and textures available. If you don’t find what you are looking for at a hardware store, try your local hobby store.
Natural Stone Statues
Natural stone statues are practical, natural, and traditional. Some natural stones are more weather-resistant than others. But generally, a statue made of any natural stone will last longer than your garden will. Or your house. Or your town.
A popular choice for statues is marble. Marble is a metamorphic rock. Limestone changes into marble under tremendous temperature and pressure.
Limestone and marble are susceptible to dissolution from any weak acid. You can clean marble with a mild dishwashing soap solution. Do not use any acidic cleaner on marble.
Granite is another popular and lasting choice for statuary. Granite is an igneous rock. Igneous rocks are formed from molten lava inside or around a volcano. Granite typically has crystals of different colors or can be grey or black. Granite is not porous and doesn’t dissolve in acid.
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock. It has a very interesting texture that looks great in a natural garden. It is softer and more porous than marble or granite. Since sandstone is porous, it may need cleaning. Sandstone will not dissolve in a mild acid, so clean it with a mild solution of vinegar and dish washing soap.
Cast Stone Statues
A cast stone statue is made of refined concrete, usually in a mold. Cast stone statues are white. The concrete is finely ground so cast stone statues have fine details.
Often cast stone statues are recreated classics. Additives like ground glass make these statues almost as durable as natural stone.
Cast stone statues are porous, so mold and dirt may accumulate. Do not use acid with any cement product. Cast stone can be cleaned with a soft scrub brush and mild dishwashing soap.
Concrete statues are usually earth toned or white and are made from molds. Concrete is very heavy and durable. Concrete statues come in a wide variety of choices and are reasonably priced. If you think concrete sculptures are boring, check out this video.
Concrete is very porous and will collect mold, so these statues may fare better in sunny spots. Due to its ability to hold water, concrete statues may crack in freeze/thaw cycles.
Ceramic statues can be whimsical and colorful. Ceramics are not too durable – put them in protected spots.
Ceramic statues can be porous or non-porous, depending on the finishing. Porous ceramics will hold water and crack during freeze/thaw cycles. Bring ceramic statues in during harsh winter months.
Resin & Plastic Statues
Resin statues are durable, lightweight and a less pricey choice for a garden statue. Often, classic statues are recreated in resin. Resin can hold an incredible amount of detail because it is relatively soft.
Resin and thin plastic statues can suffer in extreme climates. If you live in a climate with extremely cold winters or hot, sunny summers, resin statues may fade, crack or warp. Thick, outdoor use plastic statues will fare better in extreme weather.
Glass is an amazing material. It can be colorful or subtle. It can scatter and bend light. Glass is extraordinary, but fragile.
Glass statues can be solid or hollow. Both types should be placed in well protected spots in the garden and brought inside during the winter.
I hope this article has helped you a little in terms of where you will position your statues in the garden – and what they will be made out of.
Again, depending on your budget, preferred style and climate – there’s a lot to be said for wood, metal, stone, concrete, resin and glass statues. They all have their advantages and drawbacks.
Ultimately, when it comes to artistic matters like this – I just go with my gut and say to myself; ‘If I like it then I like it’. You can’t say fairer than that. 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >