In 1661, France’s King Louis XIV began work on a garden of unparalleled beauty—one still admired more than 350 years later. Designing the immense garden, with its life-like statues and unique water features, was a monumental undertaking. Where once had been meadows and marshes—trees would be planted, soil shifted, random shapes converted into structured gardens. Thousands of men would serve as laborers, gardeners and engineers until it’s completion. The Gardens of Versailles would be designed over a span of more than 40 years.
With more than 400 statues and 1400 fountains, the landscape and water gardens have inspired modern large-scale public gardens. Tourists meander through the grounds, memorizing details and gathering design ideas to translate into miniature.
For those who have not visited the Gardens of Versailles, photos serve as witness and record of its curated beauty.
Hard angles of statuaries juxtaposed with the fluidity of the water can be duplicated in a private home. Add the texture of plantings. The interplay of stone, water and greenery can serve as the focal point of any landscape.
Many struggle with garden decor—it runs as broad in range as it does style. From classical statues, to modern metal sculptures, to a bridge straddling a koi pond—elements made from metal, glass, stone or wood can deliver high impact.
Finding and affording the perfect garden decor can be a challenge. But there is an alternative—enter the world of DIY.
Build your own garden statue—one from the inside-out—using concrete applied over a base. Sounds difficult? You might be surprised...
Step 1: Build a statue base by bending hardware cloth (a wire mesh screen sold in rolls) into the general shape of what will become your statue. Trim the hardware cloth—with wire cutters—to the correct size. This is the base of your statue. (Safety note: Be sure to wear protective gloves throughout the project—concrete can be caustic with prolonged exposure.)
Step 2: Mix concrete and water until it’s the consistency of a mudpie.
Step 3: With your hands, pack a thin layer of concrete onto the wire mesh until the entire statue is covered—this is the base layer.
Step 4: Mist the concrete with water and cover it with plastic. The concrete will harden as it dries.
Step 5: Apply a second layer of concrete over the first, hardened layer. This will be the layer you will sculp. Hand-sculpt the features of the statue within an hour of applying the second layer of concrete with shaping tools to get the desired shape of your statue.
Step 6: Allow the statue to dry for 8 hours.
Step 7: Mist the statue with water and cover with plastic. Allow the concrete to dry and harden for 24 to 36 hours. Finally, brush the statue with a concrete sealant to prevent cracking.
Step 1: Collect recycled food packaging for a mold (look for interesting shapes!).
Step 2: In a plastic bucket, combine one part cement and four parts vermiculite (or peat moss, perlite, gravel or rock). Don’t forget gloves...concrete can burn skin.
Step 3: Slowly add water until it becomes the consistency of a mudpie. Use a drill or shovel to mix.
Step 4: Transfer the mixture to the container of choice.
Step 5: Tap the container until the mix settles.
Step 6: Insert a smaller container into the larger one. Put displaced cement back into the bucket. Place 3 sheets of 1’ squared sheet metal over the container and flip it over. Shift the container back and forth until mix settles.
Step 7: Let dry 24-36 hours.
Step 8: Remove the outside mold by tearing or using a knife. Remove inside mold with pliers. Sand the edges smooth.
Step 9: After two days, drill holes in bottom for drainage.
Statues and garden decor bring a distinct style to any garden—easily integrated into modern and traditional settings. From the Gardens of Versailles to the tiniest patch of heaven, statues can serve as a high-impact focal point of a landscape.