There are many UK, European and global standards relating to all sorts of products. However, garden ornaments are an exception. So, how can you be sure that the garden ornament you are purchasing will be fit for purpose?

First you need to consider the material as there is a bewildering array of materials, both artificial and natural, on sale in garden centres across the country, as well as online. Are you aware, for example, that there is both natural stone and artificial stone? Do you know the difference between fibre-clay, fibre-glass, plastic and genuine terracotta? Are you aware that not all terracotta is the same – just like not all stone is the same (think granite v sandstone) and not all hardwood is the same: technically balsa wood is a hardwood. If you are not fully conversant with the specific material used to make your garden ornament then you are simply buying on price and looks, not on quality and longevity. Going back to the terracotta example, if you buy a terracotta pot made from the finest Galestro clay, which can only be found in a small area of the Tuscan hills then, provided it has been cured and fired correctly according to centuries old tradition, it should be frost resistant to minus 25 degrees Celsius. Guess where we source our terracotta planters from…

Weight can also be an indication of quality. For example, a robust wrought iron garden seat created by an artisan blacksmith is much heavier than its equivalent wirework, flat-packed seat that can often be seen online or in garden centres. The former will last for decades, won’t wobble when you sit on it or have nuts and bolts that sheer, and is unlikely to blow over in a winter storm! The same consideration also applies for planters. You need some weight to the planter to ensure the whole unit, including your plants, do not blow over in the wind. And, if you choose a traditional material, your planter should weather like an antique – the older it gets the better it will look. That will never happen with a fibre-clay, fibre-glass or plastic product which will simply deteriorate over time. Indeed, by the time the plant has matured to its full splendour you can often find that the pot it is in needs replacing – meaning you have to risk damaging the plant you have expended such time nurturing by replanting into a new container.

Scale is also a consideration as the designs offered by ORNAMENTI are typically much larger than the designs you can normally find in a garden centre, making them the focal point of any garden area, large or small. A large size also means that you can plant larger specimens into our planters, whilst knowing the root ball has space to develop and the plant will not quickly become pot bound. So frustrating to have to decide whether to save the plant or the planter when that happens. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, select a Versailles Planter and you have a design where the sides of the planter can be removed to tend the root system so that the same plant, shrub or tree can thrive for decades just like those that can be seen at the Orangery of the famous Palace of Versailles.

To some extent, price is also an indicator of quality as it is highly unlikely that a garden ornament costing under £50 will have been made using the quality of materials or craftsmanship as a design of, say, £500 or more. John Ruskin (1819-1900), the famous Victorian polymath, is attributed with wisely stating that: “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.” That maxim hold true with garden ornaments today.

It is also worth doing some research regarding the manufacturer or retailer’s expertise and reputation. You can then capitalising on their knowledge and experience, as they will not want their reputation damaged by selling inferior designs. It is also reassuring to know that there is a physical address for a company so that, should something go wrong, the company cannot hide behind an anonymous email address or mobile phone number. Although there are always exceptions, knowing who you are buying from means you will be able to make a more informed purchasing decision. For example, many of the limestone designs in the ORNAMENTI collection have been carved by Italian craftsmen near the city of Vicenza in the Veneto – known as the City of Andrea Palladio. Palladio (1508-1580) worked as a stonemason himself before becoming a hugely influential classical architect, making Vicenza his home and designing many villas in the Veneto region of Italy. The associated stone masonry skills and quarries survive to this day making it the obvious place to source many of our stone designs. So, in that example, you are not only able to rely on the reputation of the Lapicida Stone Group as the retailer but also on the centuries-old knowledge and expertise developed by generations of Italian artisans.

Heritage and quality really do matter if you are looking to buy a quality garden ornament that you can enjoy for many years to come. Who wants to see their garden ornament fall apart, crumble or crack? Garden ornaments can be considered as investments, as antiques of the future. One only has to look at specialist auctions to see the premium that quality designs can achieve even if only a handful of years old. Which is why a garden ornament should be seen as a pleasurable investment to be enjoyed over many years. In an ideal world, we would recommend seeing examples of the garden ornament you intend purchasing before buying. Photographs can be manipulated whereas a physical product is real. To touch and see a product gives you the ultimate reassurance that you are purchasing wisely. That is why we encourage visitors to our inspirational show garden near Harrogate.

Once purchased, it is also important to install and maintain your garden ornament correctly, which is why ORNAMENTI has produced a series of Product Guides for Pottery, Stone and Terracotta materials, as well as for the Versailles Planter range:

Pottery Product Guide

Stone Product Guide

Terracotta Product Guide

Versailles Planter Product Guide