There's inspiration to be unearthed by following the trail at a sculpture garden, writes Meg Liptrot.

Integrating a well-sited sculpture or water feature into your garden can draw the eye to an area you would like people to focus on or shift attention from an area you would prefer to hide.

Sculptures can also inspire themed planting, or just accentuate a piece of native bush. Summer is a lovely time to go on a garden tour and, in some cases, is the only time some gardens are open for viewing.

If you feel like a wander, sculpture gardens are a real treat. They often incorporate the wider landscape and feature artworks commissioned for their chosen spot, so the works respond to their environment.

A group of us made a memorable trip to Waiheke Island to visit Connell Bay Sculpture Park for the unveiling of New Zealand artist Phil Dadson's work on a hillside overlooking the bay. This is an amusing interactive piece, on which visitors can try out subtle sound effects on elongated funnels designed to catch the breeze. Connell Bay is a picturesque spot on the far side of the island, where the original farmhouse sits prettily on the edge of the beach.


A main appeal of this park is how well integrated the sculptures are in the landscape and how cleverly the artists have responded to each space. The terrain varies, allowing works to be made over waterways, or in kanuka glades.

Tauwhare in the Waikato has a sculpture park plus arboretum, run by the Waikato Sculpture Trust. The sculpture trail features changing exhibitions of works, and some are for sale.

The annual summer outdoor exhibition, Summer: sky above, earth below, curated by Andrew Clifford, is on until early March. The Waitakaruru Arboretum, within which this sculpture park is based, contains 17ha of regenerating forest and features native species plus some of the world's rare trees.

This park is now earning carbon credits under the permanent carbon sink initiative and thus generating income for the trust.

A sculpture park I've been fascinated by for a long time is the Gibbs Farm private collection (you can catch glimpses of it as you drive along the Kaipara Coast Highway). It features prominent local and international artists. The farm can be visited by appointment only during weekdays (and primarily by educational institutions), but the sculpture collection is also on the farm's website.

One of my favourite environmental sculptors, British artist Andy Goldsworthy, was commissioned to make a work for this expansive property. Goldsworthy is best known for his dry-stone walls weaving through forests and photographs of impermanent works made from found organic materials such as coloured leaves. On the Gibbs property, he has turned the wall concept sideways, with a series of immense sandstone arches. The terracotta-coloured arches caterpillar out from farmland and into the flats of the Kaipara Harbour.

Come for a visit
* Sculpture in the Gardens, Auckland Botanic Gardens, Manurewa, until February 12 (vote for the People's Choice Award, to be announced at on the final day).

* Olympic Park Sculpture Trail, Wolverton Rd, New Lynn.

Entry charge:
* Connell Bay Sculpture Park, Waiheke. Bookings essential.

* Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, Matakana.

* Zealandia Sculpture Gardens, Warkworth. By appointment, sculptures by Terry Stringer and guests.

* Gibbs Farm, Kaipara. By prior appointment, open weekdays only. Payment via donation to local Kaipara charities. Occasional open days.

* The Sculpture Park and Waitakaruru Arboretum, Tauwhare, Waikato.