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What are Lawn Ornaments?

By Kate Monteith
Updated: Feb 16, 2024

Lawn ornaments can give a decorative flair to a garden or patio, and they come in all sorts of designs. One of the most familiar is the garden gnome, said to bring good luck to gardeners and visitors. Another is the gazing ball, its mirrored surface perfect for pondering the beauty of nature. From pink flamingos to wishing wells, lawn ornaments can add a new dimension of style to outdoor living spaces.

Garden decorations are probably as old as time. Decorative stepping stones were perhaps the first lawn ornaments, and ancient people were known to also hang chimes in the wind to keep evil at bay. As the science of landscape architecture advanced, so too did the lawn ornament.

For some people, it’s not enough to let nature’s bounty shine -- there must also be fountains, statues and birdbaths to punctuate the natural beauty. Each individual has his or her own idea about what makes lawn ornaments pleasing to look at. For example, an ornamental lawn decoration depicting a religious figure, such as the Virgin Mary, can have a profound spiritual effect on visitors. At the other end of the spectrum, a whimsical whirligig twirling its brightly colored vanes in the wind gives many people a carefree feeling of childlike glee.

Gnome statuary is a favorite with gardeners everywhere. Each garden gnome has its own individual character, usually depicted as a tiny bearded man with a pipe. Legend tells of elf-like gnomes that help tend gardens at night while the rest of the world sleeps. Garden gnomes originated in Germany in the mid 1800s, and they are the most popular of lawn ornaments in Europe today. There are estimated to be more than 25 million gnome statues inhabiting German gardens and lawns alone.

Gazing balls have a history that goes back to 13th-century Italy. Also known as yard globes, they come in several diameters, from about 2 to 22 inches (5 to 56 centimeters). The gazing ball is made of colored, mirror-like steel, ceramic or stained glass, and usually sits atop a sturdy, decorative pedestal.

Some of the largest and most extravagant lawn ornaments are statues depicting war heroes and famous leaders that commonly grace public parks and gardens. They are meant as monuments to the fallen and the revered in our society, but as time passes, they may be overlooked by park visitors, becoming just another part of the landscape. Lawn and garden decorations exist to enrich our sense of beauty and wonder, and they are in abundance for those who take time to “stop and smell the roses.”

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On Jun 10, 2012

I got my friend a super funny concrete lawn ornament for her birthday. I saw it in a garden center, and it was just too humorous to pass up.

It’s a bunny holding a carrot while swinging. He is holding onto two pieces of actual rope that you use to hang the ornament, and the expression on his face is one of both surprise and joy.

It just struck me as hilarious, and I knew that she would appreciate it. Whoever crafted this piece is very talented at capturing expressions.

I also saw an owl on a swing with a surprised face, but nothing could compare to the look of that rabbit. My friend couldn’t stop laughing when she pulled it out of the gift bag.

By orangey03 — On Jun 10, 2012

@lighth0se33 - I have always admired gazing balls. You know those little glass watering bulbs that you can get to stick into the soil of your potted plants? Those are like miniature gazing balls, and they are a lot less expensive. Plus, they keep your potted plants watered while you’re away.

I have some wind lawn ornaments because I have trees with low branches for hanging them. I have this one spinner that is round and made of purple and green metal, and it features a dragonfly amongst a field of cattails. There are some horizontal lines created by the metal that make the spinner look like an optical illusion when the wind is blowing hard.

I also have some wind chimes. I love listening to these on a breezy night. It’s easy to fall asleep by their melody.

By lighth0se33 — On Jun 10, 2012

Gazing balls are my favorite decorative lawn ornaments. They remind me of the crystal balls that fortune tellers use, and they just look so magical.

I think they give a real medieval feel to a garden. The decorative bases are often made of pewter and carved with intricate designs, and they look like they belong in a castle.

I’ve never seen a stained glass ball, but I imagine that would be gorgeous. I have a deep blue one and a red one right now, and they sit at opposite ends of the garden. I plan to add to my collection as time goes on and my garden budget grows.

By OeKc05 — On Jun 09, 2012

I was on the lookout for dragonfly lawn ornaments when I came across some solar garden stakes with a variety of toppers. I saw the dragonfly one first, and that sold me on them.

These garden stakes are about 2 feet tall. On top of each one rests a clear plastic object that gets illuminated at night. I have dragonflies, butterflies, hummingbirds, daisies, and lilies in my collection now, and they are stunning when they come on as soon as the sun goes down.

Each stake has a solar panel attached about midway down, so they are totally powered by the sun. They change colors every few seconds, so at any one moment throughout the night, there is a rainbow of colors in my garden.

I have them arranged in a semi-circle along the outer edge, and from a distance, they resemble a grounded UFO! I have seen quite a few people slow down when driving past my house because of this.

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