Why the best gardens have something more
When designing a garden, it is natural to focus on what you are planting. But flowers, trees, and shrubs aren’t all there is in a visually appealing outdoor space.
Furniture, ornaments, decorative pots, fireplaces, play items – they may not bloom like a favorite perennial, but they have an important role to play.
“These things attract people to the landscape,” said Renee byers, a landscape architect based in Greenwich, Connecticut. “They have a way of turning a quoted backyard into a garden.”
Landscape architects and designers have shared some of their favorite ideas on using props to take advantage of a garden’s natural appeal.
Create resting places
One of the easiest ways to increase the time you can spend admiring the work you’ve done in the garden is to add seating – not just in obvious places, like on or around a patio. a swimming pool, but in the landscape. It could be a bench along a garden path or a few chairs under a shady tree.
Why? “It creates a destination” in the larger garden, Ms. Byers said.
Unlike patio furniture, garden rooms shouldn’t have stuffed cushions or need blankets. They should be made from materials that can be left out year round without falling apart. For Ms Byers, that often means natural stone or teak benches, she said, “or even some of the new contemporary-style Adirondack chairs made from composite wood.” Lounge chairs Lollipop designs are a popular choice.
But not all garden furniture has to be heavy.
“One thing that people often ignore, and which I think is really necessary, is lightweight patio furniture,” said Flora Grubb, owner of Flora Grubb Gardens, in San Francisco. “I like being able to move it around, to chase the shade or chase the sun, depending on the time of year.”
Small scale powder coated steel or aluminum chairs, such as those manufactured by Fermob and Fold the goods, are ideal. Choose pieces in earth tones if you want them to blend in or in bold colors if you want to make a statement.
“I really think about how the color reads from a distance,” Ms. Grubb said, because “most people spend as much time looking at their garden from the house“ as they do from outside.
Add a sculptural note
Statues and other ornaments have been a part of great gardens for centuries, but the thought of adding them to your garden can seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be.
Janice Parker, a landscape architect based in Greenwich, Connecticut, uses a range of statues and ornaments in her projects, from geometric objects to pieces depicting rabbits, chickens and fish.
This not only creates a focal point in the garden, she said, but it also makes it “a very loving space.” People get more attached to the outdoors in a loving way, instead of just saying, “Oh, that’s pretty. “
The statuary does not have to be an expensive antique or a piece by a well-known artist. “Not everyone is going to buy a Tony Cragg, a John Chamberlain or a Henry Moore – they don’t make a sculpture park,” Ms. Parker said. “A lot of other things are very affordable, and I think they’re great.”
Options range from sea-inspired concrete pieces sold in many garden centers to cast metal birds like those made by Viridian Bay. “Cranes, sandpipers and peacocks have become very popular again,” said Cathy Nakamura, a commodity seller in Viridian Bay. “And we have flamingos that are just steps away from these iconic hot pink plastic flamingos. “
For a more minimalist look, Ms. Parker recommended fiberglass or concrete spheres, arranged in rows for an architectural statement or scattered around the garden in a haphazard fashion. “Any kind of spheres or orbs in the garden are wonderful,” she said. “They’re putting a lighter item in the garden.”
Choose a statement planter
An alternative to statuary is to place a planter with an eye-catching shape or color in the garden, surrounded by vegetation planted directly in the ground. Ms Grubb, for example, has combined ribbed, chartreuse-glazed, gourd-shaped terracotta pots in her garden, including some she didn’t plant.
“With the jars that I leave empty, they’re usually shaped like an urn and fold up at the top,” she said, for a more interesting shape. “With big pots you can move around the garden as things change – to anchor something at the end of a path, to mark an area that interests you, or to cover something you don’t want. not see for a period of time as it grows – is useful.
Ms Grubb also transformed a single large white pot into a simple water feature by adding a pump inside, as well as a basin buried in the gravel below to catch and recirculate the overflowing water.
Start the fire
Fireplaces do a few things very well: They can anchor a seating area in the garden as a destination away from home, make chilly evenings more cozy, and roast marshmallows for s’mores. It is therefore not surprising that they have grown in popularity during the pandemic.
“We have seen a huge increase in outdoor fireplaces,” said Allison Messner, CEO and Founder of Yardzen, an online landscaping company. “Even when it was cold, people still wanted to be outside. “
Now that more and more people have embraced the outdoors, she expects the trend to continue, even if indoor entertainment returns.
Some fireplaces are built into a yard’s landscaping and connect to buried piping for gas, but the setup doesn’t have to be that complicated. You can make your own wood-burning fireplace by digging a wide, shallow hole in the ground and covering it with stones. If you’d rather not dig a pit, prefabricated steel, iron, and cement fire bowls are widely available from furniture retailers, including Design at your fingertips and CB2; brands like Breeo, Solo stove and Tiki make models designed to increase air flow, for less smoke.
And if you don’t want to engage in a tall fire pit, Ms Parker suggested a pole mounted torch. In addition to the traditional bamboo Tiki torches, there are handcrafted designs, she said, such as blown glass torches on copper poles from Arch A Glass. “When you’re sitting outside at night it’s just magical,” she said.
If you’re worried about introducing an open flame into the landscape, try candle lanterns with glass doors or portable LED lanterns.
Install interactive elements
Accessories that move and change with the weather – or provide an opportunity to play – provide more reasons to get out into the garden.
Rain gauges and rain sensors show the results of a nighttime storm. Sun catchers twinkle on sunny days, and wind chimes and bells sing with the passing breeze.
More playful elements may appeal to both children and adults. The attraction of a swing in the trees, for example, is almost universal. “I have rarely seen anyone be able to withstand a swing,” said Ms. Parker, who has put them into a number of her projects.
The designers at Yardzen don’t see much demand for freestanding swings and slides these days, Ms Messner said. Instead, many parents are asking for built-in play elements, like custom treehouses that can perform a variety of functions over time.
“It’s not just something for toddlers or school-aged kids,” she said. When the kids get older, the adults “have a vision of how they’re going to use it as an art studio.”
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