Some people spend a fortune on plants and garden accessories without achieving the wow factor, while others do so spectacularly on a tiny budget. There’s no golden rule to guarantee a winning garden, but shrubs, flowers and grass aren’t enough on their own.
Live greenery needs contrasting colours, shapes and textures to show it off, and hard materials do the job beautifully. They work all year round, but as winter draws in and flowers die off, architectural interest comes into its own.
Great gardeners of the past were experts at using hard materials. The Arcadian landscapes of the 18th century had their follies and ruined temples, Renaissance gardens are awash with statues of ladies and gents in various states of undress and cherubs spouting water from every orifice, while Northern Ireland’s Mount Stewart has its gargoyle-like figures depicting politicians of the day as animals.
Stately gardens use terraces, outbuildings, pergolas and walls to divide green spaces into a series of views and focal points.
The stonework forms the year-round architectural backbone of the garden, with flowers providing fine detail and seasonal variations.
Hard landscaping works on a small scale, too, and most gardens have some architectural features, such as patios, paths, decking, walls and fences.
Tubs, arches or a pergola are good ways of adding to the picture, and a summerhouse or gazebo makes a focal point.
But for real impact you need a few character pieces.
Enthusiasts are collecting today’s garden antiques, such as Edwardian wire seats and terracotta olive oil jars, although there are plenty of replicas around.
Salvage yards do a good trade in old chimney pots, recycled stone slabs and bits of statue, which even broken lend a garden that fashionably distressed air.
And there are ornaments vying for your attention in shops, although gnomes are an acquired taste.
But when the budget is tight, many people turn to DIY garden art. It’s amazing the difference a group of copper tubes hammered in at an angle can make to a border.
This DIY approach means it’s easier to change your decorations than replace your planting scheme. A border can be made to look traditional with a classical urn or cottagey with an old chimney pot.
You could turn it into a wildlife feature with little bird feeders that look like scallop shells on sticks, or make it contemporary with an abstract, metal sculpture.
l Keep objects in proportion with their background; too small and you won’t see them properly, but too big and they’ll dominate.
l Unless you have an artistic talent, don’t mix styles. Choose whatever you fancy and stick to it.
l Give an elaborate object a plain background so it stands out.
l If putting ornaments in a busy border, pick simple shapes so they’ll provide a strong contrast to densely packed plants.
l Choose outdoor lighting to show off your decorative flair after dark.
Published at Sat, 16 Sep 2017 23:01:00 +0000