Garden Accents for the Outdoor Décor!

Kay Hinkle
Adams County Master Gardener

With year one in a new house behind us, the basics of getting comfortable in a new location have been accomplished. Most of the interior decorating is finished and it is time to do some exterior decorating. The foundation plantings were placed strategically around the house and beyond last year; now we find there are a world of possibilities ahead as we add details that make the outdoors an extension of the inside of our home.

I am learning that even the smallest plot of land can be a work of art with some planning and a little elbow grease! I am fortunate to stay at a Bed and Breakfast in Ohio on occasion as I travel with my work. Bill, who is the owner/ host, cooks luscious breakfasts daily and decorates wonderfully both inside and out. The lawn covers about the same square footage as the first floor of the 17th century Greek Revival home; it is a spacious residence with a delightful little lawn and garden. The landscape is a work of art, with every space utilized appropriately.

In late March it is bursting with touches of color from yellow primroses and budded daffodils to purple crocuses. The snowdrops are just about finished blooming but a few nodding heads remain. Tulips are just about ready to burst open and the dwarf fruit trees are full of buds just waiting to bloom within the next few weeks.

Best of all, Bill has bought the iron gate that originally stood on the property and used it as a focal point. Knock-out roses line the gate which is about 10 feet wide and 4 feet tall. On either side of the gate are azalea and rhododendron, encircled by a boxwood hedge just under the outer branches of a shade tree. Brick laid end-to-end forms the perimeter of the garden. The view from the sun porch where breakfast is served could not be more pleasant; a birdfeeder by the window entertains both bird and human guests!

Back home in Pennsylvania, Bill's little piece of heaven inspires me to plan carefully a project that may be span several years, but when complete, will hopefully be a pleasant extension of the interior of my home to the outdoors. Some major differences in the terrain - a significant slope of new lawn for me in PA compared to the nice, flat, well-manicured lawn inside Bill's Ohio wrought iron fence - will require a different approach.

One thing is for sure - the possibilities are endless, regardless of size or terrain. In today's expanding world of home décor, there are many choices to be made. Begin by studying the space to be landscaped as you would when decorating an indoor room. Take inventory of its current features; which do you want to retain and which do you want to modify or highlight in some way? As the seasons change you will want to ensure that the year-round view is still pleasant and interesting.

Gone are the days when outdoor accessories consisted of a grill and a radio. Today many of the accessories you use indoors when entertaining can be found for the outdoors as well. Music and lighting are often overlooked but can serve to make your outdoor space fully functional. Several manufacturers have designed speaker rocks that can be placed outdoors among plantings so you can channel sound to your backyard.

Lighting is another key feature of outdoor design. Lighting can be used to accentuate specimen trees, ornaments and sculptures. When the sun goes down, strategically placed lights can allow the party or picnic to last into the evening with no need to move indoors. Mexican fireplaces, or chimineas, can provide warmth on cool evenings.

Outdoor furniture is available in a range of style and price that is dizzying. Ease of maintenance is an important consideration with a range of materials like wrought iron, wood and aluminum. Ceramic benches and pots, whether they are actually poured concrete or a lightweight look-alike, are virtually indestructible.

Color is a key component of decorating, indoors and out. No color is inappropriate outdoors. Identifying a color theme is a good first step. Anything that pleases you as the garden designer works. Just as a dazzling piece of jewelry can make the outfit, interesting accessories can energize a beautiful outdoor space.

Choosing planters, statues, water features and bird feeders in a particular style reflects your personality and adds a level of interest to your space. Whatever you select should be in proper scale for your outdoor area - don't underestimate the size to be sure that it makes the statement you intend. A few well-chosen pieces are preferable to lots of "stuff" that in combination do not represent a common theme.

Finally, don't rush to complete the look in one season. Establish the basics and build on them. Plant a palette of colors that reflects your personal preference. Decide on the features to be highlighted and install lighting near the beginning or end of the growing season to avoid disturbing mature plants mid-season. Look at the result and ask yourself what would make this area an outdoor work of art? Then, as you travel both locally and out of the area, be on the look-out for those perfect garden accents for your outdoor living space. Let your creative juices flow!

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