Green Scene

A Moment to Think It Over

A bit of reflection about what worked -- or didn't -- in past years could help refine your gardening goals. Small changes can make a dramatic difference.
A bit of reflection about what worked -- or didn't -- in past years could help refine your gardening goals. Small changes can make a dramatic difference. (By Sandra Leavitt Lerner For The Washington Post)
By Joel M. Lerner
Saturday, June 6, 2009

New growing seasons offer opportunities to remember how your plants fared last year and consider what you'd like to see this season. Your garden could need only small changes: Maybe azaleas have gotten a little unkempt and need pruning. Perhaps bed edges require a touch-up, a tree is too big or a specimen plant too small. Careful and constant maintenance always makes a big difference.

But it might not be a simple fix. Maybe a larger component is missing from your landscape design. If you can't quite figure out what it is, here are four elements that can greatly enhance a garden.

-- Add a water feature.

People always seem to prefer landscapes with an aquatic element, whether it's an ocean view or a simple re-circulating fountain. Water features are so popular that many garden centers, including home improvement superstores, offer a complete selection of materials for building and planting ponds. There are concrete, fiberglass, resin or rubber-lined lily and fishponds. You can choose waterfalls with gentle cascades, self-contained fountains or water sculptures. Selections vary from elaborate stone and faux stone creations with a classic European style to tiny copper bowls that operate by solar power. Space and budget are your only limitations.

Put a water feature where you will have the greatest opportunity to enjoy it, usually in the back yard. Place it near a patio or in a separate garden space. Fountains offer the gentle, soothing sound of falling water. If it's in a slightly hidden spot, perhaps at the end of a meandering path, you can add the delight of discovering it.

-- Smooth the indoor-outdoor transition from your home to your garden.

The garden and house need not be separate entities but can blend into each other. A large part of your garden design should be enticing you out the door and into the garden. This is significant wherever the house and the landscape intersect, and it's usually more comfortable to have a deck, patio or stoop to step onto before moving into the garden.

Design the entry stoop and plantings to be wide and inviting -- steps at least 42 inches wide, 14 inches deep and no more than six inches high. Use plantings on or along steps, porches, patios and decks to soften the constructed parts of the landscape. Install them so the mature plant size will allow for easy maintenance. Hang baskets on posts, poles and wire brackets to create flowering arrangements on all levels. A pair of tall "shepherd's crooks" holding colorful baskets tucked into shrubbery, lampposts fit with hooks for hanging baskets or trellises for vining plants are aesthetically pleasing touches.

Make movement through the backyard garden easy and enjoyable. Install a curved walk that makes you want to stroll. The curve in the path should be designed so it appears to belong in the space, inviting you from the house and comfortably fitting into the terrain by sweeping around a tree, high shrub or statue. Use plantings at curves to keep people on walks.

To maintain a smooth indoor-outdoor relationship, make your house an integral part of the garden. Allow outdoor house walls to serve as backgrounds for sculptural elements. Hang ornamental sconces, planters or window boxes on outside walls. Place planted containers at entries, bringing the garden to the house.

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