Good gardens are simply beautiful, but great gardens are more than just beautiful, they have character and charm. They usually contain a number of "non-living" elements that are designed to add form and function to an already beautiful space. These elements add structure and visual interest without detracting from the living elements of the landscape. Here are a few classic ideas that will add instant character and charm to your yard and garden.
One of the great joys of gardening is being close to nature, and adding a bird bath or sundial is a simple way to draw in more nature to your landscape. Even if you don't feed backyard birds, offering a birdbath will entice birds flying by to visit your garden for an occasional drink or bath. The mere presence of a bird bath gives visitors the illusion that birds are nearby, and at the very least provides you with a miniature reflection pool.
Sundials add an ornamental, yet functional, element to the garden by representing the passage of the seasons and calculating local solar time. Flat sundials can be perched on the tops of tree stumps or placed on bare spots in the garden where nothing seems to grow. Tall shadow sticks or obelisks add height and visual interest.
Dressing up your garden walkways with a few well placed stepping stones is an easy and effective way to add interest to your outdoor space. Well-designed paths beckon to be walked along and lure curious visitors to places of discovery throughout the garden. Stepping stones come in many shapes and sizes. Most craft stores and garden centers offer a variety of do-it-yourself stepping stone kits that are easy to personalize. Add children's handprints, pieces of broken china, shells, leaves, or other odds and ends that have meaning to you.
If you have an existing fence, hedge or border, consider adding some style to it with an archway or arbor. This gives your garden an instant focal point and creates strong vertical interest. Passing through an arch or arbor gives garden visitors a sense that they are entering a special place. Arbors can be rustic or formal in style and can used to create entrances or exits to places in the garden, or as partitions to separate outdoor "rooms." They also add space to your garden by allowing you to grow plants vertically.
Benches and chairs invite you to stop and relax and take in the tranquility of the garden landscape. Having a place to "stop and smell the roses" also provides you with an outdoor seating area for quiet conversation and a place to go for inner reflection. An old wooden chair and small side table can transform an already beautiful garden into a functional outdoor living space.
Water symbolizes life, and nothing can transform a garden landscape faster than the addition of a water feature. Moving water soothes the gardener's soul and depending on the type of feature, can also offer the opportunity to grow new and different types of plants in the garden. Whether it's a quiet reflection pond, a cascading waterfall or a simple table-top fountain, the addition of a water feature will add a serene and magical aesthetic to your garden space.
Introducing an element of sound to your garden not only adds ambience, it functions as a way to drown out the sounds of a busy day. The rustling of tall ornamental grasses, soft wind chimes in the distance or the calming sound of trickling water all help block out neighborhood traffic and keep backyard conversations private. Eco-friendly gardening practices and native plants will invite singing birds, chirping crickets and calling frogs to your garden space.
Adding a few "non-living" features to your yard and garden is a great way to add character and charm without adding a lot of additional work. These elements can be used to create points of interest that compliment your living landscape, camouflage areas where nothing seems to grow, and provide another opportunity for you to let your own unique personality shine through in the garden.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.
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