Selecting and Placing Garden Structures

If your garden looks flat this spring, maybe all it needs is a little structure. With a bit of imagination and the right elements, you can use garden structures such as trellises, pergolas, and sheds to enhance your garden's design. Here are some tips to guide you.

Garden structures can be functional and beautiful.

No matter what type of structure you add to your garden, make sure it's both functional and beautiful. An arbor covered in fragrant climbing vines creates a memorable welcome for friends and family, a flower-filled trellis screens out unsightly views, and a well-crafted pergola seamlessly extends a home's living space. Remember, the main function of a garden is to please. So whether you want to add a garden shed or play equipment for your children, it should be attractive as well as practical.

Repeat elements of your home's style in your garden structures.

Tudor style home with matching fence and gate. Every home has an architectural style, whether it's ranch, cottage, bungalow, colonial, contemporary, or something else. Key elements that distinguish one style from another are the pitch of the roof, arrangement and size of windows and doors, and exterior materials used for walls, windows, and shingles.

When you repeat these elements in your garden structures, they'll fit comfortably into your landscape and visually connect the garden with the house. For example, when I added arbors to the entries in my fountain garden, the columns were the same style and color as those on my front porch. A hedge connects the house to the arbors and makes the garden part of the home's design.

Of course, not everyone has the time, talent, or resources to create custom-made garden structures that match the house. A good shortcut is to buy mass-produced garden structures, then add your own moldings or trim to develop that direct connection between garden and house.

Select substantial garden structures.

One of the most common mistakes is to add structures that are too small or flimsy. Instead, choose substantial structures that reflect permanence and sustainability. A strong presence in the landscape is reassuring and comforts us on a subconscious level.

How to locate your garden structure.

Tudor style home with matching fence and gate. Selecting the right location for your structure is as important as its size and scale. First, think about the structure's purpose. For example, if you want to create a welcoming entrance, use an arbor to show visitors where to enter your garden. Garden sheds, on the other hand, need to be placed where they're easily accessible. Since space in gardens is often limited, the best location is often along the fence line. There the shed can serve as a point of visual interest and as a screen to block views beyond your property. Bird baths and feeders are best in a spot where you can see them from inside your home.

Updating existing garden structures.

Many times we're faced with the challenge of how to improve the look of existing garden structures. A little cosmetic surgery often helps. Changing the color to match the house is a good first step. Or plant clinging vines and strategically placed shrubs to diminish the impact of an unattractive structure while providing a wall of green that reinforces the architecture of your garden and home.

Garden structures can add personality.

Don't be afraid to embellish garden structures to reflect your own personality and add a touch of whimsy. In the 18th century, English gardens often featured structures called follies, which were fanciful buildings meant to add sense of fun. Modern garden follies include cabanas, gazebos, and playhouses. With a little imagination, you can even transform potting sheds and storage buildings into something spirited and delightful.

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