Garden Features: Beyond the Gnome

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Garden Features: Beyond the Gnome
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It's not just about gnomes anymore. Gardens are now home to bubbling fountains, fire pits, statuettes, outdoor kitchens and mock stone walkways. Don't have a green thumb? No problem. Benches, arbors, miniature statues and light fixtures don't require pruning or watering, yet they can add a lot to a tired-looking yard.

The Garden Bench
Courtesy of FormLA Landscape Design

The Garden Bench

Benches in the garden are like functional pieces of art. You want them to look nice, but not if that comes at the cost of a good reading nook. "Remember, you always want to put a bench or seat in a place that you actually want to sit in," says Shirley Bovshow, Los Angeles garden designer and television host (she blogs at EdenMakersBlog.com). "Set up areas within your patio and or garden, where you're comfortable -- not too hot, not too shady -- that give you a close up appreciation of your garden."

Fountains
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Fountains

"Every yard can be a home to a water feature," Bovshow says. "It doesn't matter if you have a postage stamp garden or a huge lot, because water features come in many different varieties." For example, a fountain. You can have a small bubbling urn tucked into a corner of your tiny yard, or you can have something large and baroque, with three-tiers and intricate carvings proudly displayed as a focal part in a larger yard. "The benefit, besides beauty, is that the water features will attract birds to your yard, creating a very tranquil setting and mood," Bovshow says.

Ponds
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Ponds

Putting a pond in your yard brings a new kind of life to your garden. "Ponds, seasonal bogs and bioswales are not only beautiful, they attract beneficial insects, birds to an outdoor space," says Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping, a high-end, sustainable landscaping firm based in Los Angeles. "They do have significant maintenance needs, so if you are avoiding growing things hoping for simplicity, other options may be better.

Permeable Paving
Courtesy of FormLA Landscape Design

Permeable Paving

Consider something other than the traditional hardscape patio. "Permeable patios and walkways require less maintenance and can add to the sensory experience of seeing, smelling and walking through your garden," Aoyagi says. "Striking permeable materials include criba, mulch, gravel, decomposed granite, and reclaimed tumbled glass."

Fire Pit
Courtesy of FormLA Landscape Design

Fire Pit

They had us at s'more. Fire pits or fireplaces take the chill off cold evenings (and help us make those perfectly golden-brown marshmallows), but that's not all they're good for. "Fire features are an eye-catching garden focal point," Aoyagi says. "They can provide structure or privacy, but, more importantly, they can provide a place for people to gather."

Outdoor Kitchen
Courtesy of FormLA Landscape Design

Outdoor Kitchen

Planning on having a lot of backyard barbeques? Consider investing in an outdoor kitchen. It's a step further than a fireplace, and a step closer to your dream of marinating, grilling and prepping your burgers without making a trip back into the house. With some all-weather chairs and inexpensive cutlery, you've got yourself your very own private garden restaurant.

Stone Pathway
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Stone Pathway

"A stone path creates an inviting entry," says landscape designer Gina Samarotto (samarottodesigns.com). Like benches, garden paths are a great way to incorporate functionality and aesthetics. "It's really nice to mark areas in your garden where you want to invite people to go," Bovshow says. "In addition to directing traffic, the pathway will give you a multisensory experience when you step on it."

An Arbor
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An Arbor

"Arbors and pergolas are wonderful way to frame a vignette within the landscape, while also being functional." Samarotto says. "A patio in full sunlight becomes a welcoming retreat when shaded with a graceful pergola, and a gated arbor makes for an elegant entry space."

Statue
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Statue

"A blank corner of the landscape can often become it's most striking area when a statue or ornamentation is added," Samarotto says. "Try an armillary, obelisk or statue to anchor the space, then add bursts of color and texture at the base to create a strong feature that pulls the eye to the far corners of the area."

Garden Art
Courtesy of FormLA Landscape Design

Garden Art

"Everything is art in the garden," Bovshow says. Beyond the garden gnome, there are other pieces that can survive (and thrive) outside. "Art can serve as a great focal point," Aoyagi says. "Here at FormLA Landscaping, we prefer to identify objects that will be meaningful to our clients and are either antique or constructed from reclaimed materials." If you don't have space for grandiose topiaries or other large art pieces, "think about the things that you need," Bovshow says. Maybe you need a place to store your hose when you're not using it, maybe you need hose guides so you don't crush your plants when you water them. "Instead of going solely for functionality, look for art as well. There are beautiful hose guides that you can find and urns to hold the hose when you're not using it."

Gnome
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Gnome

"A touch of whimsy has a home in the garden when smaller statues or other elements are tucked into the beds," Samarotto says. "A romantic cottage style garden is the perfect place to tuck a tiny gnome or stone animal."

Lighting
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Lighting

Keep your garden aglow well after sundown. "There's everything from traditional landscape lighting to really amazing solar-powered Chinese lanterns," Bovshow says. "At night, they light up your patio with these intimate, glowing lights."

Flowery Fence or Gardening Wall
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Flowery Fence or Gardening Wall

They keep the Jones' out and Fido in, but old fences and white-washed walls can be an eye-sore in an otherwise pristine garden. Fortunately, like many garden features, both can be functional without taking away from your garden's ambiance. "You can decorate your fence in a bunch of different ways," Bovshow says. "If you have a masonry wall, you can hang braces from the cups and hang pots and plants from there. From wood, you can hang flower boxes. Take the opportunity to dress up the practical things you have."

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