Getting Started with Garden and Patio Design

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The art of managing outdoor space
Designing a patio - or a garden, is much like designing a living room or a park. It's all about space, and how you use it. To start with, you have empty space with nothing in it. Then you add plants, statues and other decorative items to fill that space and make it feel like a homey, comfortable space.. but wait! You don't want to actually fill it with stuff. Then it would look cluttered, which is not what you want. What you want is a balance between empty space and decorative items. The real issue, then, is how do you achieve that balance?

Use Clustering to make the most of your outdoor space
The first mistake most people make when decorating a patio, backyard or garden is to take their planters, fountains, statues, etc. and spread them out evenly to try to cover as much space as possible. This is especially tempting for those on a tight budget, since they may not be able to afford as many accessories and accents as they would like. Spreading things out evenly, though, creates a boring space which doesn't give the eye anything in particular to focus on. It is much more pleasing to group your plants and decor items into clusters, so that several items can be seen at once, in a friendly grouping, with empty space between providing variety. This way, your visitors' eyes can move easily and comfortably from one cluster to another - each cluster is distinct in character and the empty space between emphasizes their unique natures.

Try to think of each plant, statue, plaque or other accent as having its own personality, and place them together in groups that allow them to relate to each other in pleasing and complementary ways; place two low flowering plants on either side of a larger fern, or place a small statue between a palm and a vine - the possibilities are endless and are only limited by your creativity and imagination!

Take your visitors on a journey
Think about what a visitor will see as they enter and move through your patio, garden or backyard. What will catch their eye first? Once they've enjoyed looking at that, what will they look at next? Where will their attention be drawn, and where will that carry their feet? Professional designers set up their spaces much like a story; the intent is to guide their visitors' attentions - and their bodies - through the space so that everything is seen and everything is enjoyed in an interesting and pleasing order.

Try to create special accent zones to show off your most treasured items by placing them right in the visitor's path, or by placing them at eye level, or by surrounding them with unique accessories that set the entire cluster apart from the others. If you take a little time to consider what people will see and where they will go as they make their way through your garden space, you'll find that creating a relaxing and pleasant garden or backyard is just a matter of common sense!

Don't neglect the vertical space
It's easy to think about your outdoor areas in terms of their ground or floor space - the area where you can place a plant stand, set a statue or fountain, or leave a path for friends to walk - but you must also remember the space above the ground! In some ways, vertical space is even more important than ground space!

Walls or fences can be beautified with the simple addition of a garden plaque, a wall fountain or a planter on a shelf. If you want a more functional wall item, try a garden thermometer. Training a vine or some ivy up a trellis is a great way to use some vertical space and create a sense of intimacy and privacy as well.

Then, of course, there are the hanging items.. hanging plants are a great way of lifting the eye up to a new vantage point and adding a vertical element to your green space. Windchimes are a special prize, because they are not only a delight to the eye, but a treasure for the ears as well. Suncatchers also add a unique beauty with their ability to catch the sunlight and turn it into yet another decorative accent. When placing hanging decor, think 'outside of the box'... hanging items can be part of the clusters you create with your plants and statuary or they can hang by themselves, defining turning points along the garden path or providing embellishment to the open space between clusters.

There are so many ways to use vertical decor I can only mention a few of them here: Hang them from eaves and overhangs to adorn borders, suspend them from awnings and overhead beams for a more enclosed and intimate effect, and if you have a tree or two in your garden how about hanging a plant from a branch or placing a planter in the crook of a bough? Now you're using clustering and vertical space at the same time by using a plant to hold a plant!

Winged visitors - your mobile decorations!
Birds are beautiful to look at and lovely to listen to, but most important to your garden or patio design, they move around on their own! Attract birds to your outdoor space and you'll have a constant variety of design as they flit from branch to branch or light and preen on a fountain or statue. Birds are nature's own decor and attracting them to your garden or backyard is easy.. just give them something to eat, a place to bathe and somewhere to build a nest! Birdbaths and bird feeders are excellent as statue items and ensure a steady supply of feathered friends as well. Bird houses are especially nice because they can be used for vertical space decoration as well as providing a comfortable place for sparrows and starlings to nest or just to hang out for awhile! What's a garden or patio without the beauty and song of birds?

Dare to dream
These three tips are just the beginning of the process. They're intended to get you started thinking like a professional designer and considering the unlimited possibilities that your unused outdoor spaces present. Don't let your space lie dormant.. bring it to life with your own creativity, your own flair and with affordable garden decor and accessories from Springtime Gardens!!

Brian Dalton owns and maintains the Springtime Gardens website, and spends countless happy hours decorating and maintaining his own patios and container gardens.

Springtime Gardens - Affordable Garden and Patio Decor

Copyright 2005 BKD Enterprises

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