Pink flamingo or fountain? How to pick a garden accent
Yard accent basics: How to add birdbaths, sculptures, gazing balls and even gnomes to your outdoor space to reflect your personal style.
Admit it. When someone says "lawn ornament," you think of pink plastic flamingos.
Don't be ashamed. The iconic fowl have been flocking to our yards for more than 50 years. We've all seen them. Some of us even have owned a pair. And regardless of where they fall on your taste scale, give them credit: They changed the landscape of garden décor.
"They sort of, in a way, gave people permission to put their own personal stamp or whimsy in the garden," says Doug Jimerson, the outdoor living editor for Better Homes and Gardens.
Jimerson explains that America's gardens had followed the well-ordered English tradition — low plants in front, tall plants in back, the manicured green lawn.
"Then, bam! The pink flamingo came out and took the world by storm, so to speak. I think that opened up a world of possibilities for all types of things, from chain saw sculptures to concrete animals of every type."
So much so that today, anyone's taste — or lack thereof — can be satisfied. The question is, where to start.
Do your homework
Get some ideas from TV shows, garden centers, magazines, the Internet or garden tours. Peek at your neighbors' yards. Determine what appeals to you, to your sense of humor or your decorative likes, and what would accomplish what you're trying to do.
"Garden ornaments should be used to enhance a space instead of just to fill spaces," says Kate Orage of Haddonstone, a manufacturer of decorative stonework.
"When people are looking at outdoors space, it's the same as when they're making changes in their home," says Kate Moran, associate merchant for planters at The Home Depot's Atlanta headquarters. "Look at the space they're dealing with, look at the budget, what colors they like. Basic things like that. ... It's just an extension of the home, so it's whatever their style and personal taste is."
A popular trend in informal gardens is architecture salvage, employing everything from old window frames and grindstones to wagons or carts.
For something a little more formal, say, with boxwoods and roses, try a reflecting ball. Go classic with Greek columns. If you like wildlife and a natural look, try animals.
Or you can just go nuts.
"I just saw somebody who made a giant daddy longlegs out of a red bowling ball," Jimerson says. "They attached metal rods for the legs, and the holes were the eyes. They set it in the corner of their yard where they let the grass grow really tall, so it was living in this little meadow. It was very cool."
What's out there
Decorations come in all sizes, shapes and materials. The majority are made of concrete; others are of resin. They range from small critters for less than $10 to full-size deer to massive bronze statues in the thousands, true works of art.
Subjects include people, animals, architectural pieces, benches, birdbaths, fountains, gazing balls, gnomes, bird feeders and wishing wells. And, yes, flamingos.
Moran says birdbaths are the most popular items at The Home Depot. At Haddonstone (www.haddonstone.com), Orage says fountains are always popular and the best-selling planter is the Clarence urn at $305.
Another garden option: animal topiaries. You can buy forms that are packed with moss, then you plant things on the form to create the fur or hair.
And don't worry about what the neighbors say. Remember, it's your yard. Choose what you like.
"I don't believe in rules in gardening," Jimerson says. "Life is tough enough. If you want to fill your yard with small bronze children, more power to you."
One reflecting glass ball may be beautiful. Adding 25 more probably won't make things 25 times more beautiful and might blind the pilots of approaching aircraft. Try not to overpopulate an area. Another potential problem is mismatched items.
"It's kind of disconcerting when you have a deer, a Doberman, a reflecting ball and a bronze kid," Jimerson says. "To me that's kind of dysfunctional. At least try to keep it in a family of styles."
Adds Orage: "Some customers will choose a number of very small ornaments rather than one larger design. Often one larger design can prove far more successful and provide a point of interest in a garden, even in winter."
Think about a secondary use for your ornament. Aside from visual appeal, a birdbath also attracts birds, a fountain adds sound to your yard, and a reflecting ball adds dimension. "Before, people would use (decorations) as more utilitarian," Moran says, "and that's still one aspect for them. But people are using them to really add character to their yard. They are accessories for the garden, but there is a lot you can do with them."
And be flexible
Go with the flow and adjust accordingly.
"I don't think it's necessary to have a full plan from the get-go," Moran says. "Like any room of the house, the backyard just evolves and changes as your personal taste changes."
A few suggestions
• When shopping for a lawn ornament, think local. Larger pieces are expensive to ship.
• If you like gazing balls, choose silver instead of red, blue or green. They reflect their surroundings better, which is the idea.
• Use ornaments as focal points. Put one at the end of a pathway or in the corner of a rose garden to lead your eye.
• The center of a garden bed is a good spot for a birdbath.
• Flank an entry with something that makes a statement — a pot with an evergreen tree, for example.
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