Garden garnishes put wit in backyard


Outside, accessories can add structure, texture, drama and wit. Think of a bench beckoning at the end of a path, a statue semi-shrouded in foliage, a fountain bubbling on a patio, a gate that suggests more green delights beyond.

"Ornaments are something that can really reflect your personality in a garden," says Inta Krombolz, who has spent nearly 30 years turning her 3-acre West Chester, Pa., property into an award winner.

Ancient Egyptians accented their green spaces with pools, pergolas and trees in earthenware pots. The Romans, with their villa gardens full of statues and columns, took the concept even further. And later, Europeans turned ornamental gardening into high art.

But here in the United States, we've been latecomers to garden decoration. That's because we were mainly a nation of farmers until the last century, says Elizabeth Schumacher, owner of Garden Accents in West Conshohocken, Pa.

"If you're growing vegetables to feed yourself, you're not thinking about the garden design you're creating," she says. "Garden ornaments developed as cultures had more time and money for leisure.

"I also think there's a problem with the term," says Schumacher. "'Garden ornament' sounds like 'lawn ornament' to many people."

As in pink plastic flamingos and garden gnomes.

Instead, we're talking about trellises, arbors, strategically placed furniture, even small buildings.

"Ornaments can be structural and functional as well as pretty," Schumacher says.

"I love stone and steel and things that are long-lasting," Krombolz says. "And I love color."

Krombolz's lush garden includes salvaged wrought-iron window grates, an old grinding stone and unusual cedar Adirondack chairs made by a craftsman in Virginia.

You don't need to be an artist to work ornaments into your garden effectively, says Schumacher, who gives talks and workshops on the history of such decorations and their use.

"Go into your house and look out the window," she says. "Or sit on your patio and see what you see. After you've framed a view, you want to think about creating a focal point."

That could be a statue, a bench, a sundial or an arbor. A tiny urban garden might have only one focal point. A suburban spread could have many. Just keep the ornaments spread out and relatively sparing.

"If you have too many things, it's not restful," Schumacher says. "You can really junk up a garden that way."

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