Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on November 25, 2001. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Finishing Touches Make the Garden
By Norman Winter
MSU Extension Horticulturist
Many of us have toured someone's yard only to find they have the same flowers that are growing in our own beds, but something is dramatically different. Theirs is a special garden that makes us shoot a picture, either real or mentally. We leave either energized to do better or feeling a little depressed.
Our flowers may be as good, but it is the finishing touch that makes a real garden. I am fortunate to see such endeavors several times a year, and I leave energized because I know I can do those same things at my home with a little effort.
What are some of these finishing touches that transforms a yard into a garden or retreat? One that really hit me this summer was the use of mirrors. I have preached the idea of developing rooms outside for sitting and relaxing and one home I visited indeed had accomplished this feat to the utmost.
The furniture stood out, artistically speaking; the flowers were blooming to the hilt but each room had a mirror hanging from a tree or attached to a trellis. It gave the illusion of a window to see through. In reality you were really looking behind you or to the side.
We use mirrors everywhere inside the home. Why not outside? The light reflection almost performs magic on an outdoor living space. Use them on the shady porch or patio, too.
Another home mesmerized me from the standpoint of the deck and its accompaniments. I could actually devote a series of articles to this one deck. One of the most magnificent aspects was a large chandelier hanging over the dining table. The chandelier hung from a giant tree but instead of electric lights it had a half dozen candles. This wasn't expensive; it was recycled, and it took vision.
The next three ideas are very simple and inexpensive, but I did leave wondering why I didn't think of that. We all find ourselves with container plants around the porch, patio or deck. Some are large others are small. The small containers sometimes go unnoticed when on the ground.
The solution from one gardener was to invert an old rustic urn upside down and place a piece of flagstone across the bottom to create a small table. The diminutive containerized plant now rests in a prominent position able to be enjoyed to the utmost.
At my home, the gloves and hand trowels have nothing to do with art. I usually have to hunt for them because I forget where I placed them. Not so at one home I visited. Just to the left of the door on the covered patio was a reed basket. In it were the pruners, hand trowel and gloves. No big deal right? Yet on the other hand they were so placed as if to warrant a photograph for the cover of a garden magazine.
On the other side of the door was an old tree similar to what you might use for a bottle tree. Instead, the branches were used for the hat, one for an apron and the other for a basket to harvest cut flowers.
This is a good time of the year for reflecting on how things grow, evaluating our landscape for improvements, planting cool-season color and also seeing how adding some finishing touches to our yard can indeed make it a garden.