Plants are the foundation of any garden or landscape, but the atmosphere of a garden can be further enhanced through the use of gardening accents, such as statuary, birdbaths and feeders, wind chimes, stepping stones, and other artistic touches. These elements can make a delightful impression if they’re used judiciously and conform to the scale and character of the garden itself.
The many roles of garden accents
Accents give gardeners the opportunity to say something about themselves and their passions that they can’t necessarily communicate through foliage and flowers alone. They also help to create a cohesive visual impression that unifies the landscape. Strategically placed statuary leads the visitor down garden paths and draws the eye to specific focal points. The soothing trickle of a water feature or delicate tones of a wind chime delight the ears. Birth feeders and baths not only provide visual interest in and of themselves, but the birds they attract also add movement and beauty to the scene. Not to mention, birds help protect plants by feasting on undesirable pests in the garden.
Select a feel or theme
Choosing and placing garden accents is much like choosing and placing plant material. Your choices should complement one another and work together to create a coherent feel or theme. Just as barberry or yucca plants would be out of place in a shade garden, a classical statue of Bacchus wouldn’t make much sense in a Japanese garden. On the other hand, a Japanese lantern, ornate crane statue, pergola, or bamboo deer chaser would be appropriate in that setting.
A “theme” can be just about anything of your choosing—from classical to abstract to religious to whimsical. If angels or cherubs intrigue you, that could be your theme. Or perhaps you’re fond of a particular pet or wild animal that you’d like to see reflected throughout your garden. Memorial accents are a wonderful and dignified way to keep the memory of a departed loved one alive. Even those ubiquitous garden gnomes can be tastefully incorporated. (Just be aware that garden gnomes are a common target for mischievous scavenger hunters!)
Your choice of materials
The material your accents are made of can impact the look of your garden, as well. Stone, terra cotta, and wood tend to convey an earthy feel. Metal accents are a good choice for creating an ornate or modern impression. Concrete is, perhaps, the most versatile as it can be painted and glazed to look natural, formal, or virtually anything in between. The only drawback to concrete is its tendency to crack under harsh weather conditions. Copper accents have really grown in popularity as they stand up to weather very well and take on an attractive greenish patina as they age, which allows them to blend well with surrounding plant material. Colored glass hummingbird feeders and other glass accents offer an intriguing splash of color in the landscape.
Garden accents needn’t be costly store-bought items, either. Old milk cans, farming or gardening implements, wheelbarrows, and other old heirlooms taking up space in your garage or shed can be converted into interesting art pieces or planters in the garden. And that layer of rust just adds to their rustic appeal!
When you walk into your garden setting and peer around, all of the statuary and accents should not immediately “leap out” at you. If they do, then your accents are probably crowded together, out of proportion, and most likely overpowering your plantings. Accents should harmonize with their surroundings. They should treat you to little serendipitous surprises as you meander through the landscape. Small statues peeking out from among the foliage or nestled among flowers can draw your eye to particular groupings of plants. Taller statues can serve as focal points, perhaps as a reward at the end of a garden path.
Keep in mind that walls and wooden fences offer wonderful accent opportunities. Wall-mounted planters or fountains make ideal embellishments for these surfaces. Plaques, sundials, and other mountable artwork can also be used to enliven a wall or span of fencing.
A lasting impression
Perhaps the greatest advantage of garden accents is that they leave a lasting impression. They provide years of enjoyment without having to be watered, pruned, or replanted each growing season.