Gardening Design

In this 2011 photo provided Martha Benedict a bench around a tree and raised flower and vegetable beds, all built by landscape designer Katharine Pinney from discarded scaffolding, are shown in a kitchen garden at a home in La Canada, California. Homeowners can transform an ordinary looking landscape with some imagination, design and perhaps the help of a local agriculture extension service, landscape professional or private nursery.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The flower beds are finished, the vegetables are growing, and yet something could be missing from the backyard landscape: That “wow” factor.

Adding a personal touch to the lawn and garden doesn’t have to be complicated or break the family budget. Homeowners can transform an ordinary looking landscape with some imagination, design and perhaps the help of a local agriculture extension service, landscape professional or private nursery.

“A garden is really never finished,” said Jonathan M. Lehrer, chairman of the Department of Urban Horticulture and Design at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, New York. “Sometimes the most difficult thing is kind of taking that plunge and deciding you’re going to develop an area or start a project.”

Some ideas that gardeners can use to take their yards to another level:

The starting point

An arbor, pergola, lattice — even posts with netting wrapped around them — will grab attention, especially at a yard’s entrance. It also adds height where homeowners normally think only about length and width, Lehrer said.

Adding clematis, climbing roses or honeysuckle along them will provide long periods of blooms.

Arbors decorated with lights also can define garden rooms and set up views to the space beyond, inviting exploration, said Katharine Pinney, a landscape contractor and designer in Los Angeles.

“Use them to lead your visitor through the garden,” Pinney said.

Pathway to success

A path with mulch, gravel, brick, pavers or flagstone with edging will encourage a stroll.

Pinney said the simpler the path’s route, the better. But Lehrer suggests avoiding a straight, linear pathway.

“Trying to use more curves, twists and turns, that kind of adds the illusion of a longer length than it might be, that mystery of what might be around the next corner,” he said.

Pinney said the choice of pavers should reflect the architectural style of the house. But mixing materials, such as brick and flagstones, adds visual interest.

“In short, use your imagination!” Pinney said.

Placing decorative pots loaded with flowers along the way will create a focal point and add color.

Get personal

Pinney suggests incorporating items that reflect the homeowner’s personality. One of her clients loved wine and held tastings with friends. Pinney said she planted wine grapes for the customer and used old wine bottles from restaurants to border a path.

Old brick from another customer’s 1920s bungalow was incorporated into the border of an outdoor groundcover “rug.”

“A homeowner should think about what would make the garden a reflection of their personality and interests,” Pinney said.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lehrer added, “I’ve seen people that are not going to be going to the beach. “So they’re creating pool areas, adding inexpensive holiday lights and lanterns and bringing music outside.”