Inula Royleana
Midwest Gardening
Using Garden Accents

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Decorative Garden Accents Add Personality to your Landscape

An unlimited variety of garden accents and accessories can help you complement your garden and landscape design.  Many accents such as stepping stones, arbors, trellises and plant stands are also functional, allowing you to easily add a little personality or a theme to your design.

It is important that accents and accessories support and enhance the style of your landscape.  A traditional setting will benefit from symmetrical pairings of accents, such as identical urns flanking an entry area.  Large sculptures and fountains are ideal for formal gardens.  Casual and cottage gardens are suited to lively color and themes or groupings of accessories.  Most of us select our accessories from a long list including birdbaths and birdhouses, gazing balls and plant containers, trellises and plant pillars, wind chimes and small statuary, to name a few.  There are so many colorful and creative accessories available it is hard to limit the list to appropriate pieces.  A good starting point might be to select one large and wonderful item to create a mood, theme or style.  Additional pieces should support whatever you have started.

One large centerpiece by William Spaetzle

Understanding why you might use accents and accessories will help you decide what type of accents to use and where to use them.  Determining what you want your accent to accomplish will help you select appropriate items.


Why use Garden Accents?

  • Highlight or accent a plant or area
  • Enhance and complement garden or landscape design
  • Draw attention to a path or entry area
  • Add color or texture
  • Create a focal point
  • Add an element of surprise
  • Disguise an unattractive element
  • Add vertical interest
  • Create a mood
  • Direct foot traffic
  • Separate functional spaces
  • Call attention to distant areas of the landscape
  • Add color or interest between bloom seasons

Spend some time evaluating all areas of your landscape from many different vantage points, including from inside your home.  identify favorite areas that you would like to call more attention to.  Are there areas that seem dull or neglected, or have never been quite right?  Think about basic design elements while viewing the landscape:  Repetition; Variety; Balance; Unity; Rhythm; and Texture.  These principles can be a big help in selecting garden accents and accessories, and the items you choose can help you achieve the objective of the principles. 

Garden Gargoyle by Kirsty HallLike any other element in your landscape, accents should appear to be a part of the design.  Just about any accent is best when tucked into foliage or grounded by a pedestal or pavers.  Consider what might be a natural appearance of the accent.  A gargoyle would probably not be found in the middle of your lawn, but certainly might be lurking along the edge of a shrub border or peeking out from between plants.  In more formal gardens you might use gargoyles quite traditionally, perched on a post or bookending a planting bed slightly tucked in to the foliage.

Successfully using many different accents takes a little planning.  Try to keep your selections coordinated to the colors and style or your home and landscape design as a basis to complement and unify the overall design.  Consider a theme or collection of similar items.  With the unlimited variety of accessories available, many gardeners find all sorts of unrelated items that they just love.  To avoid an accessory junkyard, impose a unifying rule for your selections.  Perhaps select primarily copper items or accessories with copper trim.  Color is an excellent unifier, and paints are available for just about any surface, even plastic.  Choose a perfect blue or an unexpected yellow-gold, and paint pots, plant stands, trim on a birdhouse, a pedestal for a crazy sculpture, any clever way you think of to introduce one single color to many, but not all, of your accents.similar paint color unifies several pots

Paint an unexpected color by Chris and Laura





Accents should not just be scattered throughout the landscape, plan your accessories to accent a specific spot, in small groupings or with a theme.  Perfectly centering an accent and evenly spaced items should generally be reserved for formal designs.  A statue or birdbath place off to one side of a bed generally produces the most pleasing result.  But there is no magic list of “do” and “don’t” when it comes to garden accents.  Let your personality show and do what you love!

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