Enhance your Garden Structures with Foliage


Design by Joanne White

Most gardens contain structures of some sort. Whether a humble garden shed, a child's playhouse, an archway that leads to the vegetable garden or an old weathered bench these are existing garden elements which we may have to work around since they are too awkward or heavy to move. Make the most of them by adding some personality and framing them with beautiful foliage plants to transform them from a utilitarian object to an important focal point


Design by Carol Ager

Design by Carol Ager

Have you noticed that when you sit in the garden it feels most comfortable to have your bench or chair backed by a hedge, fence or some other structure? We feel less exposed with something behind us and have a greater sense of being within the garden.  I believe gardens should be experienced not just observed and part of that is a physical sense of connection.

Benches are really an example of garden furniture but for the purpose of this post I'm going to include them as a structure – something which has been constructed and although possible to move we usually have a good sense of where we want them so any planting has to take that into account. They are also one of the cheapest garden structures!

With the bench in place consider the plants that will surround it – behind and to the sides. These will help make it feel a part of the garden and act as a picture frame.

The bench above is clearly a focal point in the border, wrapped by a delicious blend of foliage and flowers. Notice how the colors of the surrounding foliage and flowers have influenced the choice of bench cushions. Imagine the scene with only the flowers – the white hydrangeas, orange dahlias and daisies. It wouldn't be nearly so striking. It is the inclusion of colorful foliage plants that helps transform this simple wooden bench into an intimate space that invites you to linger.

 Garden Sheds

From the garden of Dan and Darlene Huntingdon

From the garden of Dan and Darlene Huntingdon

I am fortunate to have a lovely little cabin in my garden that has served many purposes from summer guest house to wedding registry office and writing studio. It has pride of place in a large border and is surrounded by layers of trees, shrubs and perennials – a focal point in every season.

While we may not all have a garden large enough for a structure of that sort we all need somewhere to store tools, pots, a lawn mower and bags of potting soil. Sometimes the garage is pressed into service but you may also have a simple non-glamorous garden shed. Maybe you can dress it up a little?

I fell in love with the little cabin shown above. Somewhere to keep those gardening reference books handy perhaps, or just sit and listen to the birds while sitting on the deck. Yet picture this without the surrounding leafy trees and shrubs; imagine it just sitting in the middle of a lawn. It would have a completely different feel. The foliage framework embraces the cabin as well as those who pause there.

Archways, Arbors, Pergolas and Gazebos

Leu Botanical Garden, Florida

Leu Botanical Garden, Florida

Careful planning and attention to detail is what transforms an ordinary project into an outstanding one and the example above is a case in point, offering an opportunity to get several great ideas for our own gardens. The gazebo is centered on a paved geometric walkway resembling an intricate mosaic while at each corner post a large planting pocket has been left for the lush, tropical foliage of Philodendron. Without the foliage this structure is imposing rather than inviting.

Leu Botanical Garden, Florida

Leu Botanical Garden, Florida

A friend of mine calls her garden 'Open Arbors' because of the many welcoming archways and entrances it contains. The scene above evokes a similar feel. Passing through the open gates and  vine clad archway, you are drawn to the classic white swing nestled within a soft green cocoon, sheltered completely by foliage and flowering vines. It would feel completely different without the foliage  frame.

I hope this series of four blog posts on using foliage to enhance focal points has got you thinking about your own garden. So often we think that adding another plant will make the garden look 'right'. We keep on adding, when in fact we may need to edit, simplify and establish a focal point which we can then enhance with foliage.

I know you'll love my new 7 part online garden design course on Craftsy; GORGEOUS GARDEN DESIGN; Foliage & Focal Points. It has many more ideas!


Click on the image for my class details and get up to 50% OFF!

Click on the image to watch a video trailer, study the course contents, read reviews (all five star) and to sign up. This class will never expire, you can watch whenever you like and as often as you like. You can interact with other students as well as with me for personalized help and ideas. Plus I never age – got to be good!

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