Interesting Garden Landscape Ideas – Garden Ornaments and Garden Furniture
Garden Landscape Ideas
‘Soft’ (Plant) Garden Ornaments
A friend of mine moved into a village house in Hampshire (a good 20 or so years ago now) – the previous owner of the house had gardened there from the beginning of the last century. The garden is eccentric and magical. She must have been the salvager of all time. It is a coastal village, and lengths of rope and chain, which have an obviously nautical origin, have been looped around the garden from trees and posts. Along these loops grow festoons of Wisteria and Ivy, forming boundaries and arbours in the most delightful fashion. It is an idea which could be copied by anyone, in a formal or informal way. If you are faced with a blank wall, one or two of a large variety of climbers could be trained over it in a formal pattern – in diamonds, circles and loops or whatever you could dream up. Both self-clingers and others that need support could be used for this. Both would need careful shaping and clipping, of course, but an easier shape would be some kind of arch. This could frame a view (real or painted), a mirror to give the illusion of gardens beyond, or some kind of statue or urn.
Of course, you could construct a genuine arch against the wall, either of brickwork, timbers or wire. The latter could be made for you by a blacksmith or bought from a garden centre, but would be rather tricky to make yourself, whereas those in brick or timber should be quite simple for any but the most cack-handed. Your arch could be square (if that is possible), round or Gothic. Over the arch could be trained all the usual climbers: Roses, Ivies, Honeysuckles, Jasmines, Hops, even Runner Beans (another economic double for you), and too many others to name.
All sorts of arbours and pavilions could be made in roughly similar ways. Simplest of all are those made against a wall, and of these the easiest is that made across a corner. Here you will need only one piece of timber, or whatever, placed across the corner to form a seat, with two pieces of timber to support it screwed to the walls, or you could rest this triangular-shaped seat on a brick pier. Another, similar, construction is fixed to form a roof. It could In made lattice-fashion, through which climbers could dangle to offer dappled shade; or solid, in which case it should he set at a slight slope and waterproofed: with roofing fell, perhaps, or paint possibly with tiles and slates if you are a little more ambitious. Even plastic, tacked to battens, would do, if you smothered it with an evergreen climber.
Against a flat wall, of course, your structure would need sides and well as a top of some kind. The sides could he made from bricks, blocks or timber – perhaps a combination of all three – either solid or trellised in some manner. It really does not matter if you make a hash of it, as the kindly plants will disguise your errors. In fact you could make a nice little hideout just from the plants, without the need to construct a frame for them. Flesh out the walls with evergreens/golds that will take to being clipped. Train them with bamboo canes and wire to branch out until the walls are solid (with perhaps a window or two), and up and over to form a roof of some sort.
With free-standing pavilions and gazebos, things are a bit more complicated. You will need four walls as well as a top. If it is for ornament only, the top can be omitted or at least reduced to a mere suggestion. Pergolas can be made entirely of timber if you like, including rustic logs.
If you are stuck with an indispensable but uninviting garden shed, you might consider transforming it into something a little more fanciful. Using off-cuts of plywood and some beading, the windows can be given a Gothic look. Paint it white or a subtle colour, grow a climber over it and place a pair of standard or cone-shaped trees in pots on either side of the door. A trick with plywood arches and beading can be used to make your garden-door more exciting, too. Cut two pieces of plywood into identical half-arches. These can be fixed in place over the existing square or oblong panes of glass, using either panel pins, beading or Araldite. If you use glue it will be necessary to repeat the arches on both sides of the glass, to hide the glue. If you do not have the skill to cut the plywood, paint the arches and glazing-bars directly onto the glass.
Should you come across some old or ‘bargain-offer’ louvred shutters, these can be pressed into service to make the sides of your arbours, as indeed can sections cut from pensioned-off ladders. For the children’s garden, you could construct a log cabin and a palisade from branches or odds and ends of timber.
‘Hard’ Garden Ornamants
As for the ‘hard’ garden ornaments, any number of them can be made from all the usual materials. I am not sure that you could manufacture an urn, although I suppose you could manage to take a cast of one and make copies in cement. In fact it is easy enough to buy cement urns very cheaply. The shapes are not at all bad, but the texture has a drear, dead look, so you will have to improve them with a little paint or stain them down with liquid manure. It is amazing how much a few coats of liquid manure can improve anything made of cement. Not only do they begin to look like natural stone, but mosses and lichens are encouraged to grow on them, thus completing the illusion. By the time you have grown a few trailers in and over them, it is difficult to tell them from the genuine article, even close up.
You will certainly be able to make a plinth for your garden ornaments such as urns or statues, either from bricks, (plain or rendered) or from timber. A simple one is made from a wooden box, either square or oblong. Nail chicken-wire to the outside and make a stiff sand, cement and peat mixture (1:1:2), adding some Unibond to the mixing water. Then paint the box and the wire with more Unibond and apply the cement mixture with a trowel, smoothing it over the top and sides of the box, about 1-2cm (1/2″- 3/4″) thick. When this has ‘gone off’, it can be painted with liquid manure, applying it coat by coat, and allowing it to dry out between coats until it is the right shade and resembles stone.
All sorts of garden ornaments such ascan be covered in this fashion: jars, pitchers, bowls, etc; for them, omit the wire but rough up the surface a bit if possible, and paint with Unibond as above. This will turn quite flimsy indoor containers into something rugged and appropriate to outdoor use. The same technique can be used to turn rather beastly little cement statues into something more original, roughing up the surface a little with your fingers to give a look of genuine modern sculpture. The original statue will provide the armature or frame, on which you can create your own fancies.
You may be lucky enough to find some containers that are strong and striking enough in their own right to stand outside as they are, but unless you know they are frost-proof, bring them in during cold weather, or at least make sure they do not fill up with water which could freeze, expand and crack them or break them up.
There are a number of natural objects that can be used ornamentally in the garden – logs, twisted roots, driftwood, mossy or lichened branches, stones, rocks, boulders and shells. In addition to the natural objects, you could find all manner of ancient artefacts, whether industrial, agricultural or horticultural; a cogwheel, plough-share or rusty lawn-roller would all serve, without being twee, although that is always something to watch. I suppose the first person to think of putting a ship’s lantern or a pair of carriage-lamps outside his door would have been delighted with the originality of the concept.
Furniture is another matter altogether. You would have to be quite skilful to make serious furniture in the classical mould. You might be able to mock up something that would look great, but would it bear you up? Better to make something of supreme simplicity. Two piers of brickwork could support a flagstone for a seat, a slab of slate or marble for a table.
The sewing-machine stand, topped with washstand marble, is now so familiar that it has become a cliché. If you are stuck with one, paint it anything but white, to make it a little less obvious. (But it did make a jolly good table). For fanciful or less formal schemes, all sorts of junk shop furniture can be stripped and painted, or stripped and varnished for garden use. Odd bits of Victorian and Edwardian bamboo furniture can occasionally be found quite reasonably and this looks good in the garden.
Country auctions and the sort of junk shops that proclaim ‘house clearance’ will sometimes provide you with ornaments and furniture.
In the rustic garden, logs or sections of them, either on their own or combined with planks and slabs, will make the most basic but perfectly adequate seats, benches and tables. I suspect you have got the hang of things by now.
. . . Oh, I forgot, if you do plan to make a weeping standard from a Wisteria or something similar, you may need some kind of dome-shaped frame to train the branches over initially; use an upturned hanging basket for the smaller subjects and a dilapidated umbrella-frame for larger ones. This latter can be mended and strengthened with stiff wire, and they can both be lashed to a cane or stake with more wire.