In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
February, 2007
Regional Report

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Even flamingos can be part of a permanent garden design.

Flamingos as Hardscape?

People everywhere, but especially gardeners in our region, are choosing to spend more time out in the garden. Stone patios and fireplaces are in, along with more elaborate and personally tailored pools and outdoor spas. Those installations form the basic architecture of the garden, standing out when nothing's in bloom around them. Ideally, these permanent "hardscape" elements play a role in the garden all year long, become part of the design, and don't overwhelm your plants or views.

Having a need to walk to the potting shed, we may install a path and line it with a flurry of plants that flop over its neat lines. Visually, the path may be obscured, but since you know where you're going, there's no problem. But if you want a path to have a neat edge, leading people directly to the destination, line it with bricks or other stiff edging to keep the look -- and the feet -- in order.

Birthing Style
The first and most important rule in choosing a hardscape element is to be certain it suits your style. But what is that? If pink flamingos or garden gnomes keep you smiling, or if you want to bring home every painted birdhouse, your style can be called "whimsical." But if only abstract designs suit you, and a huge wire obelisk catches you dreaming, you may think of yourself as "avant garde." "Charming" style can be seen in wooden arbors arching over a gate, with a flowery flag flying high over the scene. Sit in the garden, stare at catalogs and Web sites, visit other gardens, and get comfortable so you can give birth to your own, very personal garden style.

Scale Rules
Perhaps the biggest mistake often made in selecting hardscape is forgetting the scale of the object or the garden. Measure as many aspects as necessary to be sure heights are right, and the hardscape you'll be looking at all year is a pleasing addition, not an eyesore.


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