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(ARA) - Although our gardens have always teemed with nature's artistic palette -- truly they are already natural works of art -- in the last decade gardeners have seen artists and craftsmen creating objects of distinction solely for garden spaces. And at the same time, gardeners have become more attuned to recognizing what a simple, well-placed structure or piece of art tucked into a "secret spot" can bring to their garden spaces.

Basic Concepts to Consider

When designing your space, start with the overall look or mood you want to create and then work your way down to the details. Maybe it's easiest to compare designing your outdoor space to decorating the interior of your home. "You wouldn't position your bed in the kitchen, for example," says garden advisor Larry Herbert of Garden Artisans, a company that specializes in unique garden art. Think of the outdoor structure of your garden space as the walls and functions of your home and assess your desires and needs.

What is it you want to be able to comfortably do in your outdoor space? It may be entertaining; it may be meditation. It may be a children's play area. It may be all of the above. But your overall plan will need to take these into consideration when designing your "room" divisions.

Once you have taken the time to really lay out your exterior garden "rooms," then you have a framework within which to work. Challenge yourself to envision ways in which you can introduce elements into your garden that will stimulate as many of your senses as possible.

Adding Structure

Combining man-inspired structures -- vases, arbors, statuary -- with nature's palette of color and life will bring untold pleasures to your senses. Herbert offers these examples to get your ideas flowing:

* An arch positioned over a walkway and covered with an aromatic vine will please your sense of smell and sight as well as provide an entry way that draws a visitor into your garden's sensual sanctuary.

* A beautiful bird feeder placed away from your deck but within sight will bring endless entertainment and beauty to your patio. It is quite amazing the flurry of activity a little bird seed will cause in a backyard.

* A small sculpture or wind chime tucked away along a path or a larger, more dramatic sculpture used as an accent or focal point will draw the eye and beckon visitors to your garden.

Art is in the Details

As Bunny Williams, designer and author of "On Garden Style," says, "To view garden ornaments as baubles, to add them as afterthoughts, is to miss the chance to elevate an outdoor space from merely pleasant to truly artful."

For the gardener who heeds that advice but rushes down to the nearest home improvement warehouse or mega garden center to purchase their garden accent pieces, their end result will unfortunately not be what they envisioned: they will wind up with a mere variation of every other shopper's garden.

The reason for this is obvious. The mass produced planters, birdbaths, arbors, and statuary inherently provide generic focal points instead of the distinctive focal points the gardener may have envisioned.

Strive to find art for your garden that will convey your overall theme and yet express something distinctive about you. For instance, you may be a Frank Lloyd Wright fan or you may really like the visual stimulation of a kinetic wind sculpture or the movement and sound emanating from a water feature.

Take time to work the art and necessary structures into your overall design; don't just drop them in willy-nilly.

Think Outside the "Box Store"

Thinking outside the box store opens up a whole new world of custom sizes and distinctive one-of-a-kind art objects. When art is created by hand it is inherently unique. Any gardener intent on creating a truly magnificent space should seriously consider avoiding the big chains as often as possible and search for that unique piece of art that will make their garden space truly their own.

To see the trellises, bird feeders, sculptures and more offered by Garden Artisans, visit

Courtesy of ARA Content