Enjoy the crisp days of autumn by creating an outdoor living space. Check out what four clever homeowners did and get ideas for your garden rooms.
Frame your front entry to really show it off. Here, a pair of maples highlights a pergola-covered walkway. A metalwork gate also invites passersby to peek into the garden, creating opportunities to make new friends.
If you don't have a backyard, do something special with the front to blend a public entry with a private retreat. One solution is an informal courtyard with separate areas for seating, dining, and a water feature. Here, 'Osakazuki' Japanese maple provides a stunning backdrop for a patio. Japanese anemones and ornamental grasses add color and texture, softening the wood privacy fence.
Don't have room for an apple, peach, or pear tree? Think again! Try espalier, or the art of growing a tree or shrub on a flat surface. Here, for example, an espaliered apple tree hugs a cedar privacy fence, making the most use of the small space. Drought-tolerant herbs and ornamental grasses add color and life while softening the wood and concrete hardscaping.
Adirondack chairs positioned in a corner of the patio benefit from a water feature that doubles as fountain and artwork. It's a great place for a relaxing conversation or quiet contemplation.
Test Garden Tip: A simple coat of paint makes the chairs stand out.
Coiled copper pipe serves as an artful drip tube into the slate-tiled fountain. The metal echoes copper-topped posts found on the privacy fence, unifying the space. Bluestone caps the pool edges. Duckweed, thalia, and grasslike acorus surround a blue frog sculpture in the pool.
This homeowner faced a different dilemma: A patio at the rear of a deep lot provided plenty of privacy, but it seemed detached from the rest of the yard. This view of the front yard with a stunning Japanese maple in fall color, black-eyed Susans, and ornamental grasses inspired a makeover.
A bluestone pathway connecting various outdoor rooms winds through ornamental grasses, which provide year-round interest. Large maidengrass clumps provide screening; low-growing Japanese forestgrass offers a soft, flowing base; and black-eyed Susans inject color.
As the path continues through a more open, sunny section of the yard that slopes down, ornamental grasses continue to play a starring role in the plant palette. Dwarf 'Hameln' fountaingrass in the foreground explodes with texture and is surrounded by pink heather, a rose-color chrysanthemum, and a pink lacecap hydrangea. Across the pathway, lavender and black-eyed Susans lead to a clump of maidengrass and 'Yaku Jima' miscanthus.
Raised-bed planters built into the slope make an attractive solution when you have a change in grade. An umbrella-shape Japanese maple arches over a "lawn" of liriope groundcover. Chartreuse Japanese forestgrass accompanies the duo.
This homeowner created a great outdoor space that provides plenty of room for family activities and entertaining friends and neighbors that also blends well with the wooded surroundings.
Wide stairs -- each tread is a foot wide and more than 4 feet long -- do double duty as extra seating and still allow people to pass from one level to another. Planters filled with chrysanthemums are easily changed out with the season for an always-fresh display of color.
A stunning sugar maple planted near the deck provides a colorful backdrop in autumn. In summer, its dense green foliage creates a solid screen of privacy and welcome shade late in the afternoon.
A heavily used bike trail at the back of the yard created privacy concerns for the deck. The solution: a slanted arbor planted with fast-growing wisteria. As the vine becomes established, it will fully cover the arbor and screen the deck from bikers. The overhead lattice for the arbor is made of alternating copper pipes and 1x4 cedar boards.
Thin profile cable railing preserves the view of the nearby forest. Check local building codes for spacing to meet design standards. In the proper light, the cables all but disappear from view.
This backyard may look beautiful, but it started out as a cramped, sloping space. The homeowner changed out plantings to make it feel more spacious and to offer outdoor living spaces.
Once visitors step through the entry arbor, they can follow the stone path to catch glimpses of a pergola over a small deck. Completely removing lawn made the backyard low-maintenance. Perennials, trees, and shrubs need only occasional pruning and shaping to keep their attractive appearance.
The view from the pergola includes a lovely cascading stream with waterfalls and pools. The splashing water muffles neighborhood noises and creates soothing background sounds. Potted papyrus plants in the shallow pools and spiky sedges soften the rocky watercourse.
Strategically spaced steppingstones across the stream are part of the pathway to the secluded pergola. Repeated use of papyrus and Japanese maples ties together all levels of the water feature.
Tight space in the side yard limited the choice of plantings. Espaliered camellias were the solution. These broadleaf evergreens bloom in fall and winter when little else is in flower. Branches trained on horizontal wires take up a small footprint, yet provide definition and screening from neighboring properties.
The front yard repeats elements of the backyard, establishing continuity throughout the property. The bluestone-paved patio echoes the stone path in the rear of the house. Japanese maples and ornamental blue fescue pick up on plant colors and shapes used near the water features. They provide a beautiful backdrop for these rustic wooden chairs.