A Garden of Garden Rooms

Outdoor Living
These Northeastern gardeners have created a landscape perfect for outdoor living with a cleverly designed set of garden rooms.

Make an Entrance

The Fosters wanted to welcome guests to their Massachusetts garden so they created a small room at the front of their landscape. Lined with lush container gardens and featuring salvaged cobblestones and a beautiful wrought-iron gate, the partly shaded spot definitely attracts attention.

Test Garden Tip: You can use any number of items -- or even a mix -- to define your outdoor rooms. Here, a collection of containers, shrubs, and the gate does the job nicely.

Pay Attention to Details

Don't overlook little details for the big picture when it comes to your garden. Here, a salvaged sphere creates a lively contrast to a chartreuse clump of Japanese forestgrass.

Test Garden Tip: Salvaging old materials can be a great way to give your garden a sense of age -- as well as feature unique architectural elements. The Fosters visit demolition sites and get to know builders. "If you can make it convenient for them and arrange the transport, many times they'll gladly give it to you for free," they say.

Embrace Texture

Gardens don't have to be all about flowers (but it sure is nice). Here, the Fosters created a striking vignette with mainly foliage: a boxwood hedge surrounds a planting of feather reedgrass, purple South American verbena, and white cleome. A weeping spruce casts a dramatic presence and creates a corner for you to look around.

Test Garden Tip: If you like the idea of using lots of texture but don't love the all-green look, consider variegated plants as accents. Many variegated plants offer leaves marked with purple, pink, burgundy, gold, yellow, white, and silver.

Enjoy Fresh Flowers

The Fosters have an average-size yard, but they've made the most of it. Off the side of their garage they added a cutting garden filled with lilies, phlox, iris, and other favorites. They don't have too many of any one plant -- and the variety gives them fresh-cut blooms from spring to fall.

Test Garden Tip: As you'll see in several upcoming pictures, the Fosters helped their landscape feel large by creating curves and other tricks to help keep you from seeing the entire garden at one time.

Choose Outstanding Plants

The Fosters added a number of specimen plants in their landscape, including this silver Korean fir (Abies koreana 'Horstmann Silberlocke'). Adding a few dramatic and eye-catching plants that stand out of the crowd will help give your landscape more depth and interest.

Test Garden Tip: Evergreens such as this fir are particularly good choices in northern climates because they keep their foliage all winter. Look for evergreens that have great shapes or colors -- like blue, silver, or even golden yellow.

Pick a Garden Style

The Fosters embraced a formal, traditional style in their landscape that repeats throughout all their outdoor rooms. The result is a garden that feels cohesive and put together.

Test Garden Tip: This room is very small and simple, but beautiful thanks to well-chosen elements. A weeping spruce creates a dramatic shape and contrast to the paving materials and white gate. Your garden doesn't have to be full to make a big impact.

Be Creative

An old stone became a charming birdbath in the Foster's shady garden room. Almost a hidden garden, it features a few dramatic elements such as this bold purple-leaf elephant's ear.

Test Garden Tip: Shady areas of your yard don't have to be barren. Select shade-loving plants to fill it with color and texture.

Work with What You Have

The Fosters were able to salvage a lot of granite for their landscape -- so it's only natural to use it for garden accents. Here, an old granite slab creates another birdbath.

Test Garden Tip: This is a perfect way to attract birds to your garden. They love water -- and they also love having trees or shrubs to dart into if something scares them. Be sure to provide cover for them to feel safe if you want birds in your yard.

Leave a Spot to Sit

The Fosters created lots of spots to enjoy their hard work. This bench looks out over their cutting garden, but feels secluded thanks to the granite wall behind the bench.

Test Garden Tip: The seating area feels extra special because it's framed by a wrought-iron arbor. Watch for ways to frame different elements of your yard to create works of art.

Employ the Unexpected

A granite wall becomes something extra special thanks to an interesting opening. The opening creates a charming view beyond, making it feel like there's a lot more yard to explore.

Test Garden Tip: If you're not lucky enough to have a granite wall like this, you can still create the same effect by cutting and framing a hole in a privacy fence. Or, if you don't have a great view beyond, fix a mirror to your fence and frame it with vines to give the illusion of a portal.

Live Outdoors

Were you wondering what was on the other side of the wall? The Fosters added a great little patio. The wall helps give the patio a note of privacy, as do the beautiful container plantings.

Test Garden Tip: You can create a stunning patio, even if all you have is a concrete slab. Install wood or stone over the top of it to create a high-priced look without the work of having to start from scratch.

Enjoy What You Have

Thanks to their hard work and ingenuity, the Fosters created a yard where they can comfortably spend lots of time outdoors.

Test Garden Tip: Just a handful of well-placed plants can create privacy and help an area feel more comfortable. Here, for example, a golden Hinoki cypress, weeping spruce, and low yew hedge help this patio feel nice and cozy.

Share the gallery

All Topics in Gardening in the Northeast

Better Homes & Gardens may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.