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.
Add extra zing to your water feature by framing it with an arbor or pergola. Slate tiles covering the vertical surfaces of the fountain angle down from one corner, lending the space an informal feel. A large shrub in glorious fall color balances the arbor and fountain.
A hollowed-out basalt rock serves as a birdbath and garden sculpture. Adding small pools of water is one sure way to attract wildlife (especially birds) to your garden retreat. Soften the angular lines of stone by planting Japanese bloodgrass and rosemary nearby.
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.
Tumbled concrete pavers provide a sturdy floor for the teak furniture set on the private patio tucked at the back of the garden. A giant silver miscanthus and Japanese maple transition to tall evergreens that provide privacy from neighbors.
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.
The view of the lower-level deck highlights the need for attractive outdoor furniture in each living space. This set is crafted from eucalyptus, providing durability that outlasts cedar. Its soft curves echoes the rounded canopy of the surrounding trees.
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.
A simple arbor serves as an entrance to the backyard from the driveway. By marking the entrance with a prominent structure, the homeowners guide foot traffic to the flagstone pathway, which otherwise might be hidden among the boulders and landscaping.
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.
'Sango-kaku' coralbark maple brightens fall scenery with its golden foliage. As autumn winds and rains strip the leaves from twigs, its vibrant red bark shines through. It adds interest to the yard all winter long.
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.