Sometimes no one feature in a garden distinguishes it, but rather the interplay of setting and style and the little touches create one outstanding setting.
"When you live with something a long time sometimes, you don't really see it the way strangers do," says Carin Jolly. "People come up here and say this looks like a park and I look around and go 'it does?'"
Looking to create that perfect garden that gives you a place to entertain or just enjoy the outdoors? The key is to create a comfortable and attractive space by combining a suitable variety of plants and seating for talking and/or dining.
One option, which Carin Jolly likes, is to surround your seating area with containers of flowering plants that change with what is in season. If you're setting up a seating area in August, that's a smart way to go.
"Container gardening is real popular," Dennis Trost, co-owner of In Thee Garden in Medford, notes. "A lot of people are creating patio-type seating areas surrounded by containers of both annuals and perennials and small water-garden pots."
Eric Jenson, part owner of Memories Antiques in Medford, says many people are searching out unusual garden features such as benches and bistro sets.
"A lot of people come in looking for one-of-a-kind things. They are trying to find the unusual. People don't want their house to look like every other yard. They want private, individualized spaces."
The key is to find your personal style, and a signature piece can help you define it. An alternative is to "shop" in garden books and magazines before you go out to stores. Try to harmonize with the architecture of your house and your lifestyle. And because it's nearing August, you might find your items marked down.
When Carin and Ed Jolly bought their east Medford lot, it was the view from the three acres that attracted them. Situated on the side of a hill, the view took in most of the Rogue Valley.
"The yard kind of evolved," Carin says. "It was just a flat bit of dirt and we moved in more dirt and tried to make it look natural. We had put the house as close to the edge of the hill as we could."
The land sloped steeply, and Russ Pane of Medford's Orchard Home Landscape and Design remembers it took a lot of muddy work to create what are now flat areas off the house. It took 300 yards of fill to create the yard, which stretches 140 feet along the back of the house and varies from 35 to 60 feet wide. That hard-won yard has become a lovely meandering garden which moves from one of three outdoor living areas to another.
The main outdoor room sits under an overhanging roof supported by giant pillars. It features resin wicker seating around a glass-topped table under a ceiling fan. In cool weather this open room is warmed by two large butane heaters. A retractable awning between the pillars cuts the breeze, yet the view of the valley is still visible through the fabric.
"Between the heaters and the awning cutting the wind we can use that room most of the year," Carin says.
They added a waterfall and pond nearby. The waterfall is over 6 feet tall, and the winding pond is about 12 feet across at the widest. The sound of tumbling water adds just the right note to the park-like landscaping, which relies mostly on perennials. Candytuft and creeping phlox, rosemary, nandina, several varieties of Japanese maples, dogwoods, birches and ceanothus form the backbone of the scene. kinnikinnick is used extensively as ground cover, as well as viburnum and snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum). The pond itself is home to a thick patch of water iris as well as water lilies.
The second seating area is supported above the side of the hill on steel piers. Low-slung metal chairs surround a multi-use marble-topped table. The center of the table lifts out and a copper pit in the middle can be used either as a firepit or as an ice bucket for drinks. It is an exquisite spot to watch the sun set.
Further along, on the flagstone and river-rock path around the house, is a flower bed and formal fountain.
"There's a lot of interest now in small courtyards with water fountains," says Dennis Trost, co-owner of In Thee Garden, a division of Medford's Southern Oregon Nursery. "It works both with formal and informal gardens."
Off the master bedroom is another seating area with a hot tub and a wrought-iron outdoor set with a decorative vine-and-leaf design. Carin laughs when asked where she got the three lovely sets. "Costco, Target and Wal-Mart," she replies.
The yard looks like the perfect setting for parties. "Mostly we just have family gatherings," Carin says. "But at the end of the day it is just wonderful to come sit out here and just relax."