Whatever your budget or garden style, you can group together plants or garden ornaments — or both — and create wonderful focal points in your yard for summer and even year-round visual appeal.
"My favorite tools for creating focal points in the garden include specimen trees, water features, arbors, boulder grouping, and even seating arrangements," explains Kerry KenCairn, owner of KenCairn Landscape Architecture in Ashland.
A decorative gateway and arbor combination is one example of combining different elements for a strong visual effect. "By combining an arbor or trellis with a climbing vine or plant, the trellis is almost totally obscured in the spring and summer by foliage and flowers only to be on its own through the fall and winter," KenCairn adds. Adding the right bench or water feature enhances the look.
"Sometimes, planting just one specimen tree or plant, such as a Japanese maple, yellow barked dogwood or contorted filbert, can make a dramatic statement," says Patricia Carbone, sales manager at Valley View Nursery in Ashland. "These trees are visually appealing all year in different ways."
The deciduous maple's leaves turn red in fall, the dogwood features colorful bark, and the sculptured branches of the leafless filbert are visually appealing during the winter months, Carbone explains. Combining one of these trees with a low-growing conifer and a perennial such as heuchera or fern creates a year-round focal point.
Flowers, including perennials, annuals, bulbs and tubers, can be planted together for maximum visual appeal by coordinating colors, sizes, even bloom time. A great example is to plant summer-long blooming dahlias with such annuals as marigolds, snapdragons, or low-growing lobelia, either combining complementary colors or using all the same color for a bolder visual impact.
Garden ornaments can be combined by color, texture and theme, such as one that reflects a favorite animal or collection. Most nurseries carry a variety of garden décor and furniture, water features, and bird baths, with a great selection in the early summer months. In this summer season of garage sales and flea markets, vintage and "gently used" garden items including outdoor furniture can be more easily acquired at bargain prices.
One method of grouping plants that works well on a small deck or even a large yard is container planting. "Potting up different plants in plastic containers that can then be placed in heavier ceramic or metal planters makes it easier to change groupings without having to move large pots around," Carbone explains. "Containers lend themselves to groupings, either by contrasting colors or textures, or both," she says, adding that even in a bigger garden, container plantings can serve as strong focal points by breaking up large spaces.
When determining which plants to use in your garden groupings, be mindful of soil, light, and watering requirements, especially in the hot and dry Rogue Valley summers. Decide what mood you'd like to have in your garden, be it calming and serene, dramatic and bold, bright and cheery, or whimsical. Decide on the colors, plants and trees you enjoy the most. Above all, remember that it's your garden and you should plant what you love. Ultimately, it's a very personal choice.