Although most people evaluate the success of a landscape development in terms of the selection and condition of the plant materials, most really well-designed landscapes contain a good balance of construction and plant materials.
Carefully designed and executed paved surfaces, fences, walls, overhead structures and edging materials are not only attractive but also reduce routine maintenance. If possible, when selecting building materials for the landscape, repeat materials and colors already used on the home. Weathered wood, natural stains, concrete and earth tones in brick will usually blend with existing construction materials and relate to the natural environment.
Landscape accessories are details which may have no functional purpose, such as surfacing or enclosure, but do have definite visual effects. Accessories also help express individual tastes and preferences. Major accessories, however, should not be afterthoughts; they should be planned as the design evolves. Accessories add character and dimension to a garden, but poorly selected and placed accessories may spoil an otherwise well designed landscape.
Many landscape accessories are available. Much of what is available, however, has little or no aesthetic value. To determine whether or not to use an accessory in the garden, ask yourself these questions:
Does it have practical use?
Is it beautiful in itself?
Does it fit or relate to the overall landscape design?
Probably the most important of these three questions is the last one.
Garden furniture offers a real opportunity to add utility, color and beauty to the landscape. Comfortable and attractive items are now available in a wide variety of low maintenance outdoor furniture. Outdoor furniture must be large enough to be practical and must be in scale with its surroundings. Built-in furniture has the added value of being permanently in place and enhancing the overall design. Occasionally the surface of a retaining wall or raised planter can serve as a seating area. The living terrace is the most usual place for outdoor furniture. An interesting piece of driftwood, tree roots or limbs, boulders or rocks provide interesting substitutes for good sculpture. These items are easily blended with the design and may be readily available.
Birdbaths are often used in home landscapes. To be useful they should be shallow, not exceeding 1 1/2 inches in depth, and contain fresh water. Bird houses and feeders should also be selected on the criteria discussed earlier.
Other accessories, such as stained glass, relief sculpture, outdoor chandeliers and plant containers are finding their way into the well-designed landscape. A stained glass window, partially enclosed in an outdoor area, or a burning outdoor chandelier may be added for interest, illumination and possible insect-repelling qualities. Hanging or conventional container plants can add a great deal of interest. With the current trend to return to natural materials and handmade workmanship there is an almost limitless variety of accessories available for our use. The temptation to "overdo" has never been greater. Like other fine things, garden accessories should be used with considerable restraint.
Outdoor lighting can add a great deal to the attractiveness and usefulness of the landscape. Specialists often recommend two separate lighting systems: one for functional and safety purposes and another designed to be beautiful and interesting. Dimmers, low voltage units and other special lighting equipment have become popular and add versatility to outdoor lighting. When placing outdoor lighting for beauty only the effects of lighting should be seen; the source or fixtures are usually hidden in the ground or in tree branches.
Good landscaping is a major investment in time and money. Many people feel that they obtain double enjoyment by including well designed outdoor lighting to increase the hours of pleasure from their outdoor environment.