Saturday, May 15, 2021
May 15, 2021

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Take your garden to the next level with these simple tips

The Columbian

The flower beds are finished, the vegetables are growing, and yet something could be missing from the backyard landscape: That wow factor.

Homeowners can transform an ordinary looking landscape with some imagination, design, and perhaps the help of a local agriculture extension service, landscape professional or private nursery.

“A garden is really never finished,” said Jonathan M. Lehrer, chairman of the Department of Urban Horticulture and Design at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, N.Y. “Sometimes the most difficult thing is kind of taking that plunge and deciding you’re going to develop an area or start a project.”

Some ideas that gardeners can use to start taking their yards to another level:


An arbor, pergola, lattice — even posts with netting wrapped around them — will grab attention, especially at a yard’s entrance. It also adds height where homeowners normally think only about length and width, Lehrer said.

Adding clematis, climbing roses or honeysuckle along them will provide long periods of blooms.


A path with mulch, gravel, brick, pavers or flagstone with edging will encourage a stroll. Lehrer suggests avoiding a straight, linear pathway.

“Trying to use more curves, twists and turns, that kind of adds the illusion of a longer length than it might be, that mystery of what might be around the next corner,” he said.

Pinney said the choice of pavers should reflect the architectural style of the house. But mixing materials, such as brick and flagstones, adds visual interest.

“In short, use your imagination!” Pinney said.


Benches and tables are a must for homeowners wanting to make their yards a hangout. Having limited room shouldn’t be a deterrent.

Pinney said she designs numerous small gardens because the old bungalow neighborhoods in her area have narrow but deep lots.

“Dividing that narrow space into rooms makes the garden seem larger,” she said.

Pinney and Lehrer suggest building a fire pit, a cooking area, or a place for dining or simply to enjoy morning coffee.


Landscaping timbers can create tiered walls and stairs to bridge elevation levels in the backyard while creating more planting beds in between. They’re also great for creating individual planters. Timbers are available in both natural and synthetic types.

Pinney said treated lumber secured with timber screws is best for terraces, but not for vegetable gardens.


Depending on the climate and sun requirements, consider planting small trees along the edges.

Japanese tree lilacs and crape myrtles provide vibrant summer color. Trees with spring blooms include redbuds, white and pink dogwoods, flowering crabapples, ornamental pears and star magnolias.

For northern climates, Lehrer suggests the cornelian cherry dogwood. It has yellow flowers in the spring and red cherry-like fruit in late summer and early fall. The leaves turn red and orange in the fall, and as the tree ages, the outer bark peels, revealing a orange-brown color.