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Timeline Through Landscape Design

A blog to guide home gardeners with seasonal landscape improvements.
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Accenting Your Landscape with Colorful Structures


One current garden trend is using colorful structures as backdrops, frames, or focal points. A structure can be as simple as a trellis or painted ladder or may be more complex, like a vertical garden.

The easiest, most inexpensive way to incorporate color with a structure is to invest in some outdoor paint for an existing trellis, arbor, or fence. Be sure to prepare painting surfaces properly: allow wood to dry out; scrape, clean, and sand it; then apply a primer before finishing with your colorful paint. Avoid using highly toxic materials (e.g. pentachlorophenol and creosote) because they can damage plants.

Garden centers are also stocking more color options when it comes to trellises (as pictured here). These structures have been stained and will hold up slightly better in our climate. Storing a painted structure indoors for the winter helps preserve the paint, although vivid colors do add character to the winter landscape.

The color wheel should be your guide for choosing complementary colors, which sit across from each other on the wheel. Therefore, red complements green, orange complements blue, and yellow complements purple. Deeper colors are trendy right now; they are better options than paler choices because dirt smudges are not as visible. Blue is "in" this season and will most likely continue to be, considering there is such a lack of true blue in the plant world.

One idea for a more temporary structure is to paint large picture frames and place them in locations that accent certain plants. A customized, colorful vertical garden would certainly offer a topic of conversation, although expenses could be nearly $200 for something similar to the vertical "gutter garden" pictured here.

Choose structures based on shape, size, texture, and the spaces where they will be situated. Use structures sparingly—in a small garden, one is probably enough. A series of a few structures from the front to the back of the yard is another option. The repetition of having one structure in the front yard, one on the side, and one in the back helps connect places in your landscape and creates a sense of flow around your home.

Keep in mind that tastes and trends change; as colors fade on your structures, you can repaint with new colors to keep up with the ever-changing landscape. Be prepared for comments and conversation about your new structures, because people will notice them.


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