Yard & Garden: Creating outdoor structures

By Tom Dominguez

The total gardening experience usually includes a variety of plants ranging from ground covers to towering trees, winged creatures, water features and art to name a few. Garden structures and hardscaping also contribute in a big way to the garden experience making the outside environment more comfortable and relaxing.

Gardens are for people, so they benefit from some structures to modify the environment, direct traffic, attract the eye and provide paths to move around in the garden. These structures add greatly to the enjoyment of the garden in terms of relaxing, viewing, enjoying, recreating and entertaining in the garden.

Fall is a great time for planning and installing garden features and structures into the garden. The weather is nice, tree roots are actively growing so they recover from minor disturbances quicker and there is time from other garden chores. When it comes to garden structures and hardscaping, there is a wide range of types and styles to consider. Pergolas, arbors, hardscaping, focal features, sculpture, statuary and even water features are a few things to consider for your landscape.

Pergola and arbor designs are very similar, but there are some differences. Garden arbors tend to be simple, relatively small structures that often have an arch at the top. Pergolas are usually larger structures that can have more substantial architectural treatment, such as masonry columns to bear some significant roofing. Pergolas can be made of masonry, wood, metal or a combination of materials and colors.

Pergolas, arbors and trellising are often built for, embellished or enhanced with vines or climbing roses. Deciduous vines can provide additional shade for the hot summer months, but drops its leaves in the winter to take advantage of the warm sun rays during the cooler months.

Garden arches can serve to guide visitors in, around and out of the garden. They also allow you to add vertical elements to the space.
Roses, flowering vines and evergreen vines can all be grown on these structures. Arches add vertical structure to the garden, which adds interest to the garden as well as creating distinct areas in the landscape. When working in an established garden space, the design of any new structure should blend in with the house, garden, natural setting and elements already in place.

Select textures and colors that match the surroundings. Also, think about which pieces work best with the plants you want to grow.
Obelisks, pillars and teepees can also add height and interest as well as serve as a good way to display climbing plans. Structures can also help with screening off undesirable views or service areas of the garden.

Lattice works well or sections of fencing to screen off service areas or the view next door.

Hardscaping is another very important element in the garden. Garden paths can be intriguing as well as serviceable. Paths make viewing, visiting and working in the garden much easier. Some of the materials you could use to create paths include decomposed granite, grass clippings, pine needles, brick or concrete pavers, stamped concrete, wood and gravel. Concrete can also be used but think about exposed aggregates or leaves pressed into the surface as well as concrete tinting color. Hardscaping is equally important for the floor of patio, seating and working areas. The same type of materials could be used as mentioned above. One other great material is wood for decking.

So, take advantage of the beautiful fall weather to start your fall garden project.

Tom Dominguez is an agent with the Quay County Extension, NMSU Extension Service. He can be reached by e-mailing tdomingu@nmsu.edu or calling 461-0562.