Note: Read Part I – Design Lessons from Portland's Yard, Garden & Patio Show

Rule #3: Create Places for People

Game table with Scrabble set

I completely understand people who create gardens primarily to enhance their home's appearance. That's not what L. Meyers Design had in mind when she crafted "Small Lot, Big Entertainment, Take 2" as their entry. She created a place for people. In addition to the contemporarily styled, toasty fireplace and nearby water cascade that brought sound and movement to the outdoor family room, she set the stage for comfortable and stimulating gatherings. I can attest that the Scrabble board was well used by lots of folks, and the cozy, curving banquette and dice-motif ottomans said, "stay a while."

Garden shed with dining table

Zipping back at Dee's "Come Alive Outside" garden, you can see the heart of the space – a rustically elegant garden shed with sit-down dining for six. The airy, framed structure is simple, protecting diners from the elements with a corrugated roof and salvaged, glazed window frames hung from beams at the side walls. When dinner is done, guests adjourn to the fireplace for conversation and viewing the night sky.

Rule #4: Plant Boldly

Block planting

Planting boldly isn't a universal rule for all garden styles, but if I had to choose between too much variety (the primary symptom of One-of-each-itis) or using larger quantities of fewer types, I'll take the latter. Treeline Designz did just that, as illustrated in this grid of variegated Fatsia flanked by a columnar form of juniper and trimmed with orderly strips of variegated grass and dwarf heavenly bamboo. This blocky approach is most appropriate in contemporary, strongly geometric gardens.

Kale and greens in mass plantings

But the idea of planting in masses works in "softer" styles – even in this eye-popping mass of kale and greens. A group of four designers collaborated as Abundant Nature Garden to create a raised bed that doesn't simply provide nutrition, but also draws the eye with its high-contrast combos. The lesson here: Don't overlook the potential for delicious, homegrown food as a visually satisfying feast.
(Collaborators: Plan-It Earth Design, River City Gardens, Annie Bam, and Design With Nature)

Take in a garden show while the season is in full swing and you'll be surprised how inspired you'll be.

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