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POV: Unusual garden structures add interest

The writer is a community educator with the Albany County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

If you are searching for an addition to your garden that is a step up from the ho-hum gnome or plaque, look to the past for inspiration. The grand gardens of the world reveal several items that might work in your outdoor space. If you have a large garden area, consider the pergola. A room without walls, the pergola can be attached to another structure or free standing. It is used to create an outdoor room and to separate areas of the garden. It offers the opportunity to introduce the vertical dimension with vines or climbing roses so the garden extends overhead, providing shade below.

The arbor and the trellis also add the vertical but for large areas, the scale and drama of the pergola is a better fit.

The obelisk is an upright garden feature that can mark an entrance to a garden area, form the middle of a formal bed or “parterre” or it can stand within a border for architectural interest especially in the winter. Dating back to Egyptian times, the obelisk was originally fashioned of huge blocks of stone formed into upright pointed shafts that flanked the entrance to the temples. Today our obelisks bask in the sunshine of the mixed border and are made of metal or wood. Small versions are made to sit on top of large pots to support vines.

Hedges are often used to block a view or to create a space within a garden but in a small space a “fedge” or a “wattle” may be the perfect answer. A fedge is a hybrid of a fence and a hedge. It starts with some type of framework over which a climbing plant is grown. The results are faster than planting a hedge and the height is easier to control. The idea is to have the framework covered by the plant material. In England, the fedge is enjoying a revival as a living willow sculpture. Willow cuttings are used as decorative fencing, arbors and such and as the willow roots and grows leaves, it becomes a living fence or whatever the gardener needs it to be but always it is a marriage of the practical and the ornamental.

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