Making the most of corners – by Diane Morey Sitton

A rose-covered arbor beckons visitors to this sunny corner. All images by Diane Morey Sitton.

With garden design, it’s easy to become so focused on the big picture that you overlook the potential of corners. But when you add purpose or decorative appeal to these under-utilized areas, you can maximize the space in small gardens, create intimate alcoves in large landscapes, and sculpt boxy backyards into gardens with depth and dimension. Moreover, the new features render gardens more inviting than before.

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Garden décor, plants and collectibles fill this side-yard space. Click image for larger view.

A simple way to transform a corner into an exciting garden feature is to treat it like a vignette, i.e., a small picture. By focusing on a single area, you keep the project small and manageable. Remember, the elements you add should complement each other and work together to achieve a unified effect.

For the ultimate makeover, transform a corner into a garden room. Click image for larger view.

Start by assigning purpose to the space. Do you want to attract wildlife? Could the space accommodate a bench or a small table? Is there enough light to grow sun-loving flowers or a miniature fruit tree? Could you use a potting area or extra storage space?

Make the most of challenging sites (like this asymmetrical corner beside a driveway) by showcasing plants and a decorative bird feeder.
Even tiny corners can have a big impact.

You also need to assess how the site interacts with the space around it. You may not want to install a reflection pool or establish a sitting area if an overhanging tree sheds foliage and fruit. Likewise, a hammock tucked into a hideaway won’t offer respite if it’s beside the neighbor’s dog run.

Fill a corner with shrubs and flowering plants to add dimension to landscapes. Click image for larger view.

Easy makeovers
By their very nature, corners invite creativity. Follow your own design or use one of the ideas below.
Container garden. Enliven a lackluster corner by creating a container garden. Showcase the containers by placing them on a bed of gravel. Create height in back by growing shrubs or ornamental grasses in large pots. Place colorful bedding plants in small- and medium-sized containers in front of the large pots. Sunny corners call for pentas, geranium and periwinkle. Shady sites beckon begonia, impatiens and ferns.

Add a bench and garden art to a backyard corner and you’ve created a retreat.

Sitting area. Establish a mini-retreat by surrounding a chair and small table with containers filled with fragrant plants. If the ground is damp or uneven, use pavers or stepping stones to build a floor. Create a path leading to the hideaway.
Wildlife refuge. Welcome birds and other wildlife with well-stocked feeders. Add a birdbath Plant berry-, seed-, or nectar-producing plants. Provide a perch.
Storage space. Situate a small tool shed in the corner. Surround it with plants, or soften its silhouette with a vine-covered trellis.

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Potting bench. Convert a corner in a fenced yard into a potting area by building a countertop or by filling the space with a primitive cabinet. Either way, utilize the fence above by adding shelves.
Window to the world. Increase light and ventilation in stuffy corners by cutting an opening in the fence and installing a window. Complete the project by adding shutters.
Mirror, mirror on the wall. Hang one or more mirrors on a corner fence to create the illusion of an ongoing garden.
Garden gallery. Fenced corners form a natural frame for statues and other large works of art. Put on a show by displaying outdoor paintings and garden décor on the fence.

Beautify a shady corner by adding a plant-filled birdbath. Surround it with plants. Click image for larger view.

Transforming a corner into a useful and decorative destination takes creative thinking. But often, it’s these small spaces that add personal expression and a sense of discovery to gardens.

Posted by Diane Morey Sitton
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