Gardens make any house look better and more approachable, but there is something about gardens and old houses that just seem to go hand in hand. I think it may be that old houses offer flexibility that contemporary homes do not.
Contemporary homes use whatever materials that are in style, which makes sense. If you go into a new subdivision there is a good chance that most, if not all, the homes will look very similar – both in architecture and landscaping.
There are fewer limitations of this type in older neighbourhoods. Because of the mix of architectural styles you get a lot of variety in gardens and landscaping. A 100- year- old Edwardian house can look great with formal gardens, as was the style back then, but country gardens were popular too.
Our yard is a case in point. We chose the less formal route and have quite a mix of styles. From cottage to funky, from more formal to informal.
In the front yard we broke old sidewalk blocks into various sizes to construct a curving, loose wall that helps to disguise the squareness of the yard. Recycling old sidewalk blocks is good for the environment and they are perfect to use to create a more informal look. The best blocks to use are the ones that are rough – those with rocks exposed on one side. The more imperfect, the better.
Exposed bricks and old wood (left to turn grey or painted in a cheerful colour) are other materials that work well with informal gardens. Anything made of wicker or twig also looks good – regardless of its condition. I have a twig armchair that has outlived its life as a place to sit but it looks appealing under a big old spruce tree in the front yard.
Whimsical touches in our space include (but are not limited to) a collection of bird houses (including two that my dad built) statues and old signs. Naked fences are a perfect backdrop for signs that are colourful. Don’t put your valuable antique signs out there, though. Keep those protected and use reproductions as decoration.
Let your individuality show through by pulling out some strange and wonderful things that may have absolutely nothing to do with gardens. When organized in a creative way, these objects inject personality into any garden.
What kinds of things do you do in your garden to show off your creativity?