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Carve Your Own Niche

Walking within Gabe Rice’s garden, a visitor gets a bit of the colorful and exotic: sculpture interspersed among beds accented by vibrant container plantings and specimen plants. When outdoor living spaces offer delightful features to uncover, time spent there becomes an adventure. A vine-covered arbor with a comfortable bench provides an oasis of peace and a place for quiet reflection. Water features muffle traffic or other noises. Gently melodic wind chimes offer soothing sounds.

“Gardens evolve; that’s what’s interesting about them, I think,” says Rice, owner of Renaissance Garden Ornaments. Rice’s outdoor space offers vistas and focal points, with quiet areas for reflection. His wisteria-covered pergola creates the perfect spot to rest and relax. Sinuously curving beds offer peek-a-boo views of other parts of the garden, inviting the visitor to take a closer look.

Terra cotta is a unifying theme for Rice, with planters and other features collected over time. “It’s not the only thing in my garden, but it’s the predominant theme,” he says. “Having related features provides cohesiveness and continuity to the yard, and helps make smoother transitions from one part to the other. You want to have elements of surprise, with areas that make you pause and reflect, that take you unaware.” Classic statuary, typically found in a formal setting, for example, can provide a lagniappe for the visitor to the casual garden.

A hidden grotto can offer a space for exploration or relaxation. Architect Rob Busch of Drawing Dept. designed one such private retreat for a client. The grotto, situated alongside a rambling creek, “offers a moment of repose in a kinetic landscape; a place to share a glass of wine with a friend,” Busch says. He developed a series of walking paths to traverse the heavily treed and steeply sloped site. Taking advantage of the natural setting, black flagstones were carefully placed to encourage the growth of moss in a shady terrace hidden from the rest of the property.

Another surprising bit of design plays itself out in a courtyard labyrinth created for a Drawing Dept. client in Fort Mitchell. This area provides a place for the family to play, a place for parties to expand and, at times, a place for reflection. “The home office looks out into the labyrinth, a source of centering and peace to counter the hectic requirements of everyday life,” Busch notes.

Nighttime can bring more surprises. Extend the garden’s use into the evening hours by employing pathway lighting and other illumination. Low-voltage or solar LED lights can provide lively accents. Lit walkways, step edges and down-lights from trees provide beautiful nighttime views of the garden and create interesting shadows that lend a little mystery to the landscape.