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  • Two modern-style ceramic containers create a frame that directs the eye to the Chinese bell arbor. The contrasting color and style of the pots and arbor creates visual tension and a sense of intrigue. Designer: Vanessa Nagel. Photo by: Janet Loughrey.
  • A lone teal pot off to one side gives an initial glimpse into the garden beyond. Another similarly hued container placed farther down the path draws the viewer into the landscape and lends continuity. Designer: Linda Ernst. Photo by: Janet Loughrey.
  • The placement of a tall burnt sienna vessel at the center of a gravel landing encourages visitors to pause and enjoy this narrow side yard. Splashes of orange and red in adjacent plants and garden art unifies the space. Designer: Susan Fries. Photo by: Janet Loughrey.
  • LEFT: This grouping of pots has greater impact than a single container, and ultimately draws attention to the glass water feature in the background. Designer: Linda Ernst. RIGHT: A classic terra-cotta urn is decorated with cheerful metal ribbon sculptures made by artist Marta Farris. Designer: Lucy Hardiman. Photos by: Janet Loughrey.
  • The vibrant complementary colors of a Mediterranean-style wall and a turquoise ceramic pot create a dynamic and visually exciting vignette. A jasmine-covered arbor frames the container, further directing the eye to the center. Designer: Sherry Sheng. Photo by: Janet Loughrey.

Accessorizing a garden is like decorating a home or choosing a new outfit. How a garden is adorned sets the tone and defines a space. To establish order, focal points are commonly used as part of basic garden design. A focal point is the anchor around which the rest of the garden is created. Mindful placement of plants and hardscaping enhances the visual organization of a landscape. A central subject lends continuity throughout the seasons as plants go in and out of bloom. Without something to focus on, the eye wanders, looking for a place to rest.

A focal point can be a foundation plant, gazebo, chair, water feature, statue or a piece of art. It acts as a calling card, the cue that invites viewers to explore the garden further.

Containers are commonly used as focal points and are equally effective whether planted or left empty. There are several factors to consider when choosing a pot. Color incites the mood; bold hues of yellow or red create drama and excitement, while cooler tones of blue and green are more serene. Selecting a pot with hues similar to a home’s exterior integrates the house with the landscape. A Craftsman or Victorian home is more suited to traditional urns, while a ranch or contemporary-style home is enhanced by modern planters.

The size and shape of a pot is also important. A large container works well in most spaces, while smaller pots have more impact when grouped together. A tall, slender vessel evokes elegance and adds height, while a short container leads the eye through a scene.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to placement. A container that’s situated at the center of a landing causes the viewer to pause and enjoy the immediate surroundings. One or two pots placed at an entrance entices visitors to move further into the garden.

Ultimately, selecting and siting a container is a subjective personal decision. The right pot in the right place can transform even the most mundane space into something extraordinary.

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