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Rose Décor in the Garden

by Barbara Gordon, Santa Clara County Rose Society

Award of Merit 2006 winner

We all want a beautiful rose garden. Additional décor will increase the attractive appearance of your roses and your garden, especially in winter during the dormant growing season. What can we add to our rose gardens to give it charm, beauty, extra color and design?

The permanent structures or HARDSCAPES of our rose garden has to be considered first. Are the fences, walls, steps, paths or sidewalks going to remain, be replaced or added to, to give better access the roses? Do you want an extra trellis, an arbor, a gate, lighting fixtures, an obelisk, a pillar, an arch or a terrace?

What we walk upon is very important. Especially as we age the walkways need to be sturdy, level and even. The PATHS or SIDEWALKS can be brick, cement, slate or sandstone slabs. If small rocks or bark are used, an edging material may be needed to confine them to the walkway.

Tall structures in the rose garden add height and interest, as well as color.  A TRELLIS is made up of a frame of light strips of wood or metal crossing one another with open spaces in between (lattices have very small spaces). PILLARS are made of stone, wood or metal and are in a column, as strong and upright, slender structures. ARCHES are curved structures capable of bearing the weight of the material above it.  An OBELISK is a tapering four-sided tall structure usually shaped like a pyramid (like the Washington Monument). A PERGOLA is an arbor made by using post supports with a trellis appearance. Climbing roses on these tall, usually permanent structures look gorgeous when blooming. (ABOVE: Photo by Rita Perwich)

If WATER PONDS (natural), POOLS (still water), FOUNTAINS or WATERFALLS are desired, they usually achieve a restful atmosphere, but much planning is needed to install them with rocks and cement. Pots with water lilies are just as attractive as a pond with water lilies, and they can be placed in a small corner of the rose garden in a permanent location.


Attracting birds to our gardens is very beneficial because they eat the bad bugs. By having BIRD BATHS, BIRD FEEDERS, and BIRD HOUSES, our feathered friends will sing, enjoy our roses and live in our gardens.


TORCHES or LANTERNS can add functional charm to our garden décor, whether they are just for ornamentation, or whether they are actual lights. A lighted driveway may be necessary if there are no streetlights in your neighborhood.


Patio or outdoor FURNITURE can be made of wood, metal, or plastic. Tables, chairs, and benches are always a useful addition to our patio and garden.


WEATHER OBJECTS such as a thermometer, a sundial (shows the time of day by the shadow cast by the sun), a rain gauge (measures rainfall), or a weather vane (shows which way the wind is blowing) can aid the gardener as well as enhance the rose garden.


WHIRLIGIGS, WIND SCULPTURES or moving shapes that whirl, twirl or spin in the wind will add movement, color and interest, especially when the roses are not blooming. They may be hung from a tree or the eves of the house, or they may have their own stand or stick. My husband surprised me with a bird, where the wings go around in the wind. This bird is on a stick to be placed in the ground or in a pot.


GAZING BALLS in many colors including blue have become very popular in the last few years. They are usually placed on a pedestal stand of cement or a metal frame support. The balls come in various sizes, many reflect like a mirror showing off your beautiful roses.


ROCKS and STEPPING STONES can be placed at pertinent locations in the garden. Large boulders may even be used for seating and children love to play on and around them. There are many fancy decorated stepping-stones that depict animals, have artistic mosaic features or are in creative shapes.


One of my favorite rose garden accessories are the HOSE GUIDES or guards to be placed on the sidewalk corners, so the hoses when pulled will not smash the miniature roses that are planted on the sidewalk borders. The prettiest hose guides are gold-colored cast-iron in the shape of roses.

TOPIARIES or plants trimmed or clipped into imaginative or ornamental shapes or animal sculptures are a great addition to a pot or rose garden. Boxwood, juniper, ivy, myrtle or any small-leafed bush or vine will adapt to a creative topiary.


Colorful POTS or CONTAINERS, whether empty or filled with roses or other flowers and plants can be an elegant extra for the garden. The color of the pot can be the same as the color of the house, the furniture or the flowers that were planted in it. Even plant stands of plastic, rod iron or wood can add design to the pot and the garden. Hanging pots outside usually will endure in chain hangers. My husband dipped the chain hangers that I made in a bucket of our house paint, so they are not rusting and hold the pots very securely. Usually macramé hangers will not last outside for more than one year; they are best for indoor use.


BASKETS for potted plants or as decorations are good warm weather additions for the patio or porch. Even hanging baskets create a pleasing container for a special plant.


WALL or FENCE HANGINGS can beautify a dull, brown fence. Metal sculptures of animals, a sun, or modern art can give life to a winter garden. Pots of geraniums, succulents or other low water maintenance plants hanging from a fence or wall can add color, interest and solve the lack of space for the plants in your garden. The only problem might be the watering—hand watering or drip irrigation will be the answer.


A MINIATURE OUTDOOR RAILROAD with miniature plants is a fantastic sight to see. Both children and adults love trains, and the creation of a mini-railroad town is definitely a work of art. Whether you have the railroad small with four-inch tracks or wider with around one-foot train track to actually carry small people, space is needed. The small passenger train in the garden in San Carlos actually goes all around the house. The three San Diego miniature trains that I saw are built at a three or four-foot high level or at ground level next to the rose garden.


Planting and caring for a MINIATURE FAIRY GARDEN in a large container (wooden or ceramic) is a delightful, fun activity for a child to participate in while learning about plants, dirt, weather and the care of living things. Good for a young child is to plant a mini rose or a succulent garden of 12 ‘hens and chicks’ in the shape of their first initial of their name with you. It is a great experience also to care for these plants (My granddaughter especially loved watering the plants with a sprinkling can).


SMALL ADORNMENT ITEMS added to beautify the rose garden or pots are enjoyable to see. Mushrooms, metal, plastic or ceramic animals (butterflies, birds), flowers including roses, as well as sprinkling cans, and a few garden tools will add to your rose garden décor.


STATUES and SCULPTURES can be a focal point in the garden. Sculptural carvings or modeling of figures in wood, stone, clay and marble, or welding or casting in bronze the figurines look elegant. Statues can be a special feature in the rose garden, framed by a climbing rose or located between colorful bushes.


The garden ornamental features should be used with discretion. Too many decorations may not be attractive. Their design and placement should be carefully considered. Many arches, pergolas and gazebos need a large space for maximum beauty. Color of the ornament or decoration is also an important factor to think about. Placement of objects of interest such as pillars or sculptured figures is important. A focal point of a sundial, birdbath, urn or pot, seat, bench or a pool will be charming. May you have fun arranging creative and beautiful décor in your rose garden!


Originally from The Rose Leaf, Santa Clara County Rose Society, 2006


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