A mature-looking cottage garden
Dominique Vorillon

Better With Age

You don't have to wait as long as you might think to get the mature, lush look that usually requires time and toil.

From instant fixes, such as adding vintage garden furniture and large planters, to weekend projects like growing moss and finding weathered stone for walls and paths, you can transform your youthful landscape into a cozy, seasoned space.

Arbor framing a red door
Dominique Vorillon

Train Fast-Growing Climbers

Ever walk by an old house sheathed in vines? The look says, "I've been here a hundred years." Age a structure in your garden with climbers that'll scramble all over it.

6 Good Climbers
- Wisteria floribunda 'Carnea'
- Hydrangea anomala subsp. Periolaris
- Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

Or, grow perennial tropicals as annuals:
- Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia elegans)
- Trumpet vine (Campsis redicans)
- Chilean glory flower (Eccremocarpus scaber)

Blooming ground cover in the shade
Dominique Vorillon

Fill in the Blanks

Low-growing plants cloak the earth like a soft carpet, hiding bare ground sure to give away your garden's newness. Ground covers grow easily if you choose what's right for your climate and avoid anything too invasive.

For recommendations, check with your local nursery or Cooperative Extension office to find an office near you. Creeping red thyme, acre sedum, plumbago, and creeping phylox do well in sun to part shade. In shade to part shade, try sweet woodruff, vinca 'Bowles,' and pachysandra 'Green Carpet.'

Mature plants give a garden a sense of place
Dominique Vorillon

Include Mature Specimens

Nothing looks old like, well, something old. While most plants in a newly planted garden will be young and small, consider splurging on some trees and shrubs that have been around a while. It's true, they're more expensive than their younger siblings, but they're worth it for effect.

A full thick, hedge or a shade tree with outspread limbs establishes your garden, giving it a richer identity and sense of place. Many nurseries offer mature plants to meet customer demand, but if you hve trouble finding what you're looking for, ask your local garden center for leads on mature-plant specialists in your area.

An overplanted garden looks established
Dominique Vorillon


A view of bare soil makes a garden look unestablished. To avoid the immature look, mass annuals -- plenty of them -- close together. By doubling or tripling the number of plants you'd normally put in a bed or border, the garden fills in quickly. If your using perennials, however, give them more room so they don't have to compete for space and nutrients.

Moss-covered garden path
Dominique Vorillon

Encourage Moss Growth

In damp, shade niches, moss works wonders to put a grown-up face on a new garden. Here, mosses between pavers are filling in nicely, make the stones look as if they've been around forever. Over the years, moss will grow naturally where it is welcome -- namely, in damp places with poor soil.

You can encourage it to spead more quikly by making a moss shake: Combine 12 ounces beer or buttermilk, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and a few clumps of moss in a blender, and puree. Paint the mixture thickly on damp, shady surfaces such as rocks, bases of tree trunks, we terra-cotta pots, and other spots that would look better with a coat of green. Keep the area moist by misting it daily; in a few months moss will appear.

lily pond
Dominique Vorillon

Make a Lily Pond

Whether you install a pond, reflecting pool, or fountain, the addition of water plants fools the eye into believing the feature has been there long enough to attract plant life, just as it would in the wild.

Water lillies, water grasses, irises, and lotus plants are some of the hundreds of options available -- visit your local garden center, or shop online at lilyblooms.com.

Choose water plants that come in slit plastic growing baskets: These containers float, and the soil holds all the necessary nutrients. Simply place the containers in the water and watch as the plants spread over the the coming months.

Antique garden chair
Dominique Vorillon

Add Garden Antiques

Start shopping flea markets and estate sales for vintage ornament and antique pottery and garden furniture -- you'll be surprised at what you find.

You can also take a short course: Read Antique Garden Ornament, Two Centuries of American Taste, by Barbara Isreal (Abrams, 1999). As you learn about American and European garden pottery, statuary, seating, fountains, and tile, you'll develop an eye for styles that suit your taste and wallet.

Weathered patio stones
Dominique Vorillon

Use Reclaimed Materials

Forget about newly cut quarry rock or manufactured landscape block. Find old materials by keeping your eye on other people's property -- you could get lucky and discover an old stone wall or brick chimney that the owner no longer wants. Ask and you may be able to get the goods for a reasonable price.

If you must buy 'new' from a stone yard, look for pieces with rounded edges, the sign they've been smoothed by water or wind for a few thousand years.

A big palm in a big planter
Dominique Vorillon

Fill Planters With Big Plants

Large planters amply filled with blooming seasonal flowers, small flowering trees, or mature foilage plants anchor a garden, especially if placed in the right spots.

The grandeur of potted trees marking the corners of a patio, for example, brings not only distinction but also a sense of age to a space. Compare large specimens in old or old-looking terra-cotta containers to annuals in plastic planters and the advantage becomes clear.

Wood fence, arbor and gate
Dominique Vorillon

Welcome Patina on Wood

Left to nature's devices, unfinished hardwood furniture and fencing kept outdoors develop a grayish patina over time. As alternatives to endangered teak, other hardwoods are available for outdoor use.

Look for pieces constructed with jarrah, eucalyptus, courbaril, and cedar. Rather than treating the furniture with oil to preserve its color, let weather have its way.

Printed From: