Through the Garden Gate: Imagine Your Outdoor Room With A View


I sometimes find myself on these hot summer days indulging in my imaginings of garden rooms nestled in the cooling woods or of quiet, restful habitats for the birds and butterflies in an area where a large, 250 year old live oak stands sentinel, whispering of previous generations of birds sharing her boughs. There is joy and inspiration to be found in these ramblings of the imagination. Ideas swim like fish in my mind and, at times, the whimsical and amusing images find their way out of my mind and into my garden.

Recently, my husband and I fashioned a simple garden room without walls that began with my musings of relocating a very heavy birdbath that we have had for many decades. This birdbath comes with a tangible sense of history. Over the years, it has watered hundreds of birds in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and survived Katrina intact. After our move to Daphne, it had been relegated to a rather obscure area of our backyard where we seldom got a glimpse of it.

One day I decided that it was time to relocate it to an open area outside of our bedroom window so that we would have more opportunity to birdwatch. And so it became the centerpiece of a wall-less bird nook, framed by a white arbor providing climbing structure for our growing Katrina rose.

With the addition of whimsical wooden birds, hanging flowering plants and taller shrubs, we now have a room with a view of birds landing on perches above the birdbath. Of course, an array of bird feeders, a steppingstone walkway for humans and a large garden flag add their charm and purpose to our new creation. We had to be careful as we designed the area not to block the blue of the bay, perfectly framed by our bay window.

Our bird nook garden room continues to grow-more plants, more bird feeders, a wind chime or two and, just yesterday, my husband toted home a neighbor's trash chair-missing its rockers but just perfect for a perch for a flowering plant near the birdbath.

We all need spaces of our own for respite born in the imagination--places to escape to-to just sit, relax and be. In the busy-ness of life, it might be a good idea to spend some "idling time" imagining a room without walls in your backyard-a place where you, your family and wildlife flock to gather. Your front yard could be included, as well.

Outdoor rooms can become important features in your landscape-large or small-as your available space allows. Stone pathways, fences and rock walls all can contribute to delineating the spaces. We bordered our bird nook garden room with large pieces of driftwood and rocks that charmingly separate the area from the rest of the yard.

Pergolas and arbors can provide doorways and entrances from one garden room or area to the next. Stone or brick patios, patches of grass or straw, or beds of gravel can become area rugs on the "floors" of your outdoor rooms. Scattered tables and chairs-the more rustic, the better- can form informal outdoor dining rooms, while sofas and benches can beckon human visitors. A fire pit and tree stumps for chairs and side tables will extend outdoor living on into the cooler months.

Simply imagine what you would love to see and experience in your own outdoor area-then make it happen. Rock and flower gardens, fountains and other water features, rain gardens and dry creek beds can provide thriving habitats for both plant and animal communities, as well as places the children in your life would love to explore.

An existing tree house or garden shed can provide the beginnings for your personalized outdoor room. Themed habitat areas such as songbird, pollinator, hummingbird or butterfly help attract the wildlife that enriches our lives and keeps us connected to the natural world. Kitchen or herb garden rooms can offer hours of pleasure for the cook in the family.

Include swings and rustic benches that whisper, "Come sit awhile." Casual and rustic materials already around your yard help to provide for a comfortable respite. As you enjoy planning, consider using natural materials that are friendly to the environment. Take note of how rainwater flows in your yard and how your house stands in relation to the sun and work with nature rather than against it. For example, creating a rain garden or water feature in a natural drainage area that is already present would make the area more enjoyable. Salvaged and re-purposed furniture (like my salmon pink neighbor's discarded chair) can be used in any number of ways. You are the designer, the planner, the artist and the architect here-the space will reflect your desires.

Why not bring a bit of your imagination and ideals out of hiding and into your backyard spaces? There is joy and inspiration to be found in your own personal imagined rooms, where life is enjoyed outdoors in spaces of your own design.