The Fine Print: Outdoor Accents

The right accessories can add a touch of class to just about anything. And homes and gardens are no exception. Enhancing your outdoor space doesn’t have to be complicated or involve hiring a special maintenance crew for upkeep. Just keep the fun in function. To keep a garden always within view, think about adding a window box. “A window box just makes going into your house so much more fun,” says Laurie Humpreys of the eponymous Laurie Humphreys Landscape Design in Haverford. Since the 2000 Republican National Convention, when there was an excitement to beautify the city with window boxes, Humphreys says that people are using plants they love.

Today, tropical and subtropical plants and big, bold foliage are the focus, especially at Chanticleer Garden, Longwood Gardens and Morris Arboretum, she says. These plants also fare very well in the Philadelphia region’s hot summer climate.

As for the window box itself, Humph-reys suggests a hayrack, a sturdy metal basket that mounts easily into the wall and can hold up to 30 pounds, available at Waterloo Gardens in Devon. “You can put practically a whole garden in it, and you don’t have to water it as much,” she says.

While more pets are getting the royal treatment, some canines are getting a little outdoor space of their own. The traditional barn-style doghouse with a pitched roof is most popular among PETsMART customers in Plymouth Meeting, says store director Steve Templeton, who recommends plastic doghouses instead of wood. “It’s actually better for the dog because [the plastic] is more durable and the dog is less likely to chew through it,” he says. For the unconventional homeowner with pet in tow, PETsMART also sells round plastic doghouses resembling igloos to keep Fido warm in winter and cool in summer.

For outdoor furniture, cast aluminum is the material of choice. “The elegance, quality, durability and timeless designs of cast aluminum distinguish the furniture from any other fabrication on the market today,” says Melissa, a designer at Seasons Hearth and Patio, Inc., in Ivyland. At Seasons, the Cast Classics collection offers cast aluminum furniture in more than 10 different colors with coordinating fabrics.

Also at Seasons, there is a shift from glass-top tables to cast-top or marble. “These designs are very unique, and their durability means less potential for damage—and thus, less work for the consumer,” says Melissa.

Think about welcoming the first robins or bluebirds of spring with a birdhouse. “Everybody has a different idea of what will make their yard look prettier,” says Marsha Pearson, owner of Wild Bird Center in Willow Grove. Many people opt for stylized birdhouses made of cypress wood and embellished with copper. The fancy nest boxes can be pole-mounted in a garden or hung from a tree, pole or fence.

“Think about how you want it to look in your yard and then think about what type of birds you’d like to attract,” says Pearson. You may create an environment that will have birds flocking to your back yard … house wrens, sparrows, chickadees, woodpeckers and maybe even a bluebird or two.