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Added interest; Gnome alone? Well-chosen garden accents can make a yard come alive

Just as fashionistas have learned that the right accessories make an outfit, gardeners know the importance of ornamentation. Chosen well, outdoor accents and we stress the word accents -- make a garden quite special.

They can add a touch of whimsy or humor. Help pull together elements in your overall design. Even create memories, especially when children enter the picture. Whether your style preference is earthy or vibrant, sophisticated or wildly whimsical, there are garden pieces to suit your taste. You'll find them at nurseries and gift shops, and many more at craft shows and art festivals. Supermarkets and garage sales can have surprising items.

The most clever among us will see them in objects never intended to go in the garden. An old door frame, for instance. It's called repurposing, people!

And let's face it: This stuff is tempting. Dazzling gazing balls. Darling statuary. Watering cans in every color under the sun with accessories to match.

Wander through the decorative merchandise in any gardening department and you're likely to forget that what you really came for was grass seed.

Each season has its trends, especially in statuary. This year fairies and frogs are coming on strong. And while gnomes continue to plant themselves in garden beds, owls will be keeping an eye on things from above (on garden stakes) to below (on stepping stones).

"Frogs are crazy big again," agreed Wendy Zuch of Zittel's Country Market, 4415 Southwestern Boulevard, Hamburg.

Back, too, are garden flags -- in vibrant colors and designs, she said.

Interest in creating fairy gardens continues to grow, Zuch said. There is fairy statuary, of course, but people also are designing fairy gardens in containers or terrariums with miniature furniture, little pathways and other tiny gardening items.

Among the other things Zuch noted: New designs in wind chimes. Eye-catching birdhouses. Touches of glam in the garden, such as planters shaped like high heels. Beautiful pots -- often vibrant and with unique details, such as angled sides or wavy edges.

One thing is clear: You can go very low-key with your garden decor -- earth tones often with a copper or bronze finish -- but also very bright, even glitzy.

Contemporary design comes to the garden in materials such as stainless steel, said Guy Berberich, home and garden decor manager at Menne Nursery and Garden Artistry, 3100 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst.

Looking for other ideas on how to pull it all together? Be sure to check out the upcoming local garden walks and tours, where you will see garden decor that you like. And some that you don't.

Local florist John M. Hochadel, a longtime participant in Garden Walk Buffalo (July 28 and 29 this year), also offered some pointers:

The first: "Don't overdo it. People sometimes put out so much it just looks cluttered," said Hochadel, who owns Flowers etc., 387 Franklin St.

"Placement also is important," he continued.

Don't put a decorative piece where it will get lost once the plants around it grow, Hochadel said. Nor do you want to randomly place it in a location where visitors will stop and wonder, "Why is this here?"

Flip through a gardening book or visit a charming garden and you're likely to see a stone rabbit peeking out from behind a shrub -- just as a live one might. Or a frog posing by a pond. The placement should make sense -- and delight, even surprise, visitors.

"Everything should blend in -- and it should have some magic. When something works, it just works," Hochadel said.

Illumination can enhance the effect. "I notice that people are doing more lighting, which can make a big difference -- especially if you use your yard at night and entertain out there. When you use a spotlight on a fountain or statue, it makes a big statement," he said.

And while you will indeed be tempted by all that is new in garden decor, here is a final piece of advice:

"Buying something you like is a good thing, but make sure you have a spot for it," Hochadel said.

That advice goes beyond the summer months. If it's a piece that can't be left out in the winter, he said, make sure you have a place to store it.