If you see your garage as just a place to park your car (or your junk), it's time to look at it from a different perspective. Garages and sheds can be an opportunity to create an attractive focal point in the garden.
The first step toward making peace with an intractable garage wall or garden shed is to abandon thoughts of disguising it with masses of ivy or other rampant vines. And drop the idea of dressing up a sagging metal shed with window boxes and a bird bath. Decorating a dilapidated structure simply draws more attention to it, like shouting, “Hey, look at my ugly shed!” It's best to accept its presence and incorporate it into your landscape. If it's truly an eyesore, take the money you'd spend on doodads and repair or replace the building.
However, even handsome garages and sheds need special landscaping to help them fit in. The photos on these pages show different approaches to two common scenarios: the blank garage wall facing into a garden and the free-standing garden shed.
Consider the structure
Avoid mixing architectural styles. Use building materials, finishes, hardware, doors and lighting that harmonize with your home. If your house is a contemporary ranch or formal brick Georgian, garages and sheds festooned with gingerbread trim, bent willow trellises, window boxes and shutters will look out of place. And structures painted in soft colours such as teal, sage, charcoal or taupe blend better with the surrounding landscape than stark white.
Blank walls call out for trellises, but many people add supports that are too small or place a tall, narrow trellis in the middle of a horizontal wall. Custom latticework isn't that much more expensive than ready-made ones and is often more durable. Grow vines with flexible, forgiving stems, such as honeysuckle or clematis, on supports that require repainting or staining. Sometimes trellises are garden art in their own right, and are best left unadorned.
Good garden designs include an interesting destination or two—a role easily fulfilled by an attractive garden shed. Have a path gently wend its way to the door, create a small sitting area to one side and cluster a few containers overflowing with colourful annuals.
The long side wall of a garage is a starting point for many design possibilities, too. For example, it may be in the most private part of your garden and therefore the perfect backdrop for a patio. Such walls are sturdy mounts for a wall fountain; access to electricity is probably just inside the garage. Or, extend the garage's roofline and build a cozy, covered porch to create a secluded seating area. Make it deep enough to accommodate comfortable chairs and a side table for drinks or a game of chess.
Just because the side of a garage is straight doesn't mean the walkway or border beside it has to be. Soften straight lines by letting the path or flower bed curve out in the centre or at one end.