No reason to have an ugly landscape

Landscapes can be ugly for a lot of reasons.

Many of the things we have to have in a landscape - driveways, power boxes, air-conditioners, garden hoses - are pretty darn ugly.

Poor landscape maintenance is another common culprit for ugliness. A pink stucco home with Georgia red clay splashed around its base isn't meant to be an art statement.

Unfortunately, a lot of landscapes are ugly because we buy ugly things, thinking, erroneously, they are amusing and well-priced.

Amusing and well-priced are kind terms, mostly, for ugly and cheap. Cheap doesn't trump ugly in the landscape. Don't settle for cheap. It will be too expensive after you tire of it and finally purchase the lovely bench you noticed first, but were beguiled away by a bench that was cheap.

Neighbors' houses happily provide ugliness for our landscape views: the underside of their deck exposed to your patio. Their set of three air-conditioning units neatly lined up outside your kitchen window. A red pickup truck that doesn't seem to have been driven since 1987 within view of your morning coffee.

Whenever you have an eyesore in your landscape, the rule is to provide a pretty focal point nearby to draw the eye. Or, ignore the eyesore and let it meld, and diminish, within your landscaping. Don't think you can plant a clump of evergreen shrubs around your power and cable boxes and you're done. That type of effort, most often, draws attention to an eyesore. Plant evergreen shrubs as if the eyesore isn't there and lead the eye beyond, to a lovely contorted filbert tree or a birdbath.

Then there's the difficult matter of ugly garden gifts from a grown child, or worse, a grown child's spouse.

I've been in the landscapes of too many friends, and clients, that have a quite ugly object at center stage. With only a look between us, I'm asked, "What am I going to do, my daughter-in-law gave me that?" It is certain the ugly object must stay.

Luckily, ugly statues or birdbaths can be beautified with a coat of creeping fig or small-leafed ivy. Ugly landscape gifts often seem to be fragile, and the "wind" might have to blow and break the object in question.

Before you "break" the ugly object, though, make sure you've had it on display for at least one or two visits from the giver. If the ugly gift-giver lives out of state, be sure to have a pretty garden picture taken with it.

No, I'm not advocating actually breaking the ugly gift. Simply give it to a nearby charity that can make money from it.

To avoid ugly garden gifts in the first place, make sure potential givers are aware of any tool, book or plant you are wanting for your landscape.

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz or visit www.agardenview.biz.