The front yard embodies classic formality while the backyard has whimsical flair.
Create a garden gallery. Turn conventional objects into objets d'art. Group pieces on the ground or on walls as you would hang pictures. Jeff Lightbody strives for a look he calls "contained clutter." A cluster of pots in varying shapes and sizes dresses a corner of the deck, while a collection of manhole covers paves a seating area, and faucet handles embellish a wall.
Loosen up. Avoid straight lines by curving or zigzagging the edges of paths, patios, lawns, and garden beds. Arrange grasses, perennials, and groundcovers in informal drifts that appear to spill from one to the next in planting beds. Add accents here and there, such as a square trough filled with sedums and succulents.
Harmonize colors. Choose plants and paving materials with an eye toward the exterior house color. In Lightbody's front yard, the buff sandstone path picks up the terra-cotta color of the front steps. The tan trunks of river birches echo the color of the house walls, while the white birch trunks repeat the window trim. In the back garden, too, colors harmonize, like the blue and red clematis that twine around garden art. A richly rusted livestock trough and vintage washbasins overflowing with flowers and foliage (far right) blend the garden's earth tones with splashes of color.