Wagon wheels, weathered wood and worn surfaces set the tone for a rustic garden design that takes its cues from the wild, wild West. Paired with pretty flowers, evergreen shrubs and leafy trees, relics of a bygone era star in a look that is part nostalgic, part romantic -- and far more inviting for family and friends than the dusty real world of cowboys and ranchers.
1. Fire Pits
Telling campfire stories around the glowing embers is part of cowboy culture that you can rekindle when you light up a fire pit in the back yard. Fueled by propane, natural gas or seasoned firewood, bowl-style fire pits can be placed on patios and some models are safe for use on a wood deck. Choose a unit with a bronzed or black finish rather than the stainless steel styles that have a more contemporary look, or have a concrete block fire pit build directly into the ground if there is sufficient space and city zoning laws permit the installation. Toddlers and young children must be closely supervised near the fire -- if you allow them in the area at all when it's aflame -- to prevent potential harm from the unit's hot surface and flickering flames. Check local codes before you buy or build a fire pit.
Hand-carved wooden chairs, benches cut from old logs and a sturdy wood table that looks like it came right out of a pioneer kitchen bring an air of authenticity to the Old West styling of your garden. Well-crafted rustic furniture can have a weathered look, but before you put it in your yard, make sure the pieces are properly sanded and sealed to prevent splinters. To make the seating more comfortable, add cushions made of outdoor fabric in plain, earthy colors or a soft flannel shirt-style plaid design. Add flair to the setting with a wrought iron side table, a potting bench made from an old-fashioned kitchen sideboard or a wood-slat rocking chair.
3. Fences, Gates and Garden Art
A small section of fence made of woven twigs or upright cut branches makes a rustic privacy screen at the side of a patio or a striking backdrop for a bed of wildflowers that would have thrived next to a little house on the prairie. Rusty chic gates with welded metal cutouts depicting a peaceful sunset, towering cactus and other icons make a graceful replacement for an ordinary factory-made entry gate or a clever disguise for the trash bin corral. Primitive Americana wood carvings and small metalwork pieces depicting Western wildlife and birds will delight kids and visitors who discover the garden art tucked in with your flowering plants and shrubs.
4. Flower Containers and Accessories
Whiskey barrels, watering troughs and wood wheelbarrows are Western-themed classics that make fine container gardens. Filling the re-purposed planters with dwarf conifers, drought-tolerant perennials or ornamental grasses maintains the natural, rustic look in your yard. An old wooden ladder leaned up against a tree or post adds vertical dimension when it's used as a trellis for flowering vines. Make sure the ladder is securely attached in case a playful child is tempted to try climbing it. Accessorize the setting with a pottery crock you keep filled with cut flowers and antique-style metal lantern candle-holders.
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