Garden architecture should have both beauty and functionality in mind. Too often people see something cute, buy it, and then regret it. When an object has a purpose it will be something you will appreciate for years to come both for its looks but also for what it does for your garden.
There are the obvious architectural structures which are often found in gardens such as arbors, pergolas, obelisks, and the like. So long as you purchase (or build!) one that fits your taste and fits in with the rest of the surroundings, you should be happy with it for years. That is, so long as you also choose the right plant to grow on it. (I am always in favor of roses and clematis growing together – what a team!)
Bird baths are also common, and they are also useful so long as you keep them filled. Birds get very thirsty in the heat of the summer, and if you want to attract birds to your yard you will have a bird bath.
However, there are other, less common, items you can put in your yard that can be functional and still be interesting. Sometimes it is a matter of luck. We got lucky when we found someone throwing away an iron grating to an old gas stove. This was perfect to go at the base of our salvias which tended to grow so tall that they often leaned a bit unless they had support. Now they have an iron support which is attractive and functional.
We are growing some roses up one of our oak trees. To give them support once they reach the proper height, my husband used the rings from an old oak barrel. The barrel was ready for the trash heap, but never forget that recycle means reuse, so he busted up the barrel and took out the iron rings. Those rings are now nailed to the tree and will provide pillar support for the rose.
We had purchased a very attractive (and expensive) Celtic cross from a popular mail order company for our garden. We hadn’t had the cross very long before the top portion fell over and broke. We called the company and complained and they admitted that they were at fault for not telling their customers the proper directions regarding set-up and that had to replace a lot of these crosses. The base of the cross, however, was still intact, and it now serves as a wonderful pot for some herbaceous roses.
Although not functional, one of my favorite decorative in our garden is the colored glass we picked up when driving through Arkansas. These chunks of glass provide our garden with color even when nothing is in bloom which, admittedly, isn’t very often in Mobile.
Don’t be afraid to try something from the trash heap when decorating your garden. If it works, it is probably the right thing for you! Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and who is to say what is art and what is junk? Only you can make that decision.