There’s a big difference between a well-designed garden and a garden that sparkles — and it’s in the details. Getting things in just the right place and taking advantage of opportunities are what bring a garden design to life.

         Good designers “have a sense of scale and proportion and circulation,” says James Drzewiecki, a landscape designer and owner of Ginkgo Leaf Studio in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. “And when you have good details, even if they are subtle, people pick up on that.”

         Drzewiecki never has to look far for inspiration in the gardens he designs. “I look at the house first,” he says, picking up visual cues that suggest the ideal location for beds and pathways. The choice of materials for hardscaping in a garden design often echoes the materials in a house, he says, and gives the garden a feeling of belonging in the place.

         In an award-winning garden near Milwaukee, Drzewiecki reimagined a client’s front yard, adding functional and artful details designed to make the space more modern and welcoming. Bluestone pavers set in slate-chip mulch, placed adjacent to the driveway, give passengers a comfortable place to step in and out of a car without stepping in flower beds. Along the front walk, a pad of irregularly shaped field stones reflects the home’s Prairie-style architecture and creates what Drzewiecki calls “a pausing point” in the landscape. It’s a skillful touch: Instead of coming in on a runway of a front walk, visitors immediately find themselves in the midst of a gracious garden landscape.

         Wickie Rowland, a landscape designer and creative director at Design and Landscapes by Labrie Associates in North Hampton, New Hampshire, relies on design details to create movement in a garden.

         Rowland designed a sweeping stone walkway with a generously proportioned curved seating wall on the waterfront of a client’s property, an expansive gesture that pulls the eye into the landscape. Behind the wall, her design called for a row of wispy plantings, just enough to soften and highlight the edge without blocking the view. A fancy garden gate, which borrows architectural details from the home, marks an entrance but also keeps deer out of the vegetable beds on the other side.

         In another garden, Rowland used an unexpected combination of boulders, pea gravel and field stones in her design of the hardscape, but limited the color palette to warm brown tones. Even though the materials are texturally very different from one another, the color choice “marries it all together, so it makes sense,” she says.