Simple revisions to liven the look of your garden

By Pam Roy | May 25, 2011


 Photo courtesy of Pam Roy

Set up a sense of being pulled through the landscape.

Have you noticed how each garden has its own rhythm?  Some gardens show everything at a glance.  One step out of the back door, and the entire yard is revealed.  A big sweep of lawn that’s neatly bordered by well-manicured shrubs.   

Then there are the gardens that invite exploration.  The visitor is led from garden room to garden room, through a series of artfully designed transitions.  All is not revealed in a glance. There is an anticipation of what could be around the corner, or through the arbor or beyond the focal tree.  

What are some gardening techniques that can set up this sense of being pulled through the landscape?

In designing a series of different use areas or rooms in the garden, much thought can be given to how one area intersects with an adjacent area.  One way to announce a transition is by using different levels.

This calls attention to the idea that you are leaving one type of space and entering another.   From the deck that is used for entertaining, there may be two or three steps down to the hot tub area on one side.

Consider leading guests down to a separate patio with two or three wide steps 6 feet long for an easily accessed transition.  When using different levels, remember that one lone step by itself is a “tripper” – something that is unexpected.  Group steps with at least two or, the preferable, three risers together.

An intriguing way to transition from different areas is to narrow the interface between the two.  The lawn might narrow to 5-6 feet wide going between two planting beds, opening up to another larger area with a different plant theme.   A focal tree could be used on one side to anchor the transition.  

A pathway can also be used to transition between areas.  A pattern of pavers or flagstone can be changed to signify that the experience is about to change.  Changing the orientation of the flagstone or inserting a larger piece of stone at a particular spot has the effect of creating a pause.  This could be a good place to put a piece of garden art, a dish rock or anything else that might warrant a bit of appreciation.

When moving from a concrete patio to a paver walkway, the two can be tied together by using the same paver to add a border to the existing concrete patio.  The path then feels more like an extension of the patio that has the effect of pulling you out into the garden.   

A container or two strategically placed at the intersection of the herb garden, for example, with the lawn area is another way to announce a change in use.  The containers could offer something fun to pull a leaf off and munch on, such as chocolate mint.  

What pulls you through your garden? Try a few simple revisions so your garden is alive with your own rhythm.  

Pam Roy, owner of Planscapes has been a landscape designer and horticulturist for 30 years in the Northwest. Contact her at 425-252-9469 or view  HYPERLINK ""

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