There are numerous ways to switch off from the daily grind. Reading a good book can provide an important sense of escape from our day to day lives; the imagination let loose to roam pastures new, similarly our gardens can offer the same. At a basic level, our gardens are sometimes physically large enough to allow exploration, however there are many alternatives to create a sense of discovery. Whatever size space you may have, here are five suggestions for injecting a sense of intrigue and exploration into our gardens.
1. Views & Vistas:
At Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire a series of views and focal points are created within the garden by the use of tightly clipped hedges. Pictured below topiary bookends in the form of two birds form an initial focal point, they then frame the view beyond of a pool and beyond that another dramatically high yew hedge features a doorway opening to an open lawn. As humans we have an inherently inquisitive nature so by creating this series of views we’ll be physically drawn through the space. If you have a relatively small garden one technique to create a view is to highlight something beyond the boundaries of your garden. Perhaps there’s a distinctive building in the distance or a field beyond. Revealing this view or vista could be as simple as removing lower branches of a tree or considering an alternative to a solid, full height boundary fence or hedge.
2. Hedging or screens:
The humble hedge, in recent years, has been elevated to a more deserving position. Hedges do not have to be limited to the boundaries of our garden and grown for privacy but can offer a solution for division of space. In a rectangular garden, planting a hedge at ninety degrees to the side boundaries could block some of the garden from view. By not having the entire garden on show at once will encourage the urge to explore. For instance plant an evergreen hedge at mid-height and you provide a foil for the planting in front and perhaps a space behind for seating that’s sheltered and a little more private. By repeating hedging new, distinct areas can be created with different atmospheres from one to the next. Alternatively hedges don’t need to be solid – a carefully placed opening cut into a hedge forms a window with which snatched glimpses of the garden beyond can be grasped.
3. Winding path:
A straight path by its very nature will draw us down its length without the desire to pause or relax our pace; by introducing dynamic curves to a pathway, areas of the garden can be temporarily concealed from view with strategically placed planting. Movement along the path will be at a more relaxed pace. Scented planting may cause us to linger – whether it be lavender edging the bed or a Philadelphus with its arching branches laden with orange scented blossom. Create a path relatively simply and quickly using a gravel or other aggregate alongside a retaining edge such as timber or alternatively using clay pavers, as pictured below.
Sculpture and art in the garden, in my mind, should be approached with caution. However, there are an increasing number of artisan’s creating works both grande and petit to suit any outside space and budget in a myriad of materials. Carefully placed sculpture can really enhance a garden space in its own right, and in relation to its surrounds. Helen Godfrey sculpts both animal and human forms in galvanised wire. The human sculptures have an ethereal quality, you can view her work here. Continuing the theme of wire sculpture, courses offering tuition are becoming available around the UK. Pictured below ‘Boxing Hares’ by Susan Nichols of Handmade Wire Sculptures.
5. Explore the world of plants:
In smaller gardens the entire space may be visible from the interior of the property without even stepping out into the garden. Using larger specimens in a small space can create great impact and drama and shouldn’t be shied away from. Fast growing plants may help us engage with our gardens as their rampant growth can be captivating. The beautiful golden hops, Humulus lupus, a vigorous herbaceous climber, make a dramatic impact, putting on up to 6m of growth in the summer months. Grow something you can enjoy through more than one of your senses – love to cook outside in the warmer months? Why not grow edibles, perhaps juicy tomatoes to go in your barbecued burger or herbs to spruce up a salad. Grow borage and use the flowers to decorate your summer tipple of choice.
It is surprising how easy it is to be bitten by the gardening bug. We should all be encouraged to become more open minded with our gardens, the same creativity we are not afraid of exercising in our interiors, can and should be used outside to great effective giving us far more rewarding spaces.