How wonderful it is to walk through a garden and be taken on a journey, finding all the different features and plants as you go along: a stunning plant here, with a rose-covered walkway or fountain a little further on.
In terms of garden design, the journey is all about the element of surprise and discovery: walking into a garden and being drawn to the next part because of an interesting focal point, structure or hidden area. By nature we are inquisitive creatures and we will go to where our eye is drawn, or where something is hidden from view.
Think of children in a garden. They are always on the look out for interesting things to discover. If there is a pergola, they are drawn straight to it, walking through it, sometimes many times. If there is a trellis panel hiding an area, they want to find out what is on the other side. Running water is always an adventure!
We, as adults, are usually more restrained, but our basic instincts are the same; to follow the path that our eye takes us, discovering things around the corner. And not just our eye, it can be all of our senses! It might be the sound of running water, the feel of something underfoot, the smell of a flower, or simply a cosy seat where we can enjoy a coffee with friends.
All of these things entice us to explore, and thereby satisfy our senses.
Here are the initial plans for the garden design shown in the picture above. There are many access routes around the garden, leading past a natural stream and a more formal water feature, seating and outdoor dining areas, a pergola and arch.
Notice the view from the conservatory (marked with the purple arrow), which leads the eye on an arc from the window to the water feature, through to the planting and seating area, and finally up to the corner pergola nestled at the top.
The pergola and arch act as focal points to draw the eye to the next part of the garden. This gives a sense of journey, taking in the water features and the wonderful cottage garden flowers, which can be enjoyed from many different viewpoints.
This garden was built on three levels, being on a natural slope, giving scope for lots of different features and walkways, but the same can be done with any size of garden with a little thought and planning. This is where pergolas, arches, arbours, trellis and gazebos really come into their own.
One of the easiest ways to section off the garden, and so create an elements of journey and surprise, is to use arches, pergolas or trellis. There are so many styles on the market today, we are all spoilt for choice.
It isn't necessary to have a big garden to achieve this. It can be done in the smallest of spaces. Even one or two trellis panels can be very effective in creating bays and corners. The idea is to create hidden areas that come into view as you walk along.
This garden uses two pergolas, an arch and trellis to provide some privacy on the patio area. It also splits the garden into sections, enticing the viewer to take a look at the gorgeous waterfall at the far end of the garden.
And, of course, they are an ideal support for these beautiful climbing plants, which definitely steal the show.
Focal points can be a whole range of plants or objects, including pergolas, arches, gazebos, obelisks, urns, statues, water features, seating areas, decks, patios, sculptues, bird baths, sun dials, arbours.....whatever lights your fire!
Here are two more examples of creating a journey through the garden. I have included the first as it is such a small space and was built on a shoestring.
This is the garden of a friend, whose husband was going to replace the existing rectangular lawn with a bigger rectangular lawn. I could tell she wasn't sure about this, so drew up a simple plan, which was based around a circular lawn. The area was only 10m x 10m, so to construct a journey through the garden was not the easiest of tasks!
Here's the garden before the makeover: not a place where you would feel like spending time relaxing!
And here it is just after the hard landscaping had been finished.
The photograph of the finished garden was taken just after completion but it shows the idea of making a small space interesting.
Now, with plenty of climbing plants growing over the fence and arbour, beautiful purple, white and pink perennials in the borders and a well-stocked herb garden, the effect is just stunning, and very much admired.
Coming up the steps from the right hand side, the eye is drawn initially to the planting in the border on the right. Then the focal point becomes the swinging arbour nestled in the corner, planted with climbers. The path leads around the circular lawn past the beautiful magnolia tree, which has become a wonderful feature plant, rather than an untidy obstacle. Chairs can be placed under here for sitting in the shade. The path then moves on futher around the lawn to another focal point, which will soon be a sun-dial on a pedestal. This doesn't actually go anywhere! - but that doesn't matter. It gives an illusion of moving futher on. The circular lawn, coupled with the cottage garden planting and pergola give a wonderful sense of peace, tranquility and enclosure.
Above all, the garden can't be seen from the house entrance as it is on a higher level so that when you do enter the garden via the steps, you are greeted by a wonderful haven of beauty and tranquillity.
Here we have the second example.
This garden is long and wide, looking acceptably tidy from a distance but the owner was frustrated with weeds between stones and the featurelessness of the garden - no journey, or element of surprise and interest. In other words, high maintenance and no pleasure!
Being a keen gardener and plant lover, something needed to be done.
I enclosed each area with trellising so that it was split into three different interlinked sections with lots of focal points, planting and seating areas. Hard landscaping provided a low maintenance environment with many different journeys through the space. This was done with offset arches, which lead from one area to another.
So, starting from the top, we have a stone platform, at a level of 5' above the garden, joined by two areas of split level decking to bring us on to garden level. Walking to the right we see a natural water feature, with waterfall, which can be viewed from the seating area nestled in front of the trellis and surrounded by plants.
To get to the second section of the garden we go through the arch, which can lead either to the seating area, the archway exit onto the drive or through the next arch into the bottom section of the garden.
The third area is gently sloping, eventually arriving at the swinging arbour down a series of sleeper steps to take in the slope. A bird bath is placed just by the entrance. The gate in the bottom corner actually leads nowhere, apart from an access path to the next house, but it gives the feeling of a space beyond.
These pictures show views of the middle section of the garden (from the side entrance), which is made up of large boulders and architectural planting. The boulders were dug out from under the lawn, only appearing to be the size of a small stone! They make unusual features to offset the bold plants.
Paving and decorative gravel add interest with the use of different textures. Small herbs have been planted next to the paving to give wonderful aromas when passing.
With mixed planting of perennials and shrubs, this garden looks stunning.
My client is happy now because she can 'potter' in the garden, rather than spending hours getting nowhere. The garden is now both manageable and beautiful, even though it is newly planted and things will take time to develop. There may look to be a lot of wood at the moment, but it will quickly mellow and the climbing plants and shrubs will take over in no time at all!
These garden makeovers show how the use of pergolas, arches and trellising are invaluable in sectioning off space, providing focal points, height, enclosure and, most importantly, a journey through the garden.
When you are planning your garden, think of ways to add interest by using different levels, features, areas, colours, height, form, texture and fragrance. Make your garden a really special place to relax!
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