California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

Space in the Garden

A visit through a garden is a journey through both time and space. It is most pleasing to experience a garden as a series of events, both spatial and temporal. A garden should require physical interaction, go there, see it feel it. To accomplish this the garden can be divided into "garden rooms," each with its own theme and design parameters. Color clashes can be separated by season or location. These rooms can be divided by screening plants, fences, or walls. To create a temporal series requires a diversity of planting material. A layering of individual plant's moments should be a primary goal in the planting design.

There should be mystery to in the garden. Always leaving the question, what is around the corner? To achieve this it must not be possible to view all of the elements of the landscape in one glance. A pathway should extend beyond a visual obstacle. It could only be the path to the trash can but something should be left to the imagination. What better place could there be for imaginings and daydreaming than a garden? Your Garden should be an escape. And your garden should inspire a mood.

I use a wealth of different plants Often I use themes or collections of plants of a particular group such as Oreganos to maintain some kind of continuity. By doing this I can get a spread of blooming times, an extension of the flowering season. One particular variety of narcissus will bloom for about a month. I have a dozen varieties in my garden. They bloom from before Thanksgiving until after Easter. There is nothing like the first blush of blooms on the roses in the spring. My first blooming rose is almost into its second wave of bloom by the time the last rose has started blooming. Once a framework of plants has been established I begin to focus on the periods of time when very little is blooming. I start looking for plants that put on their show during this down time. For coastal California there is always something that could be in bloom. I will often attempt to bind together a view by using gray plants repetitively or by using a pronounced foliage plant such as Phormium 'sundowner'.

The transition from one space to the next is one of the great opportunities to provide interest and spark to a yard. This can be enhanced by an artful gate, arch, or connecting arbor. One can be drawn from one space to the next by providing a focal view into the next space, ideally leading the journey from one space to the next. A momentary glimpse into the next space piques the curiosity.

Shared landscape is critical to giving the illusion of extended space. To do this a mimicry of a silhouette in the background or the repetition of a tree that can be seen over the fence can add to the space that is viewed as a part of the landscape. I offered a tree to the neighbor so there could be a grove straddling our fence line. If the boundary is not seen an object beyond it will feel as if it is a part of the same landscape. A rock in the yard that carries the same profile as a hill in the distance makes the eye travel from one to the other connecting the two.

What is seen is as important as what is not. A series of layers of foliage is often more effective at screening an undesirable view than a solid hedge. It increases the perception of space and adds to the opacity of the screen. I also like to use a focal point that draws the eye away from the undesired view. Dark foliage does much to de-emphasize; light foliage or flowers can pull the eye into the distance, increasing the perceived distance as well as calling attention to itself.

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Last modified: July 4, 2015