In the second of our 12-part series on Designing a Large Country Garden we explain the importance of creating and borrowing views to add interest and intrigue to a garden.
VIEWS & BORROWED LANDSCAPES
To create a garden that feels timeless and sits comfortably within its surroundings is a key aim of ours when designing a garden. A well-designed space is one where all elements fit together harmoniously with each other and where each part of the garden flows successfully into the next.
Focal points can be used to help achieve interconnection between areas of the garden, as well as creating an interest in their own right. Views can be framed to form the focal point or, with careful consideration, connect the garden to its surroundings. Both are often designed to draw one onwards and help create a route around the garden.
Often, we find large gardens are laid out as wide, open spaces surrounding the house. There is little intrigue or desire to venture into the garden, since all elements are visible in one sweeping glance. So one of the first considerations when designing a garden such as this, is to break it down into garden rooms and then create an enjoyable journey between them.
A focal point, whether in the form of a sculpture, decorative bench, beautiful tree or specimen plant, can often be used to draw the eye, leading the visitor to an area of interest and then onwards to further gardens or a beautiful view beyond.
In this six-acre farmhouse garden in West Sussex (below) we created a series of carefully interconnected rooms offering a complete circular journey through the grounds, helped by the introduction of statement features and pause points throughout.
We framed a previously hidden view between double herbaceous borders and used it as a backdrop to the stunning sculpture. At the start of the path one is at first being drawn towards the sculpture, it is only upon progressing along the path that you discover a wide panorama of the rolling English countryside, which makes for a wonderful surprise. Two benches hidden behind the planting allow one to sit and contemplate the view, before being drawn into another area of the garden.
Similarly, a partially obscured view can be a wonderful way to add intrigue to a garden, creating a spectacular visual treat that invites further exploration. When we first visit gardens we sometimes find that there is a beautiful view that no one is fully aware of, because it is hidden behind a wall or hedge, or overgrown planting. Sometimes rather than open up the whole vista we might create a gap with, for example, a gate or ‘window’ (as in the example below in a farmhouse garden we designed in Hampshire), to give a tantalizing glimpse of what lies ahead, encouraging visitors to move forward to fully experience it.
Of course, views don’t always need to be framed. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by countryside you can simply use nature’s beauty as a backdrop for your own garden, merging the two together to make the garden feel more expansive. Known as ‘borrowing’ the landscape, this is a technique that has been used for centuries. When done effectively, it will strengthen the relationship between a garden and its surroundings, creating something special and unique that sits comfortably within its environment and has a true sense of place.
Whether it’s a hillside, lake, mountain, woodland or fields, the key to borrowing a landscape is to subtly transition from the man-made to the natural to give the impression that you can simply walk from one to the other. By using loose, natural planting or native hedging, edges of the garden can blur with the borrowed landscape beyond. The eye can be encouraged to take in a sweeping view or be cleverly directed to an interesting focal point by carefully placing planting, seating or an architectural feature to draw attention away from less aesthetic elements that may also be visible beyond your boundaries. If there are hills or clumps of woodland in the distance, pruning hedging and trees into topiary to mimic the rounded shapes in the view is also an effective way to merge the two (seen below, in a garden we designed in Hampshire). Planting can be of complementary colours to the natural landscape, which ensures harmony too.
To create a physical boundary without imposing on the view we might create a wildflower meadow along a fence line or plant a prairie garden that feels wild and natural and that ‘bleeds’ naturally into the countryside. In this garden in Hampshire (below) we created a large wildflower meadow to frame the long drive, connecting the house and garden with the adjoining parkland
Alternatively, a ha-ha, or ditch, does away with the need for a fence and creates the illusion of openness, enabling unbroken views from the house and garden, to the countryside beyond. Popular in the eighteenth century their use as invisible boundaries is still invaluable and they can be fashioned into attractive landforms that add drama to a space.
Whether created or borrowed, views and focal points add interest and intrigue to a garden. Make the most of them and they will enrich the journey and bring your whole garden to life.
Look out for our journal posts on large garden design covering: