Originally the garden layout tried to take advantage of borrowed views to create a larger feel than the back yard of a quarter-acre property might normally command. Wanting to create a neighborly, friendly openness seemed to be the appropriate guide in defining the early perennial borders.
On either side of the yard, the perennial beds were built right up to the property line, allowing the garden to be viewed from the outside of either edge. Several Arizona Cypresses were used to add height and to demarcate the back corners of the property, but a low-growing gardenia hedge was chosen to close off the back edge, leaving a view of several picket fences and architecturally interesting homes to extend the space.
Time moves on. Gardens and gardening goals evolve. Over time controlling the view year-round has become a more important priority than openness. As most of the perennials die back during the winter, the view degrades considerably, whether one is looking into or looking out of the garden. Even in June as the perennials are filling out, one can see that the view leads the eye away from the garden.
The lack of screening and the lack of structure or “bones” are leaving the yard overly exposed. The garden offers little sense of privacy and retreat, two characteristics that now will be held up as defining measures of success in evaluating the garden’s renovation.
The view reveals everything at once. The use of designing outside rooms is frequently mentioned as a way to break up space in a garden. Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Maryland is an excellent example of this technique. Unlike that garden mine is quickly and easily read. Except for getting a closer gaze at a particular plant there is no mystery or surprise or discovery.
Concepts for my garden redesign checklist
- Use screening for controlling views
- Seek to develop sense of privacy and retreat
- Consider garden spaces as rooms
- Include meditation path
- Create destinations within the garden
- Add seating to provide different perspectives for enjoying the garden
- Choose the right plants for the mixed hedge; pruning to maintain size and shape is not an option