2016 / Solving problems

Illusion 2

(How to make a big space seem smaller.)

If you have a large property, you may wonder where to start when it comes to landscaping it. It can feel very similar to  “blank paper” syndrome, where you stare at the page feeling completely paralyzed, creatively. Well, take heart. You couldn’t eat an entire cake in one sitting, but you could eat it all if you had a small piece every so often. It would be pleasurable, even. The same is true with landscape design for large gardens. If the whole project seems daunting, divide it up. What follows are five ways to tame a large property and make it seem more manageable, in an order that you could choose to follow as a slowly phased  plan of action.

1) Add mystery to the garden by adding larger elements. A garden that you can see at one glance isn’t interesting, unless you are creating a formal garden with a pattern that is meant to be seen all at once. By blocking the view here and there by plants, shrubs/trees or garden structures like pergolas and gazebos, thus making The Eye work to see it all, you add interest, while also making the space seem more manageable.



2) Create winding paths. Now that you have the larger elements of your garden placed, it’s time to connect them – either to the house, or to each other, or both. A path that meanders from one place to another in such a way that you can’t see the whole thing at once makes the journey much more interesting than if you could see the finish line way off in the distance from the minute you set foot on the path.




3) Create garden “rooms”. Now that you have some larger elements, and have connected them via winding paths, you can take the spaces within the curves and make them in to garden rooms. This can be a lot of fun, as each, essentially, is a small garden, and each can be different if you want them to be. You could have one that contains only white flowers, for example, or one that is formal with a fountain in the center. Another could be an ebullient English Cottage Garden, and yet another could be influenced by the gardens of the Far East. The possibilities are endless. However, there is less likely to be an attack of blank paper syndrome here, as the space is much less daunting, size-wise.


4) Sit in the corner. As hard as it can be for a gardener to sit and admire his/her handiwork, having a place to sit and just enjoy (or, lets face it, to sit and strategize about what you will prune next and how) is essential. Make the most of the corners in your garden rooms; they are the perfect place for a bench or a small table and chairs. Place them in such a way that the garden protects them from behind, and in a position where you can look out over the garden. You get extra points if you can also see into the next garden room – not see the whole thing, but can see that there is more around the corner to explore.





5) Work with it! If you are able to structure the garden in such a way that you can sit in an intimate space and look out over a larger one, you will have the best of both worlds. Leave some open space to enjoy – it will only reinforce the cozy feel of the intimate spaces.


There are many ways to tackle a large garden space, these steps are only one of them. Just remember to incorporate structure and interest and mystery, and you can’t get lost. Luis Barragan put it perfectly: “A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy.”


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