Privately owned gardens fulfil multiple roles.
Whether they serve mainly to provide space outside for growing plants, or are kept as outdoor rooms for the use of people, all gardens usually have room-like qualities. The room’s floor surface is comprised of lawn, driveway, patio, paths or planting beds. Brick or stone may stand as walls, but so too do timber fences, hedges, trellis screens, trees and any massed planting tall enough to visually sub-divide the garden’s space.
Durable benches, tables and chairs are the usual garden furniture, but planters, sundials, sculptures, topiary and the ubiquitous wheelie-bin also furnish the exterior space, to good or bad effect. Patio heaters are environmentally irresponsible, unsightly furniture, whereas a charcoal barbecue can provide some warmth and enliven an evening’s outdoor entertainment without igniting any fossil fuels. The sky above serves as the garden’s ceiling, complete with unpredictable but ever changing solar-powered lighting effects.
In this room-like analogy, what role do plants play? Flowering plants provide seasonal accents of colour and perfume, attracting attention, giving the outdoor space a unique purpose, and supporting local wildlife. Flowering plants may be positioned to look in through house windows, to entice residents outside. Foliage plants contribute year-long texture or bold seasonality, enhancing the mood of the outdoor space, which then influences the mood of its human inhabitants.
A truly successful integration of so many diverse elements is unlikely to arise by chance. Our gardens, when understood as room-like outdoor spaces, are usually the largest environments within our individual control. They have the potential to be a troublesome nuisance to maintain, or to significantly enhance our quality of life. Employing the services of a garden designer should therefore be seen as investing in a large-scale success.
Douglas Dalgliesh Garden Design www.creatingbetterplaces.co.uk