When you first walk into a garden does it draw you in or can you see the whole thing from one place? The imaginary space between say one metre and two and a half metres (3-8 feet) above ground is critical, and in a way more important than what’s happening at soil level – as it’s the part you will see whilst standing and walking through it. When designing gardens we always consider how it’s going to look at eye level as you first walk into it, and how it will continue to look as you are (hopefully) drawn through it. Another important view is how the garden looks when you get to the end and turn back to face the house. What are you going to see? If all the interest and planting within the garden is below eye level it will make for an extremely dull and predictable composition. All the boundaries will be seen with one sweep of the eye and no matter what size your garden it will in fact appear smaller. There are several ways to introduce height into the garden.
In a small garden use one of the smaller trees such as amelanchiers, malus (crab apples) the wonderful willow leafed pear (pyrus salicifolia). They will all add height without getting too big. Big architectural plants shrubs as phormiums, cordylines and bamboos also help to add height and drama. Try putting some tall things nearer the house to add some foreground.
Pergolas and walk throughs.
‘Pergola’ is a loose gardening term for basically anything that you walk under. They are an excellent way of breaking things up above eye level and therefore keeping the focus in the garden. A pergola can easily be built on to the back of the house, which will both help to create a shady area in a south facing garden and give the all-important instant height as you enter the garden through it. Make sure to put in tall screening plants either side of the walkway so that there is only way through, both physically and visually.
Sculpture can look great when placed high up nearer eye level, rather than sitting on the ground. This can easily be achieved by placing them on a simple plinth such as an up turned pot, or lump of stone and placed in planting.
Summer houses, gazebos and glorified sheds can be incorporated into the scheme of the garden and help to add direction and height. As more people are looking for an extra office to work from home there are more pre-fabricated summer houses coming onto the market. Garden sheds can easily be spruced up by staining with a colour or cladding with willow or bamboo screening, which is available in rolls.
The boundaries as well as defining the perimeter of the garden are a huge part of the vertical elements and therefore the height of the garden. Consider how much you want to see of the boundaries if any thing at all. Well executed boundaries such as an attractive wall or fence can also be used to set off the planting in front effectively. You could go the whole hog and completely ‘green’ the edges by covering them in climbers, which will therefore blur their exact location and often make the garden appear larger, but far softer.