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Bigger Gardens


By AndrewR


I guess we’d all like a bigger garden so that we could grow everything we wanted to. A few trees (or an entire wood), several large shrubs, perhaps a shady area stuffed with rhododendrons and azaleas, large herbaceous borders, rocky outcrops for all those alpine treasures, a walled garden for climbers, fruit and vegetables, a rose garden perhaps. But for most of us, money, time or energy (or rather a lack of these), is the limiting factor on the size of our plot. But there are still ‘tricks’ to make our gardens appear bigger.

The most obvious one is ‘borrowed landscape’. If you are fortunate enough to live in the countryside with a panoramic view to die for, then the last thing you want to do is put up a fence to hide it; you want the view to come right into the garden. But even in the town or city, if your neighbour has an attractive tree you can ‘borrow’ it and make it appear to be on your side of the fence. I borrowed my neighbour’s conifer for my wisterias so it is not clear which side of the boundary it sits.

Subdividing a plot, even a relatively small one, fools the eye into thinking it is bigger because not everything can be seen at once. Even a strategically placed shrub can hide another section of planting, enticing you on to see what it is behind it. And a path that winds out of sight – where does it lead?

Spritzhenry’s leads over a bridge but you don’t know that unless you follow it. But make the path lead somewhere interesting – you don’t want to finish up at the compost heap!

Even tiny courtyards can trick the eye. A mirror placed so you can’t see your own reflection, just more plants. A closed door in a wall – where does that lead? A mural or other trick of the eye all fool the brain to make it appear bigger.

If we look at a view, things near us appear larger than ones further away – this is known as perspective. Again, we can play with this to fool the eye.

There appears to be nothing abnormal with this view but the second arch is twelve inches narrower than the first one; this makes the garden seem longer than it actually is. Tintinhull, a National Trust garden in Somerset, has a view from the front of the house down a path lined with clipped box pyramids. All the pyramids are the same size, but if the ones further away were slightly smaller than the ones nearer the house and the intermediate ones were progressively smaller, you would be fooled into thinking the path was even longer. Putting plants with large leaves near the house and ones with smaller leaves further away gives the same effect.

Even colours can trick the eye. Put a bright red flower or a white one at the end of the garden and look at it from the house. Now repeat this with a blue flower. Which looks further away? Going back to my blog on colour theory, it is the hotter colours that seem closer and the colder one ones that appear further away. Some strategically placed flowers can emphasize that feeling.

So while we can’t all have, or want, acres to play with, we can make our existing plots seem bigger with a bit of cunning planning.

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We have used a mirror to give the illusion of more space and to reflect light in our Temple Folly Ruin in our tiny garden, and we have lots of 'vistas' or 'focal points' to draw the eye to various features.We originally considered a ruined door that was ajar with a painted 'trompe l'oeil' scene overlooking the bay of Naples, seeing that the doorway was inspired by the ruins of Pompeii. That is still a possibility for another part of the garden, and it may be added at a later stage! Also large plants in large containers or pots in a tiny space help to give the illusion of grandeur.

7 Aug, 2008


Thanks for the mention, Andrew! I enjoyed reading this blog and agree with you about so much of what you have said. I enjoy trying to create new vistas and surprises to find in my garden. Just as an example, through an arch there is a view of my largest pot, giving it more importance. I am trying to track down a largish piece of attractive driftwood to place in a strategic corner to take the eye further into another area. I can't do much about the hard landscaping that we inherited, but I'm doing my best with what I've got!

7 Aug, 2008


My present garden is about a third of the size my previous one was. Sometimes I feel a bit couped up, especially with other houses so close to mine. I'm glad of some suggestions on how to make the place feel biger. None of my neighbours have anything I can borrow but I have a lovely view. I also like the idea of winding paths and hidden areas. It creates some excitement. I'm going to bear these things in mind as I develop my "new" garden.

8 Aug, 2008


To prune or not to prune - Your wiseria is magnificent and I bet it never gets pruned way up there.

9 Aug, 2008


I have been enjoying working my way through your blogs. These pictures of your garden are delightful - and I bet your neighbour is happy to lend you his plants if you return them cloaked in flowers

6 Dec, 2009

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