The Bristol Magazine March 2021

Page 72

Gardening March_1.qxp_Layout 2 01/03/2021 09:02 Page 1


The mirror maze at Royal Fort Gardens. Sculpture is a great way to add your own personality to the garden, whether it’s a stone figurine or something upcycled and rustic

A room with a view

Focal points are vital when designing a garden, providing resting points for our gaze and giving a sense of purpose, says Elly West


he bones of the garden are laid bare at this time of year, revealing new vistas that may have been concealed during the full-grown exuberance of last year. Now is the perfect time to assess your garden’s structure and consider introducing new focal points to add extra interest. Right now our gardens are primarily enjoyed from indoors so consider the view from the main windows that overlook the space. Is there something of interest to look at? And what about when you step outside or look back towards the house from the far end, or from the main seating areas? Think about what there is to see, and where your focus is taken, enticing the feet to follow and making you want to explore. Focal points are vital when designing a garden. They lead the eye and provide resting points for our gaze, giving a sense of purpose and design. A garden full of plants holds its own charm, but can feel disorganised and busy, with nowhere for the eye to stop and rest. However, a carefully positioned ornament or garden sculpture can provide just as much pleasure as a favourite plant and is a constant all year round, particularly important while many of the plants lie leafless and dormant. Sculpture is a great way to add your own personality to the garden, whether it’s a traditional stone figurine, a piece of modern art or something upcycled and rustic, such as an interesting piece of driftwood or metalwork. Look around reclamation yards for interesting old pieces of furniture or statuary that can be repurposed in the garden. If you see something you love, then go for it. It’s a great way to have some fun and make your garden distinctively yours. And if you’re that way inclined, 72 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE


MARCH 2021


No 196

it’s also an opportunity to get creative in the garden, perhaps with something home-made such as a mosaic table or bird bath, or some woven willow. Consider the position of your piece within the garden. Will it be seen all year round, or hidden among the plants and only revealed in winter? What other distractions are there nearby? How will the sunlight catch it at different times of day or year? If you’ve invested in something you really love, you may even want to uplight it artificially to add night-time drama. Plants also make good focal points, particularly if they are given added prominence in a large container, or a group of containers. Using similar pots around the garden creates harmony and a sense of journey, tying different parts of the garden together, particularly if placed at intervals along a route. Topiary is a good choice for a specimen feature plant, whether it be a simple spiral or cone created from box or yew, or something more elaborate, such as a beautiful cloud-pruned evergreen. Japanese maples also make good specimen trees, although they drop their leaves in winter so pot-grown plants could be moved somewhere less prominent until the spring. I’m a big fan of crown-lifting ‘blobby’ shrubs that have outgrown their space and aren’t adding much in terms of beauty to a garden. Take out all the lower branches and leaves, and you may reveal a network of interesting stems leading to a higher spreading canopy, or lollipop if you prefer, creating new space for planting low-growing perennials and bulbs beneath, and turning it into a feature.