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Expanding Your Horizons

Tricks to make your garden look bigger!

While an experienced gardener will have a knack for best taking advantage of the space they’ve got, for example with the correct balance of small to large plants or how their borders are positioned, there is one magic trick none of us can perform and that is expanding the space itself. Of course, if Harry Houdini were here he’d tell you the key to a good illusion is the mirrors, not the elephant. So as you’ve probably guessed, today’s article concerns means of giving the appearance of a larger garden than you actually possess.

image of long thin garden in need of an update

Starting at ground level, we have the lines and shapes of a garden – specifically sectioned areas like lawns or paving. Due to the rectangular shape of many suburban gardens and box like connotations that geometric shapes invoke, it is often best to use fluid shapes such as circles or ovals when shaping your lawn. They not only disguise the boundaries but can also make a garden appear much wider. 

image of long thin garden after re-build

This can also apply to the paving that surrounds said lawns, as too many straight lines make the spaces seem constricted and unnatural. On that note, if you’ve got a small garden, try to avoid large paving slabs as these tend to overpower the more delicate elements of a garden and, by using smaller pieces, you’ll be able to implement a random paved technique that no doubt will be more pleasing to the eye.

(This is the same garden as the one above!)

Apart from your open spaces, careful planning concerning your planting scheme is also essential to enlarging the garden as a whole. Remember the basic principle of all interior designers: lighter equals larger, while darkness means confinement. As such, your deeper toned flowers should be centralised to your borders and surrounded by lighter flowers that will relieve their oppressive connotations. Whilst surrounding the back door with crimson blooms, for example, can present an image of warmth that will be associated with the building itself, it can confine the observer, with the brighter colours fighting for your attention. Aim for lighter colours in your beds to match the greatest space you can manipulate, the sky above them. Aside from colour you should also consider the textures of your plants, finely textured plants like Rosemary will reflect light differently to the heavy foliage of a Laurel, which means that careful layering can add depth to your garden, while heavy-handedness can make it look flat. 

image of standing stone in planting

Finally, you have the size of your plants which will vary depending on for what type of garden you’re aiming. Simply put, bigger is better, thousands of tiny shrubs and flower heads make a garden look cluttered, whereas a bold structural scheme can attest to the size of their environment. Then there’s the vertical approach – as vertical stripes make a dress seem longer, so do tall trees add a height to your garden that, even if you can’t touch it, you can imagine it.

image of garden feature at the end of the garden

While on the subject of vertical gardening, it is important to note the value of structures like archways and pergolas. Similar to the telescopic effect of putting your eye to a pin hole, a long corridor like this can give the illusion of length particularly if entwined with vibrant hanging flowers. There are also various ‘perspective’ arches on the market which have the same effect.

A garden can also be made to look longer by constructing paths that narrow in width as they progress down the plot.

image of trompe l'oeil

Finally we have the oldest trick in the book, and one that brings us back to Mr. Houdini – mirrors. Reflective glass has been used by designers since time immemorial to double or triple the size of a room and there’s no reason not to apply this beyond the home, and into the garden. Most effective when placed facing an open space such as a lawn or a pretty planting scheme, but not so as to immediately reflect the viewer as they approach, they can give the illusion of another inviting garden beyond. Their illusion can be strengthened by the addition of a view of moving water that will lend fluidity to the image.

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