Gardens are working harder than ever as people spend more time in them and appreciate their potential. Designers are increasingly creating separate zones with different purposes to maximise the use of the whole garden.
The first consideration is how the space is to be used, followed by levels of sun, shade and noise and views to be screened or optimised. Creating an area for eating or entertaining with lighting and built-in or freestanding furniture is key. For those with children, a play area with a trampoline, swing or den is also useful. You might also want a vegetable plot, a storage area, a peaceful spot for relaxing and benches dotted around to catch the sun at different times of the day.
In smaller gardens, it’s best to keep a unity of style, but in larger gardens, zones can have a different feel. For example, you might want an enclosed quiet retreat surrounded by tropical planting, a more open formal terrace near the house with clipped hedges and a patio further back in the garden amongst meadow planting. A children’s area can be in full view for parents to keep an eye on smaller children, or nestled in woodland planting with a wildlife area.
Space can be divided with hedges of Portuguese laurel or multi-stemmed or pleached trees to create subtle enclosures. Wide beds of grasses and herbaceous plants section off areas of the garden. Levels also help create zones – stepping down into sunken gives privacy and enclosure, or stepping up to a deck amongst planting is perfect for a couple of chairs.
Finally, pathways will help in connecting different parts of the garden – whether wide straight paths or meandering routes through planting that create a feeling of exploration as the garden unfolds. As well as maximising the functionality of the garden, not being able to see the whole space at once makes it feel much bigger, adding a sense of mystery as to what lies beyond, with views gradually unfolding as you wonder through it. So much more interesting then one big open area