That notion of secrecy, mystery and enclosure is still, for me, a vital ingredient of my ideal garden.
In larger gardens it is relatively easy to create an air of intrigue, with curving paths leading off at angles or diving behind hedges to emerge at a secret summerhouse, shaded seat or secluded glade of trees. But even a smaller space can have a quiet corner tucked away; somewhere to sit with a glass of wine on a summer’s evening, or a scented enclosure filled with flowers.
The key is not to give away all your garden’s secrets at first glance. Gardens that are instantly “readable” can easily become boring, while the suggestion of something hidden invites exploration. In a long, narrow town garden, there’s scope to divide the space into a series of smaller, square “rooms”, which are not only easier to design and plant, but can each have a different character.
But even in a tiny plot, screening one corner with a hedge or, if you’re too impatient to wait for box or yew to grow, a panel of woven willow or trellis with climbers scrambling up it, can create that crucial feeling of enclosure. You can enhance the feeling by framing the opening with a metal or trellis arch, and place an attractive seat inside; you could even commission a simple bench from a local artist or craftsman, perhaps with your initials or a fragment of a poem inscribed on the back.
If space really is at a premium, there are a few more tricks guaranteed to conjure up an air of mystery. Mirrors work instant magic, their reflections suggesting hidden worlds beyond, and are especially effective when framed by something resembling a doorway. False doors work a similar spell, maybe with a small window, glazed with mirror, at the top – any old skip-find, painted up and framed in wood, will do.
These are simple tricks, but gloriously effective: the first visitor to my London garden after I’d installed a large mirror, its edges obscured by climbers, on the back wall, asked, “Gosh is that another part of the garden through there?” So perhaps I got my own secret garden in the end, even if it was only through artifice.
By Paul Knight
Outside Designs Tel: 07957 942 728