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Garden Decor in England: The Illusion Created by Light, Shade, Climbers and Water

By Edited Apr 12, 2016 0 0

Partial divisions of certain areas can make any garden seem larger or smaller and also more or less interesting by emphasizing other areas and allowing the eye to penetrate further in one direction than another.

Another means of altering proportion and apparent size is by the careful use of light and shade. In England, the contrast between the two is seldom as brilliant as it is abroad, but even so, shadow can conceal a great many bad points without using means which in themselves draw attention, to what is being hidden. Take the obvious case of dustbins in a courtyard garden. You can put them into a near brick box with doors in front for easy access and flower boxes on top to brighten the effect. Certainly the bins are hidden and everyone will think "How clever, that is where they hide the dustbins". Alternatively you can have black bins, either bought that way or painted, and put them in the shadow of a large evergreen shrub or a slightly drooping bamboo. A dark painted trellis covered with ivy in front of which bright flowers are grouped in sunlight, completes the illusion. The eye is drawn to the sunlint flowers, everything beyond is vague and mysterious. The garden or outdoor area may extend for some distance but it is difficult to tell and the black bins stand unseen in the shadows.

It is difficult to be spot on with climbers. Faced with a walled town garden many people start by painting the garden walls white. This is fine if you wish your garden to be a white box of sharply defined shape. Certain very formal types of garden rely on such emphasis for part of their effect, but if you feel confined and want an impression of greater space, this treatment is fatal. Better by far to over-plant the walls with vines and creepers, not trained too neatly, which will swing forward in curtains of greenery, masking the boundaries in shadow and producing the feeling of a forest clearing.

Water, even in the form of a tiny pool or fountain basin, can be a tremendous help to illusions of all kinds. Apart from the pleasure which the sound of moving and falling water always gives us, the greatest use of water in the garden is reflection. For this reason pools should always be painted black inside, for not only do they appear of limitless depth but they also produce the best reflections. Blue pools may be used to achieve special effects in that color, but all the other benefits of water are thereby lost.

Dark pools of this kind, in positions such as town courtyards where the lateral rays of the sun are cut off, can bring a brilliant patch of sky down to lighten what may otherwise be rather dark and dank surroundings. Larger pools can often be built to reflect objects in the garden or even outside it, giving double importance to some feature which you wish to emphasize. For instance, a long canal has been used in a town garden to mirror exactly a church spire which was the only redeeming feature of an otherwise very bleak outlook.

Because of its powers of reflection, the level of water in relation to the surrounding ground is very important. Try always to keep water level and ground level as close as possible. Water only 1in. below ground level will appear to be 2in. down because the depth of the edge is reflected – if it is 6in. below it, therefore, appear to be 1ft. down and the appearance already begins to be that of a well rather than a pool. For this reason you should always make pools slightly larger than you intend them to appear and the lower the intended water level the larger the actual water surface required to compensate.

I hope you can create a grand spectacle of illusion in your garden just by taking into account these simple but extremely effective ideas.



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