The very recently departed garden and landscape designer John Brookes O.B.E. was one of the most influential garden designers of the past 50 years. He created the concept of the garden being an outside ‘room’, writing a book on the subject entitled, “Room Outside” which became a staple of the library of anybody interested in designing a garden space, and led the way to an entirely different way of thinking.
He believed that not only should a garden be an outside room, but that partition was a very powerful design element, creating ‘rooms’ within the overall garden ‘room’. Brookes was influenced by a number of people but Garret Eckbo’s philosophy clearly had an effect on this subject.
According to Brookes, Eckbo felt that a garden was like a ‘box without a roof’, and he saw the elements of his layout as individual units that allowed him to organise the space three-dimensionally, very much as we would furnish a room.
Now, this is something that we naturally employ when designing an outdoor space. Division, partition or screening used imaginatively can be used to create intrigue, bring focus or alter perspective. Create a visual rhythm, vertical interest or simply screen unwanted views by shifting your focus elsewhere.
Some of the materials that can be used to do this are wood, metal, synthetics, stone, living plants and even water. Think about walling, trellis, decorative fencing, pergolas, arbours, or a summer house. Cordiner’s have a great selection and the staff are always willing to help with ideas and practical know-how. Another option is a green screen using appropriate planting like bamboo, tall grasses, climbers or architectural shrubs. All of these can be employed in a simple but effective way.
To start with, understand the natural divisions within your garden by working out where you are likely to sit. If you’re lucky there may be several areas to chase the sun, and consider any other outdoor activities you may wish to pursue as well as practical elements such as where are you going to dry your clothes, store the bins etc. Find out how the wind moves through the garden and where you need to create shelter. Look at where your focal points are from various perspectives.
Note any privacy issues or unwanted views beyond the garden and where shade is likely to fall if you do introduce vertical structures or planting and at what height. These factors will tell you where you need to and should introduce screening, partition, bring emphasis or simply break up the journey along a path by using an arch or series of pergolas. By understanding how you use the space and connecting these spaces, then introducing shelter, partition and division, you can create flow, interest and focus and make better use of your space.