Creating intrigue in a garden.

Perhaps it’s my innate curiosity about gardens, but a glimpse through an archway or half-open gate always whets my appetite.

What lies beyond?

The view through to Wendy's garden, Burtown House.

The view through to Wendy’s garden, Burtown House.

All gardens benefit from an element of surprise … a hint of something ahead which leads you on.

This could be a bench, just glimpsed, and draws you on to explore.

Or an ornament, sculpture or sundial placed as a focal point.

If all the elements of the garden can be seen at once, it may seem a bit dull – what’s the point of wandering further?

So try to add a little intrigue. Make movement around your garden desirable … a journey of discovery.


Creating "rooms" with trellis

Creating “rooms” with trellis

If your garden is large enough, it can be divided into “rooms”, separated by hedges, a wattle fence or trellis hung with climbers. This creates an air of discovery , rather than seeing the whole vista at once and, rather like the medieval  hortus conclusas, has the benefit of creating enclosed, contemplative spaces.

Introducing a gate, left half ajar, invites exploration.

What lies beyond?

What lies beyond?

If this isn’t possible, a curving path disappearing out of view behind a screen of shrubs or fencing, suggests that the garden is more complex.

A serpentine path

A serpentine path

In his “Analysis of Beauty“, the 18th century artist William Hogarth suggested that curving S-shaped lines, the line of beauty, introduced vitality to a composition.

Even with the constraints of a Show Garden, the designer here has suggested a journey through the garden.

Chelsea Flower Show

Even a city courtyard can suggest something hidden – perhaps a glimpse of seating behind planters full of swaying grasses.

“The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place.” (‘The Secret Garden’ Frances Hodgson Burnett).

The secret door.

The secret door.

Perhaps it is the child in us still, the quiet place we can escape to.

So dress up a gate, it may only lead to the back lane but you can still clothe it in romantic roses … a suggestion of hidden spaces waiting to be explored.




14 thoughts on “Creating intrigue in a garden.

  1. Ah the ‘Hogarth Curve’ – as a child I remember my mother arranging flowers in a Hogarth curve. Certainly works well with the garden paths even in the confined space of the show garden. Love the secret door.


  2. I really think that this is the most inspirational post you have ever written! The photographs are stunning, giving us all so many different ways of introducing mystery and interest in our own gardens. I am sitting looking out onto my garden and I am thinking now about where I can create a little blue gate just like the one in your picture!
    Thank you.


  3. Love trip indeed. And that blue door would go very nicely with our brown brick & Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’… thanks for the inspiration!


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