One of landscape design’s most enchanting concepts is the element of surprise. When a garden is divided, it gives visitors a sense of discovery as they pass from one section to the next, each space revealing its individual charms, season after season. Early 20th-century English gardens, like the renowned Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, are a perfect example. The gardens are divided into “rooms” created by hedges or walls covered in climbing plants, each having their own theme and specific purpose. And because the real boundaries of the entire space aren’t revealed to people strolling through, the only discernible limits are those of the garden rooms. You can use the same technique in your own backyard without undertaking a massive construction project: some clear paths, distinct areas and growing walls will do the trick.
1. Plotting the path
There are two main things to consider when designing pathways: first, providing efficient access from one area to another (pathways will need to be wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow or lawn mower) and second, creating visually appealing pathways between your garden rooms. This latter task means you’ll want to include decorative features that are visible in both directions along the main pathway.
If your property is large enough, consider putting in a secondary pathway that offers better access to your garden shed or vegetable patch, for example. Well camouflaged behind shrubbery or flowerbeds, this secondary path typically runs along the far side of the yard. The “doorways” that separate each section can be made with a simple opening in a hedge embellished with a few seasonal containers or reinforced by an arbour draped in vines. Traditionally, these structures are used to enhance the entryway to areas designed to be more secluded and intimate.
2. Dividing the space
One of the simplest ways to divvy up your yard is to allot space to three basic tasks: a place for eating and relaxing, a grassy spot for play and a work or storage area. Functionally speaking, these are the most common backyard activities, but the square footage given to each is rarely well defined. Delineating the areas with hedges and plantings gives each space its own distinct boundaries. Be sure to also consider ways to conceal the yard’s outer perimeter from view. Trees, large shrubs and hedges are an attractive alternative to fences and provide textural interest.
Image: A "doorway" was created by flanking the pathway with wooden trellises. The change in flooring material also suggests that you’re entering into a different area.