Creating Rooms and Boundaries in your Garden

Piet Oudolf Image 2

Creating structural elements in your garden will transform it from the ordinary, to the extraordinary. A well-planned framework of supports and dividers will create visual interest throughout the year, as well as allow your plants greater depth and perspective by incorporating the walls, fences, arbors, trellis and forms, into their growth pattern. Boundaries and divisions also create the stage setting for each area in your garden, while keeping the rest of the world (and its problems) out.

Castle Howard reflecting pool

The feeling of going through a rose covered arbor with a boxwood hedge, into a wide expanse of lawn with a central feature, is inspiring. The sight of a stonewall with climbers in bloom, cascading over its surface with the light dappling through its leaves, allowing just a glimpse of the plantings behind it, overwhelms the viewer with joy. Everyone can easily create this feeling and look in their garden, by incorporating structure and by understanding the method of dividing your property.


Firstly, you need to analyze your gardens:

ForegroundThe area closest to your home and the most visible. This is often your entertaining feature and utility area. Very small gardens usually have only a foreground, and thus require considerable planning.

MidgroundThis is the middle area of your property where you can show off with large perennial beds and special features. This is also the best area for lawn, larger ponds and garden structures.

BackgroundThis is the furthest area from your home and is generally best suited for larger trees, greenhouses, vegetable gardens, wild life cultivation (birding), composting and larger perimeter fencing and hedges.

The garden divisions you would use in the first zones (foreground and midground) should be lower in height and semi transparent in nature (picket fences, wattle, low hedges, stone walls, trellis and varying ground levels). In both very small gardens and large gardens, view your outer most perimeters as an opportunity to create a sense of enclosure and privacy for your garden. External boundaries create privacy, shield you from noise and wind and allow you to create your own personal theme. Internal boundaries are used to inspire and entice both yourself and your guests to lose oneself in the garden. These semi transparent or small-scale internal divisions are to create a psychological break between zones and usage’s.

Methods of Division

Lattice Indispensable! This is the only word that can encapsulate its many benefits and uses in your garden. From the French “treillage”, you can make it yourself, buy it off the shelf, or have it customized. Fencing created with lattice, gives an open, seductive quality to it, while allowing the passage of air and light, with a degree of privacy. Lattice can be mounted on your external boundaries to create both visual depth and foliage support. Anything that cannot be moved from your garden (garage, shed, and block wall) can be easily covered with lattice. In a formal setting, lattice (treillage) can be arched with tapering lines to give a classical perspective, while providing winter interest. In small gardens, lattice provides a horizontal growing space for foliage and hanging containers.

Natural Stone Walls Walls built of flagstone, slate or rubble, provide a sense of permanence and comfort. Natural stone internal boundaries create a visual strength and power to your design while being both functional and ornamental. You can construct internal walls yourself, however, anything over 36″ will require professional advice. Plant moss in the cracks and train your plants to cascade over them to create a sense of antiquity.

Barefoot Garden Design

FencingThe spectrum of choices includes: country style picket fences; woven twig mesh fences; lattice fencing; panel fences; split rails and imposing palisades. Whatever your choice, remember to first examine your space and determine which style will best suit your design, internally and externally. For example, if you are creating a Japanese garden, then your external walls will be tall, of natural materials and will provide complete privacy from the “outside world”. Internal divisions may be created to direct your eye on featured elements, while also providing a sense of intimacy to secluded areas in your garden. When choosing the materials for your fencing, think about their size, alignment, pattern, colour, configuration and style.

Cast IronPopular since the early 19th century, this style is best suited for formal gardens, particularly for their external boundaries. Iron can be left in its natural state, or can be painted.

ArborsThis type of garden divider is essentially an area for seating, with a canopy structure above. Arbors, in all their forms (pergola, arch, etc.), create a sense of romance and mystery. An arbor will create an internal division in your garden, while also providing support for climbing plants, focusing your view and directing traffic flow. The contrast of the shaded retreat within and the sunlit garden surrounding it, gives a greater sense of depth to your design. These structures (arbors, pergolas, archways, etc.) frame the garden view beyond them, while providing an enjoyable means of emerging from your foreground, to your mid ground.

cats in the garden formal modern

HedgesA natural method of creating boundaries, while providing yearlong visual interest. Hedges, like fences, will filter the wind, afford privacy and depending upon your plant selection, bloom throughout the summer. In a formal garden, hedges are usually clipped into geometric forms; thus, you need to select a plant with a dense growth pattern. Boxwood (Boxus Sempervirens) is perfect for parterre gardens and topiary forms. Yew, white cedar, privet and juniper are also all well suited for training and heavy clipping, allowing you to create any form your design requires. In an informal garden, a softer, unclipped hedge is best suited. While they will take more space, you can achieve a cascade of blossoms with this design. Dwarf lilac, Potentila, Roses and Bride Wreath (Spirea X Vanhouttei) are just a few examples. Prune your informal hedge only when your plants are becoming too large.

By incorporating some or all of these elements within your garden, regardless of its size, you will transform it from merely having summer interest, into a garden that is equally beautiful throughout every season of the year.

(children not allowed… LOL)