Creating the mystery

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” – Francis Bacon.

Ever since I read this, I have always endeavoured to do just that in every garden that I’ve created. On this boring L-shaped site wrapping around a 1930s suburban semi, mystery was definitely needed, and the best way of doing that is always to divide the garden up and obscure views. It’s all about not being able to see everything all at once. DSCN1286

Pergolas help as they create height and filter your view through to other parts of the garden. Think of it being like a woman in a little black dress showing just a hint of decolletage- much more enticing than letting your boobs hang out from a tight spandex tube dress. You need to keep them guessing….

But let’s go back to what the garden looked like when I first saw it. As I said, it was an L-shape of grass wrapping around the house with absolutely no sense of mystery whatsoever- you could see everything all in one sweep of the eyes. Here, we’ve already started work but you can see the flat openness of it all:IMG00105-20120321-0838

So here we are putting a pergola in to divide the area ( notice the Wendy house which the client wanted to keep- I was horrified naturally, but came round once it was painted).IMG00107-20120321-0839

The client’s privacy was also compromised by those houses overlooking the property so introducing evergreen height was a must. It’s got to be evergreen or for six months of the year you’ll be living in a goldfish bowl and there’ll be no wandering around the kitchen in your undies! Here’s the same view now three years later:DSCN1205

It’s all about creating layers too- layers of planting at different heights and distances- layers to diffuse your view, deepen the sense of mystery and draw you on:

The pergola effectively divides the garden into two and takes you on a journey to visit different areas. Here’s the first area, where we closed off the side entrance to give more seclusion:IMG00106-20120321-0839DSCN1206And here’s another area, going from this:


to this:DSCN1238


Now with a lovely fluffy Aruncus to draw the eye.

And those overlooking windows ?IMG00108-20120321-0839 They’re blocked off by tall planting so that it’s possible to be in those undies all year round now!DSCN1213

There are little areas for sitting and enjoying the views:DSCN1208DSCN1217

And the ugly Wendy house has been transformed with a lick of paint. Just to the right of it notice that there’s a branch of that dividing pergola to lead you along yet another path to a different part of the garden:IMG00115-20120321-0841DSCN1262

I always think you can do anything with plants- prettify, hide ugly views, divide an area- so I keep the hard landscaping to a minimum, using it mainly to get around the garden, for eating areas and as a prop to take climbers as here:


The same view now:DSCN1263DSCN1239DSCN1238

Interesting objects placed at intersecting points cause you to stop and stare, or in this case, to give it a pat…DSCN1241

As Einstein once said,“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.”

I believe every garden, no matter how small, should be layered and divided, revealed only slowly and gradually as you walk through it. This one does just that.Where will we go now….?DSCN1265

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  1. Very interested at what can be achieved when you know how and am gripped by what can be done with a blank canvas


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