The shrub rose 'Palmengarten Frankfurt' at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON.
The senses are bombarded with information in a garden.
Hollyhocks in the RBG, Hamilton, ON.
There are visual cues like color...
The Rockery at the RBG in Hamilton, ON.
The climbing rose 'American Pillar' at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON.
There is also scent, ...
A bee on a fall aster
Moss covered rocks and fern, The Rockery at the RBG in Hamilton, ON.
the tactile cues of provided by texture.
When on top of all that information, a gardener mixes in a some garden gnomes, a few birdhouses, and/or a statue or two, a mild disquiet can start to creep in to the mind of the observer. When assaulted with too much information, what the mind wants most is an escape route.
A late fall bouquet of store bought roses in my favourite watering can.
I don't know about you, but when it comes to garden clutter, I really have to retrain myself. I love watering cans, birdhouses, fairies, mushrooms...gosh, what don't I like...well, maybe I can give plastic looking garden gnomes a miss, but you get my point; I love all manner of garden ornaments.
I don't believe you should feel that you have to rigidly adhere to design rules with regard to garden ornaments. It's your garden. Please yourself first! Heck, if you fill your garden with plastic garden gnomes, I say, go for it! Life is too short to worry about other people's opinions.
But if you look around your garden and feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction, understanding design principals can help you identify what is and isn't working and then help you to correct it.
This finally brings me around to the subject of today's post: focal point.
Focal point is one of those designer terms that you hear tossed around frequently. Commons sense suggests that it is a point of focus; something whose dramatic presence demands or fixes your attention on it. In a garden, using a focal point can also take away from that feeling of visual clutter by centring your attention for a time on a single point of interest.
The picture above is a classic example of using focal point in a garden. The eye rockets along the lines of perspective created by a walkway flanked with two parallel rows of ornamental grass. Your point of focus is a single object, the gazebo in the far distance. Curiosity about that distant structure drives you forward, along the path to get a closer look.
Let's look back the other way. Again, there is a single focal point.
What is that distant object anyway?
I see now. It's an urn.
Fixing your line of sight on a garden focal point is like finding a stepping stone in the center of a stream you are trying to cross. It's a place to rest, to catch your breath, adjust your balance and then move on.
Take a look at this garden scene. The bench is not only a literal place to rest, it is an object for the eye to rest on as well.
Lose the bench through the magic of Photoshop, and your eye starts darting all over the place. It is like a sentence without a period. The visual information provided by the mixed planting suddenly seems vaguely overwhelming.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. This is all well and good Jennifer, but I don't have acres of garden to work with in creating a focal point. Fair enough! I don't have vast acreage either.
In Part 2, I will show you some inspiration for creating a focal point in a smaller garden.