Include both enclosed and open spaces
Any garden can be thought of as a relationship between open spaces and enclosed spaces. Enclosed spaces can be created by architecture, such as walls, arbors, and other structures; by natural landforms, such as hillsides; or by dense plantings. Open spaces can be an expanse of lawn or an unbounded terrace.
The contrast of moving from an enclosed area to an open area is experienced on an emotional level. The feeling is similar to walking through the woods and coming upon a clearing. Varying the relationships between two types of spaces provides a lively experience of moving through a garden.
The layout of my garden contrasts intimate, enclosed spaces with a central open space that is lawn. As you enter the garden, there’s a tiny, irregular terrace with a floor of broken concrete and a café table and chairs. I’ve heightened the informality and feeling of enclosure by growing vines up the trunks of adjacent trees as well as on the side of the house that borders this space. The vines intertwine to form a leafy roof, and the space feels like a wild jungle just outside the “civilized” space of my living room.
Next, a short path takes you from this intimate space into an area under a generous pergola. The enclosure here is rigid and geometric, precisely defined by the pergola posts, the scored-concrete floor, and the overhead beams. Its sense of formality is heightened by its contrast with the informal, asymmetrical room next to it. The planting is simple, with clipped boxwood balls in pots reinforcing the grid. In spring, euphorbias and climbing roses embellish this classic space and soften the formality. By summer, blowsy hydrangeas further blur the formal lines.
Wild: An informal terrace is located outside the living room and leads to a more formal patio.
Tame: The formal layout of this patio beneath a pergola is accentuated by symmetry and clipped boxwoods.
Photo/Illustration: Judy M. Horton