Gardening With a View in Mind

outside-inA view does not merely exist in the world of sweeping Montana pastures or rocky coastlines in Maine. It is as simple as a framed viewpoint – a scene on a micro or macro level that encourages you to stop and absorb it.  Whether we obsess or merely potter, it’s our job as gardeners to find those places within our own gardens – framing here, blocking there – to create an experience that goes beyond the nitty gritty of what type of tomato plants we put in this year.

The most utilized views of our garden are those at which we gaze through various windows in our home, and those that we see as we approach from the street.  Both are equally important, but most people will concentrate on the latter and neglect the former in an effort to wow with curb appeal.

In my opinion, this is a mistake. We live in our homes and guests only visit. If your daily activities seem to find you in front of one particular window or another for any length of time (washing dishes, eating breakfast, writing a column), you should start right there, incorporating the garden into your daily inside life.

And, if you’re staring out at a neighbor’s collection of junk or an opposing window, that may begin with actively blocking that view.

A small, well behaved tree such as a dogwood or stewartia can help achieve that goal – not only providing bloom, but creating a resting place for wildlife and a source of entertainment for you.

If the space between houses is too narrow for a tree, you may want to consider a small freestanding trellis or bamboo screen that blocks unappealing views but can provide rungs for a lacy clematis or annual climbers.  Adding a bird-feeding station and a hanging basket rounds out that picture nicely – creating a sense of sanctuary around your home.

The desk of 20th century garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence faced her garden 'laboratory,' inspiring her writing and providing beautiful views.

The desk of 20th century garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence faced her garden ‘laboratory,’ inspiring her writing and providing beautiful views.

If your windows are higher up and your house backs onto other houses in a subdivision – particularly those with fishbowl morning rooms that otherwise invite your gaze  – the trick is to bring your perspective down into your own yard by creating interesting views and shapes when viewed from above.

Think about these lines when you are landscaping – using poles or hoses to mark where you wish to plant and then checking them out from your rear windows.  As your plantings matures, your eyes will naturally settle on your garden when you look outside, rather than on the fascinating antics of your neighbors.

Planting carefully can move the gaze up to the sky and mountains beyond - rather than the 20 windows belonging to a row of five houses behind you.

Planting carefully can move the gaze up to the sky and mountains beyond – rather than the 20 windows belonging to a row of five houses behind you.

Once we move into the garden itself, borrowing the views of another is one of my favorite ways of shifting perspective and creating views.  If you’ve got a neighbor with a lovely garden or a classic garden feature that makes you smile every time you sneak a peek – shift your planting schemes to frame it in creative ways.

This may involve taking down an ugly shrub on your side of the fence, or merely cutting a keyhole in the middle of a hedge.  Talk to your neighbors so you don’t infringe on their privacy – but chances are, if they have created something beautiful enough that you wish to look at it, they’ll probably be flattered.

Planting to bring your perspective up to far off natural beauty is also a great way of ‘borrowing’ views and one that I used at our last home when I planted a low evergreen hedge as a boundary to block surrounding houses and direct my eyes off towards mountains and taller trees.

Your friends and family may not ever know that you forced their eyes into one corner of your garden or another, gave them a windowful of wow, or moved their line of sight out to neighboring natural features or gardens – they’ll just know that you’ve got a home and garden that feels a whole lot bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. That’s right, it’s TARDIS gardening – no time or relative dimensions required, just a bit of creative thinking.

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By | 2018-02-20T20:41:03+00:00 September 3rd, 2016|

About the Author:

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.

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