Thursday, August 4, 2011

Garden Design: Personalizing your garden with the Element of Surprise!

There are many styles of gardens, and likely one that best suits you, your house and your environment... but no matter what the style, a quality that sets one garden apart, and gives it a unique quality is the element of surprise!

Some people may think of this as something whimsical, like the treated metal wall with cut-outs shown above, a delightful form of surprise from a garden at the 2011 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show... But surprise does not have to be whimsical... it can merely be something refreshingly unexpected.

The unexpected comes in many different forms, some more subtle than others, and is a wonderful way to add interest to your garden... here are some examples:

Just the right curve in the path or change in elevation that takes you to an unexpected view or garden room - such as in this Los Altos, CA garden, which has been worked on by several generations of designers.

The sound of water coming from somewhere, calling you...

A change in hardscape materials that signifies you are entering a different part of the landscape... such as in this Palo Alto garden.

Repetition of a certain plant... and then the surprise break in repetition along this pleasing meandering pathway.

Or an unexpected plant combination that sings...

A pause along the way... perhaps it is a serene lantern nestled in a planting that gives you a sense of calm and makes you feel you’d like to linger.

or the sound of chimes in the wind.
or the unusual mixture of materials.
or an intoximating scent from a plant that wafts its way towards you from an unknown spot in the garden.

Or perhaps it is a completely unique use of a space, such as a front yard that has been turned into an aesthetically pleasing and useful working edible garden. This is a Japanese style Front Yard Edible garden in San Jose, CA. A collaborative effort and still a work in progress, it is already overflowing with edibles.

A whimsical pot or piece of garden art,
A uniquely placed mirror that reflects back into the garden,
A 'secret garden' hiding in a corner of the landscape,
or some colorful friends...

Its fun to think outside the box!
These are all ways to personalize your garden space and create the element of the unexpected.

This season, take time to consider the forms of whimsy or surprise you would like to develop. Have fun and enjoy your space. Your garden has endless creative possibilities!
...and please share your thoughts on ways you've created surprise in your garden!


  1. Just found your site, Love the ideas here especially the surprises around the corner, shame they wouldnt work in my tiny garden, its north facing and only about 4m x 5m

  2. the landscape involved creating new settlements for farmers and their families and labourers needed to work the land.