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Monday, April 15, 2024
Growing Together: Every garden needs a focal point to be the star
Water features and sculptures can be the focal points of your garden, says Joanne Young. JOANNE YOUNG
Water features and sculptures can be the focal points of your garden, says Joanne Young. JOANNE YOUNG

If you know me at all, you know that I am plant-obsessed.

I love all the many details of a plant: its flowers, the texture of the leaves and its branching habit.

I would be one of the first to agree with this statement: “There is a plant for every spot and a spot for every plant.”

As a designer, though, there are times when, no matter what plant you place in a certain spot, it just doesn’t pop like you want it to.

Or, you may have a place in your garden where it is impossible to plant something because of tree roots or other obstacles.

Sometimes, when plants are partnered with the right decorative item, it lifts a garden to the next level. I do draw the line at pink flamingos, though.

Decorative features can create the vital focal points that every garden needs. Focal points are used in garden design to draw and direct the eye.

Think of a garden, large or small, that is just a swath of plants. Your eye sweeps along, not knowing where to land.

A sense of flow may be nice, but without a focus, you can’t really take a garden in – it is quickly passed over.

With the proper placement of a decorative item, your interest concentrates there.

Your eyes will naturally stop at that point, then start to branch out and notice other plants and features in the garden.

A focal point will cause your eye to stop and rest for a bit at that feature. The garden is slowly discovered rather than swept through.

It is easy to remember the definition of “focal point” if you associate it with the word “focus.”

It is an item distinguished from the other items in a group as being the centre of attention.

Likewise, when you “focus” your thoughts on something, you are directing your attention to that thing – to the exclusion of others.

Properly placed focal points give your garden a sense of purpose and order. 

Without focal points, your garden becomes just a careless collection of plants and objects. 

A focal point should not be an afterthought: it should be that item that the rest of the garden revolves around. 

Think about the style of garden that you want and make sure that your focal point adds to it. 

If you have a more formal garden, that decorative piece may be a sundial, fountain or statue. 

For a more cottage-style garden, an old wood bench or twig arbour may be better suited. 

A modern garden may contain a bold sculpture with very simple lines. 

Even the material that the item is made from can help convey the desired effect, be it wood, concrete, metal or stone. 

Be creative when choosing what to use for your decoration.  It should enhance the garden theme and reflect a bit of your personality.

Where do you place your decorative items? Here are some things to consider:

  • Make sure you look at your garden from all different points of view both inside and outside before deciding where to locate your focal points.
  • Remember that we spend almost half of the year (November – April) viewing our gardens from inside the home. Wouldn’t it be nice to be standing at your kitchen sink doing dishes and have a wonderful point of interest in your view?
  • Are there any ugly eyesores that you need to draw people’s attention away from? Placing a decorative item away from the eyesore leads people’s eyes away from the ugly view as well.
  • Where is your eye naturally drawn when you enter your garden area?  
  • For a front garden, the best place to locate your focal point is near the doorway. The goal for any front yard design is to direct people’s attention to your front door.  
  • The closer you will be when viewing your garden, the smaller your focal point can be.

As we wait for spring to arrive (or maybe it already has?), take time to assess your yard and see what areas of your garden need something special to capture your attention.

What would best suit your style and create the desired mood?

Then, the fun of searching for that perfect piece begins.

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca

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