You can hardly pick up a gardening magazine any more without reading something about creating garden rooms.
We now have outdoor kitchens’ outdoor TV areas, outdoor living spaces and outdoor meditation areas.
Even though garden rooms sound like a new concept, one of the first gardens to popularize this idea was at Sissinghurst Castle, which was established in 1938.
Rooms, whether in homes or in gardens, are spaces separated by some type of wall. In the garden, this can be accomplished with hedges, trees and shrubs, vines, or fences and other structures.
Although, traditionally, these walls were formed with geometric hedging, they don’t have to be formal and sheared looking. They just have to give a sense of separation, to give you a defined space to design and use.
You could use this overall concept in a more casual way as well. Instead of a clipped hedge, you could create your walls with a row of lilacs, tall grasses or with the use of screens. Creating “walls” in between room areas helps to create both a sense of enclosure and a sense of discovery.
Why garden rooms?
Aesthetically, garden rooms can make your landscape appear larger. When the entire yard is open, your eyes take in the whole space with one sweeping glance.
When the view is obstructed, your perspective becomes more focused and you observe your garden in much smaller chunks.
Secondly, creating garden rooms also allows gardeners to have different colour schemes or styles without creating chaos. You can have a bright, hot, tropical space by a pool and a calming pastel cottage garden in the back corner without having the plants compete for attention.
You can always unify the different areas by repeating the hardscaping or a certain colour of flower.
Thirdly, garden rooms can be used to create spaces for different functions, such as a dining area, a play area, a place for contemplation or an edible garden. Think of your outdoor space like the layout of a house with all its different functions.
Before you begin
First, decide what you want to do in each room. What is its intended purpose?
Think about that mood that you are wanting to create there – a quiet, contemplative, restful area, or a lively entertaining area?
What will be the focal point for that room? What will draw you or your guests into that room?
Next, think about what will link the different rooms together. Will pathways help to guide visitors from one area to another? You don’t want to obstruct the main entry, but you do want to divert travellers so that they have to go around a corner to discover the room.
Consider the views from within the room and of the room.
Will placing a “wall” in a particular location block a view from in the house or create intrigue? Would placing the wall there block sunlight from getting into the room?
Also consider your view from inside your house. Do you get a glimpse into the different rooms, at least enough to give it a sense of mystery?
Next, it is time to start adding the main structure to your rooms. Will the division between rooms be more of a formal hedge or maybe a grouping of taller grasses?
Always keep in mind the look and feeling you are wanting to create, maybe with some taller shrubs such as viburnum or serviceberry. Once the main structure is done, make sure you have a focal point for that room, whether it is a fire pit, a special water feature or a collection of plants like a rose garden.
After the walls’ locations are planned and the focal points has been decided, then the real fun starts. You get to “furnish” the rooms. The options are limitless.
When choosing colours to use, remember that cool colours (whites, pinks, purples) will help create a calm, relaxing atmosphere, while warm colours (reds, oranges, golds) create a more vibrant, exciting mood.
Creating rooms in your garden helps to give your space more interest and intrigue – and at the same time it allows to you to explore different looks, styles and moods that fit your lifestyle.
Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca.