Divide & Conquer - Garden Partitions
by David West Beale

I‘m thinking about garden partitions and how we can use them to enhance our designs, beyond just the purely functional role of garden boundary. Counter-intuitively, dividing a garden space can actually make the garden feel bigger, as a journey is required to discover and experience the different areas.

Partitions can be made from diverse materials – wood, metal, synthetics and stone through to living plant material and even water.

The M&G Garden by Andy Sturgeon at Chelsea Flower Show 2012
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The M&G Garden by Andy Sturgeon at Chelsea Flower Show 2012

We can use partitions to organise space, create ‘rooms’ or zones, control views, create journey, introduce colour and texture, support plants ... and much more besides.

Partitions are a very powerful design element. They can make or break a design. Harder to change or edit than plants if a mistake is made, and generally static in appearance throughout the year, partitions deserve careful thought before installation.  

There is huge benefit in investing some design time to visualise options before committing. Simple perspective drawings are a great help here.

Controlling views & creating rooms

Here is a design I created recently.
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Here is a design I created recently.

My sketch on the left gives a good overall feel for the layout of the design but my sketch on the right is a better indication of the view point at ground level. 

The partitions in this design are positioned to organise the garden into three distinct zones or ‘rooms’. The first area contains the main patio with adjoining lawn. The middle area allows a flower- filled corridor to be planted linking to the furthest room – an evening sun deck. 

The partitions are made from slats of western red cedar. This allows glimpses through of the colourful planting and at the same time creates privacy. By screening each area a sense of mystery is introduced into the garden and a journey of discovery is encouraged.   

Let’s look at some other ways of using partitions.

Stretching space & introducing texture

The Telegraph Garden by Andy Sturgeon at Chelsea Flower Show 2010
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The Telegraph Garden by Andy Sturgeon at Chelsea Flower Show 2010

Rusty corten steel structures define this space by controlling views of the planting, introducing strong verticals and creating horizontal lines of perspective. By repetition of form they also create a sense of visual rhythm that guides the viewer’s eye laterally across the garden space. This encourages the illusion of stretching out the garden’s width from this particular viewpoint. The structures also bring an interesting industrial/architectural texture, reflecting back into the garden in the colour of the iris. This rust colour and has the effect of warming up the palette and intensifying the blue and purple flowers (see my blog ‘using plant colour’).

Perspective

Perspective 2
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We can use partitions to emphasise or even ‘force’ perspective. In this design, I have used vertical posts to divide the central path and flanking planting beds. Combined with the screen panels angled out from the perimeter fence, this has the effect of drawing the eye down the garden to the focal point, a spherical sculpture. 

The apparent length of the garden is increased by forcing the perspective. This illusion is achieved by installing posts that become progressively shorter and shorter and by setting the screens lower than the fence.  

Playing with water & light

The examples we have just considered are all static and unchanging. Let’s finish up by looking at a more dynamic option.

Detail from the RNIB Garden by Tom Prince and Alex Frazier at Chelsea Flower Show 2014
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Detail from the RNIB Garden by Tom Prince and Alex Frazier at Chelsea Flower Show 2014

This detail shows one side of a walk through glass box which forms a water feature centrally placed within the garden. The water flowing down the glass panel converts the view through into an interesting and changing mosaic of colour and light. When the water is turned off a normal view is restored.

 

Photo Credits