Curved gardens are back in a big way
Curved gardens are back in a big way. That was my conclusion after going round the show gardens at the RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival.
For the last decade or so, garden design has been largely angular, especially in smaller gardens. Straight lines work well in urban gardens. They look smart. And they’re a good way of organising space.
But today’s trend towards naturalistic planting seems also to have triggered a fresh interest in what curves can do for your garden.
And interior trends often influence garden design, too. Curvy sofas, tables and curved layouts are big news in contemporary homes. As garden designer Pollyanna Wilkinson says when talking about the basics of garden design, it’s a good idea to take elements from your home and repeat them in the garden. That could be choosing a similar floor colour in your kitchen pavers and your outdoor patio. Or it could be echoing the curves in your furniture or room design.
The advantages of curves in gardens
The main problem in most small gardens is that you can usually see the whole garden at once. As soon as you add curves, then there is a sense of adventure. Where does that path go? What is hidden behind that bend?
It can make the garden feel bigger. And it can also make it feel more private, if the curves wrap themselves round where you sit or eat.
Another garden design principle is that you can soften the hard edges of a square or rectangular garden by introducing curves in the design.
It’s worth thinking about this, although it’s also a good idea to consider the opposite. You can also echo the straight lines of a square garden in the design.
Both are good strategies. The important thing is to think about which will be right for you and the way you live in your garden.
The curved garden path…
A winding garden path always looks charming. It means you don’t see the whole garden at first glance, even if your garden is tiny.
But beware! Humans and dogs both cross spaces in straight lines. So if you create a pretty curvy path through your garden, the lawn will soon be worn down by the path everyone actually takes to cross it.
Unless, of course, you add some curved garden borders, so that people can’t just walk across.
Curving garden borders
The advantage of curved garden borders is that nature rarely grows in a straight line. Perhaps the return of the curved border is a result of the current trend towards naturalistic planting.
But, once again, you can argue this both ways. You can echo nature with a curving garden border. Or you can contrast the straight lines of the built environment with relaxed, naturalistic planting. I think both look good.
It can be a little harder to keep a curved border in the right shape. If you just dig a curved border into a lawn, then it can easily sprawl. Or so we found when we had curved borders.
However, most of the show gardens at the RHS Hampton Court defined their borders with hard landscaping.
The return of the ‘island bed’?
Some garden lovers don’t like island beds. If you don’t know what they are, they are garden borders in the middle of the garden. The case against them is that they are, indeed, islands. Sometimes they don’t feel connected to the rest of the garden. An island bed can look as if it had been accidentally dropped by a passing aeroplane.
The plus side of an island bed is that the planting can be enjoyed from all sides. At RHS Hampton Court the show gardens connected island beds to the mainland garden with paths.
And curved pergolas, arches and arbours…
There were several curved arches, arbours, pergolas and moon gates in the show gardens.
Curved garden furniture…
I liked the idea that you can add curves to your garden by adding a curved bench or round chairs and tables.
And round ponds, of course
Nature did not intend ponds to have square corners. Round-edged ponds are very much a reflection (ha-ha) of the trend towards naturalistic planting.
Round and curved garden detail….
Even the pebble mulches were round-edged in some gardens.
The curved garden as a sanctuary…
The strong message that came through was that we want our gardens to be a haven. We want to be enfolded by swathes of trees and plants. And we have a need to carve a garden out of even the most inhospitable or difficult situations.
More curvy garden ideas in video:
I always think you can see more of a garden in a video, so here are more views of these gardens:
But there’s still room for straight lines…
At least thirteen of the sixteen-plus show gardens at this RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival majored on circular or curved garden features. But I’m sure you’d like to see at least one straight line in this post.
More garden design ideas
Here is more inspiration for small garden design from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Plus some really pretty ideas for your garden from BBC Gardeners World Live. There are more contemporary garden design ideas from Hampton Court Palace Garden Show here, too.
The RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival always has lots of ideas for middle-sized gardens. It takes place in the first week of July.
Shop my favourite gardening books, tools and products
I’m often asked for recommendations, so I’ve put together some convenient lists of the gardening products I use on The Middlesized Garden Amazon store. Links to Amazon are affiliate, see disclosure.
For example, if you’re interested in more sustainable gardening, here is my list of Favourite Sustainable Gardening products. They’re all things I either use myself or which come highly recommended from others.
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