What do you do in the middle of a garden?
Sometimes people Google to find out what to do with the middle of their garden. A presumably baffled Google directs them here. So I asked garden designer, Ana Sanchez-Martin of Germinate garden designers for her advice.
Drama in the middle of the garden?
It’s certainly an unusual question because not everyone considers their garden as divided into ‘middle’ and ‘sides’, but here at the Middle Sized Garden, we don’t flinch from dealing with difficult issues. And I found myself thinking about it – always a sign that there is something to discover. Ana’s own garden has rather a dramatic middle, and has recently been featured on Alan Titchmarsh’s Love Your Garden for its mild steel ‘moongate’ dividing the centre of the garden from the end.
‘It’s a typical long thin town garden,’ says Ana, ‘so I’ve taken the classic approach of dividing it into three areas.’ She’s added a contemporary twist to the concept of dividing the three areas up with an archway, by having the archway cut in mild steel rather than the more usual wooden or trellis frame. ‘Mild steel isn’t expensive,’ says Ana, ‘but it does rust. It was a bluey-black when I installed it seven years ago. But I love how gardens change with the weather, so I like that.’
Or a breathing space?
Ana thinks that the middle of a garden should be a ‘breathing space – you need a bit of freedom and space’, which is why lawns are traditionally in the centre. ‘I like to create a bit of mystery at the beginning, then you get to the middle and you can take it all in. And that calmness prepares you for what happens next.
First, decide how you’re going to use the garden…
‘But before you decide what to do with the middle of your garden,’ says Ana. ‘It’s important to think what you want to do in your garden. I always start any garden design with that question.’ Think about where the sun is, and where you will sit at different times of day. ‘Don’t automatically place the terrace or patio behind the house, the lawn after that and then the borders round the edges. Place the patio or seating area where the sun will be when you want to sit there – or where you get privacy from the neighbours, or the best view back through the garden,’ she advises.
And is the ‘island bed’ due a come-back?
I ask Ana what her view of ‘island beds’ is, as some gardeners are scathing about them. ‘Ah,’ she says: ‘The island bed is quite a 50s garden design concept. They need a certain size of garden to work (the larger end of middle-sized, perhaps?) and they’re not easy to plant because they have to look good all round. But I think they’re due a come-back – I like the idea of anything that shows off planting.’
And how does the shape of a garden affect how you do the middle?
But what if your garden isn’t long and thin? What if it is square? How do you avoid the feeling of it being a box with a lawn in the middle and borders around the edge? ‘Divide it up into a series of different size squares,’ advises Ana. ‘You can have a lawn square, a terrace square, planting squares…’ Or she suggests designing the garden at 45 degrees to the house, so it’s at a diagonal. Every time I come in my side gate, I see my garden (which is divided into squares) as a diagonal and I love it.
Whatever the shape, make the beds bigger….
You’ll see from the two shots of my garden that a diagonal view makes beds look fuller. Generally, says Ana, you need to have larger beds in order to layer plants properly. So another piece of advice on the middle of the garden might be to have less of it: make your beds bigger and more dramatic.
Or you could just ask Ana Sanchez-Martin to design it for you. Contact her on Germinate. Pictures of Ana’s garden have been taken by garden photographer, Anna Omiotek-Tott – contact her here.
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