What do you do in the middle of a garden?

August 25th, 2014
Posted In: Garden style & living

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.

Ana Sanchez-Martin middle of garden

Ana Sanchez-Martin’s ‘moongate’ in the middle of  her garden. Photo by Anna Tott.

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.

Germinate design middle of garden

Ana’s long thin town garden is designed in a series of circles with a ‘breathing space’ lawn at the centre. Photo by Anna Omiotek-Tott.

‘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.’

middle of garden moongate

Looking back towards the house through the moongate – the garden feels bigger and more mysterious than a ‘typical town garden’. Photo by Anna Omiotek-Tott.

Or a breathing space?

middle of garden posy gentles

Another long thin town garden divided into three by Posy Gentles. The lawn is in the middle third and the birch trees define the space and lead the eye on.

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.

Middle of garden Ana Sanchez-Martin

Think about where you want to be when you are in your garden – in the sun, hidden from the neighbours or with the best view? Photo by Anna  Omiotek-Tott.

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.

Lawn middle of garden

My garden is an L-shape, so the ‘middle’ goes round the corner – where this lawn is certainly a ‘breathing space’.

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.’

Emma Daniell middle of garden

A ‘breathing space’ in the middle of a garden doesn’t have to be lawn – here Emma Daniell has a stone terrace in the middle of the garden.

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.

middle of garden diagonal

My square lower garden seen at a diagonal angle.

middle of garden lavender

The square first part of my garden seen straight on from the house, with lavender beds and pots in the centre of the first lawn,

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.

Ana Sanchez-Martin

Ana Sanchez-Martin of Germinate garden design. Photo by Anna Omiotek-Tott

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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5 comments on "What do you do in the middle of a garden?"

  1. Elaine says:

    Hi Alexandra- I’m finding your blog so useful and enjoyable- thank you!
    However,I do have a garden,where the dining terrace is next to the house( through bifolds) and the sitting patio is back left ( gets the sun the longest). This was mostly a blank garden,so I’ve made borders all around ( though I now know that they need to be a lot deeper,which is great- more plants!)
    However,I do have lawn in the middle and am keen to interrupt the view with more planting,so was considering an island bed ( sort of rough kidney shape) ,but now feel that that may be a dated and not a workable idea? Maybe I should just concentrate on really ramping up the borders?

    1. Some people don’t like island beds because they don’t feel attached to the rest of the garden, hence their unpopularity in recent years. However, you could get a similar effect by expanding one of your borders more than the other, so effectively running one border almost across the garden (with the path or lawn allowing access to one side of it). I don’t know if you’ve seen the two wide gardens I’ve featured recently – they’re here https://www.themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk/how-to-turn-a-wide-shallow-backyard-into-the-perfect-garden/ and here: https://www.themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk/transform-your-garden-easy-garden-design-tips-budget-ideas/ Both have borders or trees in their gardens and it’s worth viewing the associated videos too, as video can sometimes give you a better idea of what the garden looks like.

  2. Makes very good reading as usual Alexandra. Full of interesting ideas/angles

    1. Thank you – I was quite surprised that people would google ‘middle of a garden’ but when I thought about it, I got really interested…

  3. Jon says:

    I love the moongate. The idea of having different sections which are not visible until you discover”them has a lot of appeal.

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