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Garden Design Series: Focal Points

Posted on 2nd October 2015

Focal Points

A focal point in a garden is a point of interest that either draws the eye to it or something that your eye will come to rest on while viewing a garden. Focal points can be created by a adding an interesting and decorative feature such as a statue or a fountain or a specimen plant that has a particular interest value such as a strong form or stunning bark perhaps such as Betula utilis jacquemontii   and will create  a visual ‘full stop’. You can use a series of focal points to stimulate movement around the garden within the harmony of the design.

There can be more than one focal point within a garden or planting scheme but care should be taken to ensure that the garden does not become too busy. A few, select and well-chosen focal points will be more pleasing   than lots of fussy elements. In smaller gardens the use of ‘trompe l’oeil’ or ‘tricks of the eye’ can be effective in creating a feeling of more space such as placing a false doorway onto a boundary that gives the impression that the path leads further on or placing a mirror to give the impression of a bigger garden as the reflection not only tricks the eye but the light reflected from the mirror can also give an increased sense of light and space.  Converging pathways leading to a focal point can increase the sense of perspective and give the impression of a greater distance.

In formal gardens focal points can be enhanced by placing them at the end of a linear feature where they are enhanced by the converging perspective of the crisp edges of a pathway or neatly clipped hedge.  Designing focal points into informal gardens it is less easy but can be achieved with structures such as a rustic archway over a curved pathway,  or a hidden quirky obelisk or bird feeder.