Design Your Garden Like Your Living Room


When I was in middle school, I wanted to grow up to be an interior designer.

Though I didn’t stick with that particular dream, I have continued to appreciate books and television shows about home interiors. One of the things I’ve heard designers say over and over is this:

“Don’t be afraid to move the sofa away from the wall.”

In other words, most of us use the walls as our guide when arranging our furniture, but we don’t have to do that. Our rooms might feel more comfortable and function better if we pull the sofa out toward the middle, perhaps creating a cozy conversation nook or maybe freeing up space behind the sofa for some other use.

But it usually takes a designer’s trained eye and experienced advice before most of us even consider ignoring the dictates of our walls.

The same is true in the garden.

We may not have walls to work with, but we do have boundaries.

A typical small backyard often has a fence lined with flower borders and a patch of green grass in the center. But just as it is with our sofas, we don’t have to push our gardens up against the walls.

And in a larger yard, the decision to plant and plan according to the outer boundaries can be a substantial opportunity wasted.

I’ve learned the hard way here at Maplehurst that I should have begun my gardening close to the house and moved outward from there. At the very least, I should have planned views, paths, and planting areas with the axes of my home’s doors and windows in mind.

Instead, back in the beginning, I was more likely to plant trees, shrubs, and even flowers out along the edges. It was as if I felt some need to pretty up the farthest view, but I never stopped to consider whether I wouldn’t rather have entirely different views.

For instance, I’ve always disliked the far view of my children’s playset and trampoline. Recently, I realized that if I planted a long, slightly serpentine shrub border connecting two young trees (an ornamental cherry and a Japanese Stewartia), I could define a more intimate space, have something much nicer to see from my kitchen window, and obscure the far edge of our yard.

Instead of an unobstructed view all the way to the trampoline at the edge of the yard, I am hoping that a shrub border will give the sense of something enticing just beyond the line of sight.

Like pulling the sofa away from the wall.

No one need know it’s only dust bunnies back there or a trampoline. And maybe one day I’ll have a woodland garden growing where the trampoline stands now.

Always, there are more garden dreams to dream.

Explore all our Black Barn Garden Library posts here.


Posted on

July 9, 2020

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