All gardens have views, even if they are completely hemmed in by high city walls. Such views can be good or bad and may need to be emphasized or screened accordingly. In positive terms, a good view can be a price less part of your garden design and will need to be high lighted in some way. This may mean creating a gap to frame a view through a hedge or planting, or doing quite the opposite in an empty site by drawing the eye in a particular direction. Remember that a wide open view is often less effective than one that is gently highlighted by carefully positioned plants and features.
Rather more frequently, particularly in urban or suburban areas, the outlook is less promising. Here there will be a need for screening, either with walls, or fences, or again with areas of planting.
In town, there is often the problem of being overlooked by neighbours’ windows, and so a well positioned tree or pergola, or overhead beams run out from the house, may be useful to break the offending sight line.
If the garden is a straight forward rectangle, with little in the way of trees or other features, this first stage is very simple. If, however, the plot is an awkward shape, or trees are positioned in such a way as to make ‘running measurements’ difficult, you may have to undertake the simple job of ‘triangulation’.
This involves running a tape from two known points to the object in question. To find a tree in this way, you might run the tape from one corner of the house and note down the distance, and then move the tape to another known point the other side of the house or perhaps the corner of a garage and take another measurement. This will ‘fix’ the tree firmly on the survey and when you come to draw the plan to scale you can transfer the measurement. Use the same technique for finding the junction of two angled boundaries.
If a garden has so many cross falls (slopes across the garden) and steep slopes that it is impossible for you to carry out reasonably accurate measurements, or if the site is ‘doglegged’ or has many trees, it may well be worth enlisting the services of a qualified surveyor. His fees will be well worth it and you will be safe in the knowledge that you have a sound starting point for your design.
In most circumstances, you can work out the slopes easily enough, simply by sighting back to the house and measuring the drop with a tape. If there are existing retaining walls (walls that support an upper level), a course of brick usually equals 7.5 cm (3 inches). If you are moving into a new house, and its survey drawings are available, check they are accurate before using them. Very often levels may have been adjusted or houses set at different heights to those originally indicated. Up to now, we have been concerned with the physical dimensions of the site, but there are a number of other factors to survey that may well influence the finished garden.