How To Create Movement Around The Garden

Creating space has much to do with movement around the garden. The way in which different areas are linked together, by paths, pergolas, bridges, steps or terraces, can enormously increase their apparent size and interest.

However, it is equally true that a linking element positioned carelessly and without proper regard to its surroundings, or the random placing of too many elements together, can confuse the eye and appear to diminish, rather than expand the available space in the garden.

Many elements in the garden encourage movement: entrances and exits, a disappearing path, a covered walk, a focal point, a pierced screen; or something as mundane as the washing line, dustbin or greenhouse.

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In any garden there will be logical and favorite routes for getting from A to B. These are called ‘desire lines’, and should be respected, for they will not be deviated from, and will therefore affect your final layout. So if you want to introduce circuitous, meandering or zig-zag routes in order to increase the sense of garden space, the sense of mystery, or to lead the visitors from one viewpoint to the next, you must make certain that there are very clear reason inherent in the garden design for following the line of the path.

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You can plant stands of trees so that your serpentine drives have a reason for winding round them; your garden path must also incorporate elements that appear to dictate its route.

However, the actual route around the garden is only one part of the equation. The way in which it is laid out, and the speed at which you traverse it, are also important. Within reason, the faster you move through a space, the smaller it feels, and you may wish to take this into account at the planning stage.

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A gentle curve can be negotiated at speed, or at least at a brisk walk, but the tighter the radius becomes, the slower you tend to walk through it. This could be taken to absurd extremes, resulting in a garden full of convoluted loops and twists; there must, of course, be a balance between achieving a logical pattern and establishing a comfortable pace.

The width of a path also has a bearing on speed: just as the water in a stream accelerates as it passes through the narrows, so narrow paths encourage action. Doubly so, if your passage is restricted, either by planting closing in on either side, or by the flanking contours of a valley. In contrast, a wider path, meandering through the open space like a river meandering through a flat plain, will encourage much slower movement. By manipulating these various elements, you can control the pace as you wish, allowing for variations of movement in different areas of the garden, all of which will create a feeling of space.

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Levels also, of course, affect progress through the garden: steps, slopes, terraces all need to be negotiated, and can be used deliberately to slow the pace and direct movement.

Surfaces are important in determining the speed at which you travel along your paths. As we have seen elsewhere, both the type of material and the way in which it is laid should be carefully considered. Smooth, continuous, ‘fluid’ surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, encourage speed; rougher, more uneven surfaces, such as brushed aggregate concrete, granite sets, small cobbles, brick, grass, or gravel, slow you down; and loose cobbles or even large, smooth boulders can, quite literally, stop you dead in your tracks.

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The laying pattern also affects movement. If a brick path uses stretcher bond running away from you, down the path, this tends to engender speed. If the same bond is laid across the path, it has the opposite effect and slows you down. If a path is laid in panels of different materials, for example, brick and cobble, this too will slow you down.

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