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Wednesday March 03 , 2021

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

Garden Design Quick Tip - Focal Points - Lines and Frames

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focal point - leading lines

Focal points are brilliant tools for bringing your garden ‘into focus’ – focal points add context to a garden.  By giving a viewer something distinct to look at, it somehow manages to bring the setting around it – the wider garden – into focus too.  

Focal points work best when there is a clear line of sight to them; by clearing the way of any other distractions the viewer’s eye is inexorably drawn to the focal point at ‘the end of the line’.  The focal point can be anything – an urn, a bench, a plant, a sculpture, etc but it needs to be distinct enough from its surroundings to hold the attention of the viewer for a while once their gaze reaches it.  It’s that ‘pause’ of attention that then allows the focal point’s surroundings to then be thrown into focus too.

There are a number of ways of creating those clear lines of sight but two of the most effective methods, and most often used, are based around converging lines and frames.  

In a converging line approach you’d place your focal point at the end of two (or more, but usually two) converging lines. Whilst physically converging lines can be used in most instances the converging lines are a trick of perspective: for example if you look at a straight road in the distance both of its sides seem to converge at a single point – it is this effect that focal points can benefit from.  If you position your focal point at the ‘meeting point’ of those lines it creates much more impact.  The lines draw the eye along them right to the meeting point/focal point as can be seen in our first image (above).  This shot was taken at RHS Wisley and you can see how the lawn/border edges create converging lines leading to the luminous clump of ornamental grass at their virtual meeting point.  It is a compelling sight (added to by the direction of the lawn mowing lines too!); you can’t help but be led to the focal point and only then, once you’ve seen it, do you traverse back and take in the bigger picture.

focal points - framingFraming on the other hand is where the focal point is framed for the viewer, thereby becoming the centre of ‘the picture’.  You can ‘frame’ a focal point in any of a number of ways: pergolas, arches, branches, climbing plants, hedges, reflections, buildings, colour, etc – they can all work spectacularly well.  Our example image (left) shows how Yew hedges (Taxus baccata) have been used as a frame for the water feature beyond them but it also frames the ongoing and further focal point beyond the initial one too.  The first focal point is the pause point which once seen, then pulls the scene beyond it into focus.  The frame surrounds a perfect ‘picture’, only viewable from that particular point since the hedge blocks any unintended views.  This was taken at National Trust Hidcote Manor Gardens.

Obviously we’re not all lucky enough to have acres of land in which to create long sweeping vistas but we can still apply these techniques in smaller spaces.  Simple pathways can create a converging line effect while small trees, hedges, arches and gateways can create the perfect frame for your own personal focal point.  The possibilities are seriously endless but don’t forget to try to be restrained with the number of focal points you use in your garden.  Less is definitely more for this effect to be truly outstanding.




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