Staying ahead of the curve

Curves are a really useful garden design tool and designers love them – landscapers too.
Curves are a really useful garden design tool and designers love them – landscapers too.

Even if your plot is rectangular, almost everything you grow in your garden will be rounded. Winding lines offer you the opportunity to create flow and direction that will make sure the focus is on the highlights of your garden, not the straight boundaries.

For a start, curves have a more natural look than straight lines, so they blend very well with the countryside beyond your garden. In the past, we’ve even reinforced a Pennine skyline with curved stone walls in an Eden garden.

I use curves in a design to lead the eye, drawing attention to interesting features and keeping focus in the garden itself rather than straying to the fence and boundaries. For some reason, our eyes (and, more importantly, our brains) see space differently when it’s full of curves; it can make a garden feel bigger. An abundance of curving shapes can also blur the lines between your garden and its surroundings so you can ‘borrow’ trees and large shrubs in other people’s gardens or neighbouring woods and fields for your own landscape.

Paths that meander through your garden, together with rounded planting, give a sense of unity that can connect disparate features such as sheds, hot tubs and gazebos. Also, curved planting beds are softer and useful for making screening or ‘rooms’ in the garden without giving the feel of hard barriers like fences or hedges. Curving designs can even create hidden corners that help build a sense of exploration and discovery when walking round the garden: If we can see it all from one vantage point, it doesn’t hold our attention for so long.

Curves also have two opposite but complementary effects on the feel and atmosphere of a garden.

The Japanese have this just right in their traditional garden designs. On the one hand, curves create a sense of movement and flow even though the garden itself is static. Imagine a path shaped like a meandering beck and you’ll know what I mean. However, that movement is very gentle so curves also create tranquillity and a restful place to relax.

Finally, there’s an obvious tendency towards curves in a garden as that’s the nature of the plants themselves. Most have curving shapes so they tend to harmonise with a curving design that keeps things soft and layered.

As the work in our online Gallery shows: Lean lines and straight structures have their place but, to be honest, we like curves!

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