There has long been a love affair with creating intrigue and mystery in the garden. From mazes of clipped yew which enthrall people as they try to find their way out, to hidden grotto’s and pavilions offering a sense of secrecy, gardens have been used to excite and thrill for centuries. And whilst large estates and awarded gardens have the room and funds to achieve such great features, even the smallest of spaces can offer mystery.
There are a number of ways to create mystery in outdoor spaces. Mostly commonly, winding paths, or small gateways, are used to lure a visitor’s eye to what lies ahead. A tiny arched trellis in a hedge, through which the slightest hint of more garden can be seen, will attract curious visitors. Meanwhile, a pergola walk covered in blossom will call out to be walked along and enjoyed, with guests wondering where their path will lead. Elsewhere, winding paths will draw visitors along it, with every curve offering something unexpected.
In your own backyard, creating mystery will often become a far smaller affair than those of nationally renowned houses and gardens. However, done correctly, features can have just as bold an effect. In the formal garden, where straight lines and traditional borders are vital components, gardeners can use trellising and pergola’s to create secrecy. Trellis off sections of garden, with the only way to reach them through archways or pergolas. Use climbers and tall shrubs to block off the views, and by providing just a glimpse of beauty and blossoms ahead, you can ensure that people will always be wondering what lies around the corner.
For those that have a more natural garden concept, winding paths are ideal to create intrigue. At the bends in a path, plant tall shrubs, grasses, or even erect wigwams cascading with flowers, to obscure the view. Incorporate something unexpected around a path’s corner to surprise people. Perhaps a shallow and relaxing pool, a collection of exotic plants that they didn’t expect to see, or a view that takes their breath away. A meandering path around a tree could lead to a shady grotto with bench, or a formally clipped path could suddenly bring a statue into view.
Using sound is also a fantastic way of creating mystery, with garden visitors always on the lookout for the source of the noise. A small garden fountain or water feature will fill the air with the trickling of water, luring guests ever closer. Meanwhile, wind chimes will flicker gently in the breeze, adding a new dimension to the garden and leading people through a garden oasis to the source of the sound.
Planning is key if gardeners are to create the mysterious and intriguing sense that they strive for. A garden must be kept in proportion, with winding paths or secret passageways kept to a minimum so that visitors aren’t overcome. Meanwhile features should also be placed away from the garden entrance so that they are a secondary consideration when gardeners visit. This allows for the main garden to be taken in, before a sudden intrigue is created with a sense that perhaps, through that archway, or around that path, there is more to be seen. But done correctly, even an oasis’s own gardener will find themselves drawn to the secret hideouts and exciting passageways that a garden has to offer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Geoff Wakeling is a London based writer and gardener who works within the media industry as a garden expert. Running a landscape design and maintenance business, he also holds a degree in Zoology, runs a gardening website, The Guide to Gay Gardening, and has articles listed on Ezine and eHow.