Landscape Design Ideas: Designing For The New York Garden Walk

Garden walks have the ability to take us on unexpected journeys. Depth, perception and mystery, coupled with light and dark, create pathways through our gardens that can change how we think (therefore change how we feel). The garden walk can be like exploring an unknown wooded area. There is an underlying excitement that runs through us when in unfamiliar situations (especially when all alone). From the smallest landscapes to the most grand, garden walkways and paths need to be created. Here in Suffolk and Nassau County on Long Island in New York we have a great number of public and private gardens to learn from. If you live here with me, go exploring around your own neighborhood. Adventures await.

Garden walkways with mystery
Garden walkways with mystery

Your walk, in your garden, can be right out of a book you once read or freshly created specifically for your home and property. What everyone needs to understand is that you just need to build it. “If you build it, they will come.” People are drawn to pathways. The idea that they will take us somewhere. I have written it before, where do you want your gardens to take you. If you don’t know, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the starting and then discovering where things take you. Do you have shade? Do you have full sun? Do you have a combination of many elements, light and dark? Whatever your environment has to offer, you can work with it, manipulating light and dark with plants, arbors, trellises or covered bridges.

The last thing mentioned, covered bridges, is an idea I had right out of the movie The Bridges Of Madison County. I will be building this concept onto a property and it’s garden design in the next 2 years. Imagine walking onto a property and in the near distance you see a structure you can walk through not knowing exactly where it will lead you. What will your view be when you emerge out of your covered walk? Exciting, right. The pathway can be straight, curved, angled anyway you desire. The considerations need to be how much space you have to work with and how will it coordinate with the houses existing entrances and exits. This is where I want to begin. I hope you have the patience to follow my thoughts.

A walk into the distance verses a walk close to home. Pathways and their gardens can be on the outskirts of your property, but up against the house or everywhere you can possible look. The goal needs to be how do the pathways and gardens connect to the overall movement around the property. Just as one sentence needs to lead you to the next, connecting ideas, so to do your gardens and pathways need purpose. A simple arbor leading from the front of the property to the back of the property demonstrates purpose. If you cover the arbor with some type of plant material, climbing vine, evergreen or woody ornamental, you have softened the journey from one space to the next.

In our homes, we demonstrate this idea of transitioning from room to room through pictures on the walls, chosen paint colors, moldings, furnishings and flooring. If done to perfection, guests can’t help but explore your home. This same conscious effort needs to be made outside. If we start with a simple arbor separating the front property from the back we have a great place to begin. It doesn’t matter if the arbor is made out of plastic, wood or some type of medal. What matters is the ground covering you are working with and your light exposure. For example are you working with blacktop to grass, tumbled pavers to bluestone and are you in full sun, full shade or a combination. All these elements which aren’t easily changed become your initial focus. These outdoor elements help us to focus on our supporting materials.

The supporting material group is narrowed due to available light (plant choices) and space. If the area moving us from one space to the next is narrow our goal should be to create the illusion of space through vertical plant development. If transition areas are wider and open the goal should be to create an illusion of shrinking spaces. Think of Alice In Wonderland, and the mystery associated with moving from a larger space to a smaller space. Don’t forget we are creating illusion through visual perception. People look around and make choices as to where they will travel. Most people are drawn towards the unknown, the undiscovered, the unexpected and the unusual. With all this in mind you now have choices. It doesn’t cost a lot to choose where to begin. It doesn’t even cost much to mark out the area you want people to move through. Do these two things and the next step is extremely exciting.

Choosing the structure people will be moving through and then how to plant and design around it. Guests will thank you for the opportunity to visit and will go home wondering how they can create those spaces at their homes. I will followup this article with another that talks about planting choices around an arbor and how to enhance the transitions with large planted pots and urns.

Until next time, spring fever is almost upon us. The time to begin planning and organizing for your outdoor living spaces is now. Don’t miss it. Don’t let another year go by, leaving you with regret.

Thank you for taking the time to journey through my gardening mind.

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