Monday, July 15, 2013

The Beauty Is in the Design

Prince Charles's gardens at his Highgrove estate have left an indelible impression on me, so much so that I returned to the local library this week to check out his book Elements of Organic Gardening once again. I wanted to spark my memory on a few things I had seen during the tour we took at Highgrove.

Visitors to the estate are not permitted to take any photographs during the tours. Initially, I was disappointed when I heard about this rule, especially since the most common picture of me whilst visiting gardens is one with my camera attached to my face. At the end of the day of our visit, though, I realized what a difference leaving my camera behind had made on my experience of the gardens. I was simply more aware, not distracted by any attempt to get the perfect image of everything I saw.

I was struck by so many things there, not least of which was the great eye for design that the Prince has. I remember admiring a quiet spot in one of the gardens, thinking how pretty it was, and with a turn of my head, I was given a completely different view that was awe-inspiring. A statue, and just beyond it, a beautiful water feature, and beyond that, a seemingly unending line of topiary. Each element demanded my attention, and then my eyes were drawn further on by the next element. This kind of "trick" was done in so many clever ways throughout the estate, and I wondered if I could take this design principle on a grand scale and apply it in some way to my gardens on a small scale.

I do wish I could finally get rid of all the lawn here and walk through my own meadow, up to my elbows in a beautiful mix of wildflowers. But I'm ultimately a realist. That would likely lower the resale value of the house. Instead, I've decided to select a few more reasonable items to incorporate in my garden. While we were walking around, I made one of my grand proclamations (which I often do make, and I rarely carry out). We entered many of the garden spaces through doors of all designs, and I said that I would incorporate doors or gates when I returned home, something to arrest the attention before drawing the eye on to the next spot in the garden.

So I built a wooden gate and attached it to the entrance arbor in the Secret Garden. It is completely made of wood, joined with wooden dowels. I didn't want any screws or nails to mar its simplicity.

The simple new gate

Something to arrest the eye before
entering the Secret Garden

Something beyond the gate to draw you in

 I think it has added so much to the garden that I've drawn up a design for another gate in the vegetable garden, one that will test my skills with the mitre saw.

I'd love to hear about things that have inspired the rest of you in your gardens, so share your story and a photo. I might even include them in next week's post.


  1. Well, nothing I've carried out yet, but I've been inspired lately to build a little rock garden in the corner of the driveway where never grass has grown. I have lots of ideas, now all I need is a budget...
    Perhaps I should take a photo of the spot, as a "before" shot!