Garden mirrors – How to effectively use them in your garden

Using a mirror in the garden can create a whole new dimension, especially if your garden is very small, as correctly using a mirror creates an illusion that can make it look twice the size.


What size of mirror should you use in your garden?

Well, that all comes down to the type of effect you are trying to achieve. There are many different things you can do with a mirror from creating a small window-like portal, through to a full-length one that looks like you can walk through it from a distance.

How to create an illusion

Where you place your mirror and the surrounding items around it, will dictate how successful an illusion you can create. Just having a mirror on its own with nothing around it isn’t that effective. Mirrors work best in the garden when there are lots of plants growing around them so that they blend in with the background and your eyes have less edges showing to focus on that shout, “this is a mirror!”


The mirror sticks out like a sore thumb in the first picture, but the planting soon helps to make it work well in the garden.

Basically you need to mix as much reality in with your illusion as you can. For example, I have attached an open gate next to a full-length mirror, with a stepping stone path going up to it, which creates the illusion of an entire garden beyond. Details, are important.

With our full-length mirror and stepping stone path, we cut the last steppingstone in half and placed it right next to the bottom of the mirror so that a full steppingstone was reflected back.

Garden mirror ideas

Below are just a few examples of how you can use a mirror in your garden. As you can see, there’s everything from using them like windows, to full-length gateways.


How to correctly place a mirror in your garden

Placing a mirror correctly in the garden is actually much harder than you might think. The reason for this is that you have to be very careful what the mirror reflects back. So if you place the mirror at the end of the garden and it only reflects your house or utility area back, then that probably won’t be ideal.

A quick tip is to take one of your house mirrors out into the garden and try it out in different locations to get a feel of where is the best place, if it isn’t obvious, like at the end of a path, for example. That way you can see what is reflected back.

A trick to help you get the best view from your mirror

If the view reflected back in the mirror isn’t that good, the good news is, often, you can cheat! If you place something behind the mirror that angles it like a piece of wood, then you can completely change what is reflected back, in a lot of circumstances.

It’s useful actually, to angle the mirror slightly anyway, so as you walk towards it, you’re not immediately reflected back in it, and spoil the illusion of having a garden beyond.

Where to buy?

GardenMirrorIt can be quite tough to find a decent garden mirror (I’ve some alternative tips below, if there’s no where local). One place I’ve found in the UK that does offer a good selection of garden mirrors is Greenfingers (aff link). All is not lost if you can’t find a ready made one…

What type of mirror should you use?

The type of mirror I recommend you use, will go against conventional advice. My suggestion is that you use the best internal mirror you can afford to put in. Yes, there are mirrors specifically designed for outside use.

The problem with exterior mirrors is that they are usually either made from plastic or polished metal. Forget the metal ones, they look like they should belong in a men’s urinal (not that I’ve ever been in one!).

The plastic outdoor mirrors are a little better, but they do tend to look like they’ve come out of the fairground house of horrors, you don’t get a perfect reflection back and it ends up looking a little bit warped, which does ruin the effect somewhat.

So, I’ve found if you use a good quality interior mirror, they will look good and last longer than cheaper mirrors, outside. They won’t last forever, and yes when you go to purchase one there will be a lot of tutting and head scratching and “that won’t last outside dear” type of comments from the mirror supplier!

The main problem with using a mirror outside is that the water gets in and separates the reflective surface from the glass. In the past, I’ve used a flexible metal-like tape over the top of the mirror to help prevent the water getting in. If you ask in the mirror place, or builders merchant, they will hopefully know what I’m talking about and be able to supply you with some, once they’ve stopped telling you what a bad idea it is to use a internal mirror in the garden!

Another issue can be glue. If the mirror is glued in place, the glue has a nasty habit of working its way through the mirror’s reflective surface and causing a darkening in the glass – especially, if the mirror is repositioned during glueing. A mirror supplier will hopefully be able to guide you on how to fix the mirror in place and which glue to use if traditional mirror fixings aren’t an option.

DANGER Beware!

One last thing on placement of mirrors, and this is really, really important, especially in hotter countries – be aware of the sun! You need to place your mirror out of the sun so you don’t end up accidentally setting fire to your fence or neighbours garden with the reflection from the sun.


It’s been mentioned in the comments that a mirror might cause an injury to birds, so please place them responsibly – so not too large or high. I’ve never personally come across this but do consider flight paths etc in when positioning them. And have plants growing near and slightly over them, that will help dissuade birds from flying in to them.

Going back to aesthetics – do be warned, features alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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Garden gazebos – How to choose the right gazebo for your garden

Gazebos can make a very attractive and functional focal point in many gardens. They draw the eye down the garden and entice you to go and sit in them and relax with a good book and favourite beverage.


How do you know if a gazebo is right for your garden?

A lot of it will come down to how much space you have available. Gazebos do tend to be at least 2m wide. Yes, you can get them a little smaller than that, but they need to be a certain size so that they look in proportion to their height.

So in really tiny gardens, something of that size will probably dominate too much. The way I tend to choose where, and if, to add a gazebo in the garden is, first, I draw in a circular seating area on the garden plan.

So, once I have designed the lawn main patio area, then if it looks like there’s room at the end of the garden I’ll just draw in a circle to represent that secondary seating area. Then I take a look at the surrounding garden, the overall size, the existing structures like sheds and pergolas, that type of thing.

If there is nothing else that is vying for attention, then I will most likely put a gazebo into the circle seating area.

The reason for the circle is twofold. Firstly, because the gazebo is going to need a solid base of some description to stand on. Secondly, it’s nice to make more of a feature of it, so a circular brick edge with gravel or paving in it and the gazebo makes for a nice feature.

What type of gazebo should you choose?

That is most likely going to come down to the style of garden and your budget. Gazebos, unfortunately, do tend to be quite expensive. The more open style of gazebo, the less the costs because there is less timber and construction involved. So think of one that looks like one of those open bandstands, but smaller.


Scots of Thrapston Gazebo

You can really go to town on the features and styling of the gazebos from copper roofs to shutters curtains and built-in seating with cushions. The best value and prettiest ones I’ve found in the UK are from Scots of Thrapston. I’m sure there are many other types that you can purchase so do your research online, I just find these ones to be the best value with a different variety of stylings and colours to choose from.

Where to buy online?

One company I’ve come across recently (though I’ve not actually purchased from them yet) are Greenfingers. They are a UK based company and currently have a sale on some of their gazebos. They also have an excellent range of garden furniture and garden features.

Gazebo-timberThis timber gazebo is very versatile and can be painted or left plain wood. See more details about it here:

Timber Gazebo details.

They also have this very cute wicker gazebo that would look great in any cottage or natural style of garden. See more details about it here:

Wicker Gazebo details.



What’s the difference between a gazebo and a summerhouse?

I feel I should have come up with a witty punchline, but alas no. As far as I can tell there isn’t a great deal of difference between summerhouse and a gazebo except perhaps the shape. Most gazebos do tend to be hexagonal in shape. To me, summerhouses seem to be like glorified sheds with windows. Whereas gazebos seem to be more attractive in shape and design.


Left – summer house, centre and end – gazebos.

As long as you choose a gazebo that is in proportion to your garden, then they do make a very attractive addition, as well as a very functional and useful place to store the garden furniture during the winter months.

The main factor you should think about when deciding if a gazebo is worth the expense, is how much are likely to use it. If you’re someone that likes to read, write or paint in the garden then a gazebo will give you opportunities to do that when the weather is not hundred percent perfect, especially if you’ve added electricity to it. Even if you never use them, they are still very attractive garden focal points.

Having a solid structure in between the planting, especially if it’s painted a nice colour, visually breaks up the planting and creates interest. Though admittedly a gazebo is a very expensive way to do that. A bench would be much cheaper!

BUT do be warned, garden features alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

Water features – Part 2

Last time we looked at ponds in detail, this time we are going to look at water features.


Contemporary water features

Water features tend to have a lot less water than ponds. This is because, usually, there is a reservoir underneath the feature which pumps the water into it and it recirculates.

Because there’s less water on show, it means it easier to keep it clean and because there isn’t the plant and wildlife aspect with most water features, you can also clean them out each year and start again with fresh water.

Where to place a water feature in your garden

With ponds, you do need to take into account how much sunlight etc that they are getting, but not so with a water feature. This gives you considerably more options for where you place it.

I like to think of a water feature as a focal point. So try to line up your water feature with either the view from the window you look out from the most, or perhaps at the end of the path, or sight line down the garden.


Water features work well raised up in decks and patios – you can then sit on the edge for extra seating.

You can also incorporate a water feature into your patio or deck. This can be a very pleasant addition, as you have not only the visual aspect, but you also have the sound of running water. Do be careful on the size of feature you have though, you don’t want the running water sound to be too overpowering or you will need frequent trips to the bathroom!

If you do decide to add a water feature into a patio or deck area, consider having raised sides to it, so that it can double up as some where to sit.

Water features also lend themselves to being lit up. By adding a few lights around the water feature and in it as well, you can create some absolutely stunning effects at night.

What type of water feature should you have?

There are so many different styles of water features you can choose, from drilled rocks, that have the water pumped up through the centre of them which trickles down the sides, to old-fashioned water pumps and pots overflowing with water etc. The limit really is down to your imagination, or what’s available in the garden centres if you’re going to buy one. Though do consider making something yourself.


Drilled natural stone water features (available from Creative Stone Ltd in UK)

The main thing with water features, is to have the right size reservoir of water beneath it. The reservoirs are usually a really strong, large plastic container with a plastic lid with holes drilled in it, or a heavy duty galvanised metal mesh over the top. The feature then sits on top of the reservoir, which is hidden with cobbles etc.

It’s usually a really sensible precaution to get a stopcock put in the reservoir, because on a windy day, or really hot weather, there’s a lot of water loss and you don’t want to burn the pump out if the water level gets too low. Also, some water features do splash water outside of the area of the reservoir.


Rustic style water features

BUT do be warned, water features alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

Pond and water feature ideas – Part 1

Water in the garden can bring an exciting element into your design. Moving water has both the visual and auditory component to it and is good to take your mind away from surrounding noises of the urban environment.


You can of course put in a still water pond, but for most gardens, with smaller water size features, it’s worth getting a pond pump to keep the water aerated.

I’m not going to go to heavily into the technical aspects of pond and water feature construction,because there are lots of specialist websites that are experts on the technical side of things. Here, we’re going to focus on design and how it relates to your garden.

What are the most important things to think about when adding water in the garden?

  1. Where are you going to locate this said area of water?
  2. Do you want a pond or a water feature?

Ponds tend to have larger open area of water, whereas water features tend to have a cascade of water that goes down into a reservoir, that’s usually underground.

Let’s first take a look at ponds, as they tend to be a little bit more work than having a simple water feature.


The main trick with making a pond look good in the garden, comes down to size. The mass of water needs to be visually the right size and also the right depth. The depth will come down to whether you’re having fish and other wildlife in it or have small children’s safety to consider.

It’s important to get the overall size of the pond correct so that it looks in proportion to the rest of your garden. Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific formula, that’s why it’s best to put it on paper before you build it, so you can check you’ve visually got the right size.

What style of pond do you want?

Ponds come in all different shapes and sizes and styles. There’s everything from formal rectangular ponds that can be either raised up or flat to the ground. Then there is the very natural looking ponds which have varying depths for different plant and wildlife species and have irregular edges, with no straight lines. The varying depths help accommodate the different needs of a variety of wildlife. Having one end shallower, also helps them get out!


How to get the right position for a pond in your garden

Ponds have a larger open area of water than water features, so you have to take a little bit more care with placing them in the garden. Ideally, you do not want to put them somewhere where they can get too many leaves falling into them, so avoid directly under a tree for example. Sunlight is also important to consider, there is no right answer, it will depend upon the needs of what you have in your pond.

Your pond has to to work with the rest of the garden. So if you’ve got a very contemporary style of garden, then adding in a natural pond probably isn’t going to look right, unless it’s well away from all the areas of hard landscaping.


The biggest mistake with pond design…

The mistake that most people make is they focus all their attention on the pond and not the rest of the garden.  Then, once they’ve built it, it looks like someone dropped it from outer space and it landed in the garden!

It’s absolutely critical, if you want to incorporate any feature into your garden be it a pond, water feature or anything else, to take into account the overall design shape of everything you include in your garden.

A well-designed garden is like a jigsaw puzzle, everything has to fit in place or doesn’t work. Great looking gardens don’t happen by accident, they are not a series of unrelated features. Everything ties in together and has been thought about. If you’d like to see this demonstrated, then take a look at the garden design workshop where I will show you how to design a garden from start to finish, and you’ll soon see how dramatic a difference planning a garden this way makes.

Next time we will look at water features and how to place them.

BUT do be warned, nice water features alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

Garden pots – How to use decorative pots in your garden

Garden-PotsThere are an amazing selection of garden pots available these days. Everything from classical terracotta, through to modern glazed urns in different shapes, sizes and colours.

Pots can make a great focal point, regardless of whether they have plants in them or not. If you have a nice urn shape, they are very well-suited to just standing empty in amongst planting as shown in the photographs above.

Grouping pots

Normally, when you group things in the garden, a group of 3-5 or any odd number tends to look best. But I find, with empty pots, two next to each other in different sizes looks really good and breaks the odd number rule. However, if you are planting the pots, then the rule applies. Odd numbers together do look better for plants.

Pots can add a dash of colour and a solid shape into a planting border that brings clarity in amongst the planting. You don’t have to use them solely to put plants in on the patio.


An urn on its side looks good surrounded by cobbles

You can also use the urn shape pots on their side with cobbles around them as shown in the photograph on the left, which creates an interesting focal point.

If you have pots dotted about on your patio, they do tend to look better when grouped. Also, having a colour scheme running through them helps bring clarity to the grouping, rather than having an odd assortment of different types of pots.

If you have an odd assortment of pots that people have given you over the years and have collected, then a trick to make them work together well is to have certain plants that you repeat through the planting in the pots. So, for example, you have now Alchemilla mollis that’s in several different types and style of pot mixed in with everything. The repetition of the plant brings clarity to the mixture of different types of pots.

What style of pot should you choose for your garden?

Try to choose garden pots that are in the same style as your garden i.e. traditional or modern. If you have an assortment of pots that doesn’t suit the style of your garden, then consider painting them. Even the most boring of old terracotta pots can be completely transformed with a coat of paint.


Painted terracotta pots look great both on the ground and raised up on walls

Pots also don’t have to be relegated to ground level. You can put them onto window ledges, into metal frames or suspend them from the wall. Or just attach them to the wall as they do in the patio gardens of Cordoba in Spain, as shown on the first of the three images above.

The pots used in the patio gardens are suspended away from the wall slightly with the use of a small piece of wood behind each one and they watered them very carefully to make sure they don’t stain those lovely white walls.

Garden pots used correctly can really liven up any garden and make a great gift if you’re stuck for what to get a garden loving friend.

BUT do be warned, features like pots  will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

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