When I do garden design consults there is one sentence I hear over and over again:

“Oh we just put that there because we had a gap, it doesn’t have to stay there”…

What the ‘that’ is, can be anything from a summerhouse to a birdbath or anything else you care to imagine. To most people, the assumption that an awkward area they don’t know what to do with (or somewhere they have a gap) the obvious and most logical solution is to put ‘something’ there.

But if you REALLY think about it – is that really a GOOD reason to put something in the garden? If you were starting the whole garden from scratch – would you still put that ‘something’ there? If the answer is ‘no, it would be much better in the other corner where ‘it’ gets the sun’. You have your answer.

If your answer is I don’t know, then that is the same answer as above, you are just hedging your bet with uncertainty!

The Ultimate Designers…

Imagine if Mother Nature was looking at us and saying to Father Nature – “You know what honey? I think that forehead is a bit empty looking, how about if we put an extra nose or two each side of it?”

Then Father Nature adds his bit and says “Great idea but what about the gap in the middle? How about an extra ear?! How cool would that be? Think how much more they’d be able to hear…”

Now if the above conversation sounds silly – just change the word forehead to lawn, nose to tree and ear to a pond and hopefully you’ll start to see where I’m going with this…

Any garden that is well designed is thought about, in detail, from conception to creation. Just adding bits as you go along (if there is no master plan to follow) doesn’t usually work.

The reason additions don’t usually work is that if you had planned for something, you work everything else around it and it works with everything else a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle.

How to Successfully Design a Garden

When you create a really successful garden design, features line up with viewpoints from the house or other parts of the garden. So if you are adding something at a later date, unless it lines up and is in the right place, it will never look right.

Now before I totally put you off ever adding anything ever again to your garden – there are exceptions to this, well not really exceptions, just good luck. Sometimes there really is a gap at the end of the garden that is perfect for a seat or something. It just happens to line up perfectly with the patio doors so will make a great focal point from the lounge and the addition makes the whole area come to life.

So look carefully at your gap before you put something in it (I probably could have phrased that a little better). Make sure you would still put the same thing in the same place if you had a blank canvas.

Do NOT under any circumstance put something somewhere just to fill a gap unless it really works with everything else in the garden! RESIST the temptation to add that extra ear!

If you’ve got to this point and still don’t know why there are ears mentioned in a garden design blog, you skim read too fast!

COMING NEXT WEEK – the long-awaited set in Spain series on how to survey your garden!

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Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    2 replies to "Garden design – Be careful of the ‘gap trap’!"

    • Theo

      Thanks for a very amusing and insightful blog post Rachel. I laughed aloud when I thought about some of the things I have put in my own garden gaps!

      Shame I hadn’t read your blog a few years ago.

      Looking forward to reading more from you.

      • Rachel Mathews

        Thank you Theo, glad you enjoyed it. Not to worry, filling in the gaps with inappropriate things is something we’ve all done at some time or other. It’s just part and parcel of the learning process!

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