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.

Garden-Mirror

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!”

Garden-Mirror1

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.

Garden-Mirror-examples

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.

**UPDATE**

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…

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/

Comments

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About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 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!

Comments

  1. Linda Kraft says:

    How in good conscious can you promote the use of mirrors in the garden? You start out saying you know they will cause bird crashes. Bird crashes KILL BIRDS!!! Have you ever seem a beautiful warbler with blood draining out of its beak dying on the ground after crashing into a window? Billions if beautiful birds are killed by window crashes each year and a site that promotes the outdoors and gardening wants to use mirrors???!!! PLEASE RETHINK THIS ARTICLE!!!

    • Hi Linda, I have never seen a bird crash into a mirror or had reports back from clients and didn’t write anywhere in the article that it did, so I’m not sure where you read that.

      I have though certainly seen birds crash into windows and I think the reason for that is the height, size and lack of good reflection. The incidence where I’ve seen it happen with windows are usually larger expanses of glass at higher off the ground than I’m recommending for small mirrors. From my experience with garden mirrors, because of the way they are positioned, they tend not to cause the problems I’ve seen with windows. Also with a good mirror the reflection will put birds off from flying into themselves.

      But I totally take your point, you do need to be careful. I will add a bit into the article about that so people can be aware. Thanks for mentioning it.

  2. Alison Boocock says:

    I've had a full-length mirror in my garden for years and not one bird has died! When I first put it up (sunk back into the middle of a conifer hedge) at the beginning it did confuse some birds that decided to fly towards it ….but never killed or hurt themselves – they soon became used to it, and there has been no problem. If I ever found one hurt or dead, I would immediately have taken it down. I love birds!!

  3. I hope you go onto cat owner websites and spam them. Cats are far more effective bird killers than mirrors

  4. Is it possible to get covers for garden mirrors? I have a 5ft high arch mirror and thought it would be a good idea to cover it when I am not present during the hot weather.

  5. I just put in a beautiful mirror in my back garden last week. My husband just sent me a photo of a bird that died crashing into it. I’m heartbroken. Just researching what to do and some suggestions that you can put cling film (Saran wrap) over the glass. Will try that when I’m not there.

    • Oh no, that’s awful Alex. Do you have any plants you can put near the mirror so they overhang it a bit? That should hopefully stop anymore birds from flying in to it.

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  1. […] found several post on the topic but one from successfulgardendesign.com was provided lots of details and even some caution on using garden […]

  2. […] I am now looking for someone’s discarded full length mirror to hang in my garden. A mirror adds such depth to the garden- I have seen it used effectively in three small gardens.  I will have to start going to garage sales in the hopes of finding such a mirror. (see here) […]

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