Create an illusion of space using paths

In most cities and urban areas gardens are at a premium, according to Rightmove, gardens are in the top 5 on a homebuyer’s wish list so it’s important to make the most of your garden whatever size it is, not just for your own enjoyment but for any future resell plans.

When trying to create the illusion of space there are a few simple tricks that can be used to alter the appearance of a space. These visual tricks can easily be converted into garden solutions, to create more depth and intrigue for your visitors.
However, the first tip is something to avoid;

1 – Less is Not More

A lawn, a few shrubs and a fence will only make your garden seem smaller as it will draw the eye straight to the fences, bringing them visually closer and therefore making the space feel closed in. Taking your eyes on a journey through space by utilising some of the following suggestions will create the illustration of space, I promise you.

Image credit: Veronica Reverse on Unsplash

2 – Go BIG

Generally, the fussier the design the smaller the space will feel. For example, a clever trick to give the illusion of more space is opting for oversized patio pavers, we recommend going with as large as 900 x 600 or 800 x 800. The larger the paver, the less grout and therefore it helps to create a seamless space that isn’t broken up by numerous grout lines. Even better, buy paving with accurately milled edges and get a professional to lay them with no pointing needed so the surface feels almost continuous.

People make this mistake with planting too, thinking small plants work better in a small space. This is not always true. Even in a small garden tiny plants can look a little pathetic, drawing attention to the lack of space. A few well-placed large leafy plants will add depth. Fool the eye by planting large specimens in the foreground and smaller plants towards the back – this creates a false perspective and is a trick that has been employed in landscaping for centuries.

In our example above bold Buxus in tall, tapered planters dominate the foreground and smaller plants disappear into the background, making the garden seem much longer than it actually is.

Image: Project in Keston, Kent

3 – Look Up!

So many gardens lack visual interest at eye level or higher, drawing the eye upward creates more drama and greater feeling of space. When everything is at ground level; patio, planting, and lawn with the only element of height being the fencing and possibly a shed, it’s just too dull!

Adding features like pergolas and planting at various heights will draw the eye upwards. Use pergolas, trellis, or any kind of framework for climbers with beautiful foliage such as Schizophragma hydrangeoides Moonlight – which will give an autumnal display as well as providing summer interest – plus it will happily grow in a shady spot.

A small well-placed tree above could be your answer. You should choose a tree that won’t grow much above 3-5m high, otherwise it will quickly have a canopy above your sightline. It’s often worth obtaining a multi-stem version so all the growing goes into each stem further limiting the growth. I’m fond of Amelanchier lamarkii, Prunus serrula, Cercis canadensis or Euonymus Europeans. Plants with distinctive colors and dramatic shapes, such as spiky palms and pencil junipers, make great focal points too.

On this Project below, in Keston, we used a pergola trained Wisteria and a Prunus Serrula to draw the eye upward.
Living Walls are a relatively new addition to planting styles and make an excellent choice for those of us with a smaller, courtyard garden, or a shady area that needs additional interest. Sometimes referred to as ‘green walls’ they can transform a tired looking vertical space – no matter what aspect. There are specialist wall systems you can use to help contain and irrigate loving walls, if you fancy trying it yourself.

Create an ilusion of space by drawing the eyes upwards

4 – Create Rooms

If your garden is large enough, think of it as a series of rooms not just one whole space. Ideally someone traveling through your garden shouldn’t see what’s at the end. Upon entering your garden, it should become a journey into the unknown, but with hints of what’s ahead. Surprisingly, this creates a feeling of space, making your garden appear larger not smaller as you draw someone’s eye forward through the space. What’s more lovely than turning a corner to find a seat by a water feature.

I’ve done this in my small urban garden which is only 10m long and 7m wide. I’ve used a slatted screen and large shrubs to break up the view. With an apple tree and a small seating area at the end of the garden, so there’s is a focal point and a destination to entice.

Creating levels and zones in your garden, also plays to the room solution. Adding a single step up to a secluded decked area at the end of your garden will add depth and create zones within the space. Add a sunken area to your garden that can be used as relaxed seating space which will also create another zone. Plus fixed bench seating takes up a pre-determined amount of space and helps keep things ordered. If you can also include storage in your fixed seating, better still.

Create an illusion of space by creating rooms

Images from Design Heights Split-Level Projects

5 – Up the Garden Path

I don’t always recommend having a path, however it can be a great tool to lead the eye through the space. And by adding curves and blurring the edges with planting, you can create the illusion of width. To further emphasize this, design a path that gets narrower as it leads to the end of the garden. Play with the perspective, don’t just stop it abruptly, fade it into a border so you can’t clearly see where it ends.

Instead of having a straight path, have one winding around your garden and just like the room effect this will lead the eye, creating the impression that the garden is larger than it is. Plus, pathways will draw you through the space and make it look longer than it actually is, as you can see in this example below, in the ‘After’ image the garden looks longer!


Images from Design Heights Project, in Shortlands.

There you have it, 5 easy tips for creating the illusion of space in your garden. We hope this blog has given you some interesting ideas and concepts to play around with and try out in your garden. However, if you’re still a little unsure and would like to book a consultation to get some tailored advice please get in touch by filling out this simple form.