The formal garden now – Changes 2

My mind is full of ideas and plans – just what I love!  In my post outlining some of the options for changing the Formal garden, here, I failed to show you any currant images; I think it is always difficult to imagine exactly what a garden is like to be in without seeing it in person.  However much I follow blogs regularly and think I know them when I have had the pleasure of actually seeing them I have always been surprised by what I didn’t know or realise.

Today’s post will show you the views of the garden from the terrace, which is of course, from where I usually look at this part of the garden.  Other parts of the garden are usually viewed by walking through the garden, for some reason the formal garden isn’t usually walled around – perhaps this is another reason why it needs to be changed!

Standing at the front of the terrace in the middle outside the main door that leads to the garden looking straight

Standing at the front of the terrace in the middle outside the main door that leads to the garden looking straight

As I come out of the door what I notice most is the solid shape of Bay.  As you can see it isn’t quite central but I have already planted some more bay close to the existing block which when it has grown should mean that this block of strong, clipped evergreen is central.  On either side of the Bay are two walnut treed, again they aren’t quite equally spaced but they give the impression of symmetry.  The stone plinths are approx. 3 metres from the edge of the terrace.

Standing at the front of the terrace in the middle outside the main door that leads to the garden looking towards the Mulberry in the left hand corner

Standing at the front of the terrace in the middle outside the main door that leads to the garden looking towards the Mulberry in the left hand corner

Looking to the left, a large Mulberry is in the corner.  A bay hedge backs the Left hand border where there is also a Melia azedarach, an existing conifer of some kind and at the terrace end of the border is a pomegranate.  I love the shape of the mulberry, which I can also see from my kitchen window, so I need to be careful not to obscure it; meaning a pergola across the garden may not work.  The left hand border is planted with quite a random choice of plants as it was the very first bed I planted and most things where an experiment to discover what would grow well.  In reality it should have been replanted before now so that I may, if it feels appropriate include this in the redesign although it is unlikely that I will actually make the changes this year.

Standing at the front of the terrace in the middle outside the main door that leads to the garden looking right

Standing at the front of the terrace in the middle outside the main door that leads to the garden looking right

Looking to the right, the level begins to slope and the view leads out to the surrounding countryside.

Standing on the leftsid e of the terrace in the middle of the pillars looking straight

Standing on the left side of the terrace in the middle of the pillars looking straight

Now I have moved to the left hand side of the terrace, again standing in the middle between two pillars, in the left foreground is the pomegranate and in the background the sun is shining on the Mulberry’s trunk.  The left hand border is about 5 metres deep at the terrace end but the boundary isn’t at right angles to the house and terrace; I imagine that this is because most Italian farm houses were built not directly facing south but a few degrees off so that in mid-winter the windows at the front of the house would receive the maximum amount of light.

Standing on the right side of the terrace in the middle of the pillars looking straight

Standing on the right side of the terrace in the middle of the pillars looking straight

Moving to the other end of the terrace, where the main table for entertaining is placed on the corner, I’m again looking straight out; to the right of the image are the edge of the Large Island, the Circular Rose bed (in line with the existing central circle) and the edge of the Small Island.  I definitely want to create a long view here.  The path doesn’t have to be 3 metres wide (the width between the pillars) but it does need to be an obvious line.  The Islands can easily have their edges moved so that they each touch the path on a defined line, even if that line is imaginary.

I quite like the idea of defining the view with three or four arches,  I don’t have any grape vines in the garden so that could be a possible plant for the arches or the evergreen Trachelospermum jasminoides would give strong structure and wonderfully perfumed flowers at the end of May and into June.

What do you think; Can you picture the garden better now in your mind’s eye?  I value your comments, suggestions and warnings so please do leave a comment if you’d like to.

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30 thoughts on “The formal garden now – Changes 2

  1. It certainly helps get an indication of the scale of the changes! It’s going to be a big undertaking. For the long view, one very easy trick would be to let the current boundary hedges grow a little higher, plant new hedges to the right (if there aren’t any there already) and have a 3m gap in the hedge along the line of sight. That of course sounds great on paper, but could take a long time in reality!

    • Do you mean parallel with the existing back hedge? I had thought of a hedge to separate the two distinct areas, It could be either Bay or Tracelospermum, both of which grow relatively quickly. I can buy Bay in almost any size for not too much; they’re a pretty standard plant here so lots are produced. I wouldn’t be adverse to dividing the garden with a hedge at right angles to the terrace, although that would block the view out to the countryside.

      • Advanced Bay & Tracelospermum are so expensive here – I’m jealous you can get them cheaply 🙂
        It’s hard to see from the pictures, but in the last picture, it’s the hedge that runs from the Bay away from the deciduous trees. The idea is to let those grow a little taller (say to 2m) and leave a much lower section to capture the borrowed view in line with the 3m line of sight from the terrace and then start the hedge higher again on the other side of that. It cuts off some of, and compresses the remaining view, but forces you to look that way. Diagrammatically, the boundary line would look something like:
        TREES—BIGBAY—————_______———–
        (Where the ‘-‘represents a 2m hedge and ‘_’represents the hedge a lot lower to open to view. Hope that makes a bit of sense 🙂

        • Thanks for taking time to explain; I think that could work, the hedge is already lower at that point because it just hasn’t grown well there, a plum was removed last year (maybe the year before) so the view was different before. Keeping the views I want is so important and easy to lose sight of when drawing in plan section. When some of the lavender and Perovskia are removed I’m going to put in some posts where I’d plant trees to confirm the effect. I am lucky the Bay and Trachelospermum are relatively cheap but perennials are often more expensive than shrubs!

  2. It does give a better idea of scale, but you are quite right in what you said in the earlier post about how hard it is to properly visualise bloggers’ gardens unless you see them in person! At least you will have lots of thoughts from other bloggers to mull over and see if they light that spark in your own mind – it will be fascinating for us to see what you come up with and to watch the progress.

    • I love the thought process that goes into any kind of design, and bouncing ideas around with a large group of knowledgeable friends is the very best way to spark further ideas.

      • I know exactly what you mean – the ideas, wherever they originate from, will bubble around together for a time till something rises to the top and a plan is made!

  3. I missed part 1 (while I was away) and had to go back to get the full picture. I like the way you are playing with ideas and allowing time for things to jell before jumping in. The only thing I can say for sure is that I would suggest something at the center back of the garden, against the dark bay hedge, to draw the eye from the terrace all the way through the landscape. I would probably choose a bench, but you might have other thoughts. I had a similar arrangement in my previous garden and I loved looking out from the house or porch and imagining myself sitting at the end of the garden.

    • A bench is one of the options I’ve been thinking about, but as the ground is slightly lower in the back border and then very, very gently rises towards the terrace it isn’t a comfortable feeling to be sitting there. That doesn’t preclude a bench as it could be placed on a slightly higher plinth of some kind. I have a small sculpture, that a friend carved for me inspired by Bomarzo, it has always needs a stone column to display it better but it may be a little small. Thanks for your thoughts Marian, this is just what I hoped for.

  4. Thank you for this tour and for the detailed descriptions of what is there and what you’re thinking about. While I don’t like to face the fact that a garden isn’t working (for whatever reason) I love the creative/intellectual process of starting over or augmenting. I like the idea of the arches–structure, height and leading the viewer down a path–all good things.

  5. You are so lucky to have that lovely open space with views out to the countryside. I would be reluctant to do anything which closes that down. I like the idea of a feature at the far end which draws the eye but personally I would continue to keep the planting low, with occasional wispy things to provide height if you need it.
    But that’s just me.. a claustrophobe who bought a house in the middle of a wood!

    • Thanks for that Jessica. It is really useful talking out loud to my readers; To be honest I was surprised how much of the view I could see, but I was standing up, usually on the terrace I’m either sitting at the table or even lower on the steamer; you are quite correct it would be a shame to lose the view; I will do mock ups with bamboo canes to judge where to place anything tall (trees, arches, etc.). From your photographs you never look that enclosed; what direction does your house face in relation to the slope.

      • House and slope both face south, which is probably why they always seem quite light. It has helped removing some of the trees too. I still want to push back a little more, increase the size of the clearing and see more sky!

  6. I like the idea of the arches, they would concentrate the viewers gaze initially. Our grape vines have been very difficult. I think a lot of specialised skill could be needed to keep grape vines looking good enough for a formal garden but we may have been unlucky/ unskilled. Amelia

    • The future plants mean this part of the garden won’t be formal any more; I need to find a new name. I’m not particularly successful with any fruit so you are right to warn me about growing grapes.

  7. Although I know you’re concerned with focusing the view of those seated on the terrace, looking at today’s photos, I think it would be too bad to lose all of that view in the distance, which is quite wonderful. In retrospect, I’m also sad to see all that lavender go as it connects so well with the view in the distance.

    • Taking these images and writing everything down for the blog has been really helpful to me, with the bonus of all the comments; I really wasn’t aware of how good that view is from the terrace; although in reality you don’t see it so much when sitting down; I may even move the table if the view works better from the other end.

  8. It is such fun designing a new area isn’ t it? There is nothing quite like having a project in the garden. I love the idea of the Trachelospermum, it smells divine and fragrance is such an important feature of an Italian garden. I am really looking forward to seeing what you decide to do.

  9. I love the idea of the arches…and the grapes. The only formal element in my garden is a lavender hedge along a walkway. It is quite a chore cutting it back each year, so maintaining your field of lavender seems daunting to me…lovely as it is. Thank you so much for opening your thought processes as you redesign this area. I’m benefiting greatly from the glimpse into an organized mind.

    • My lavender is also a hedge with Perovskia in the middle of each square. I cut the lavender at least twice a year but it still becomes overgrown and woody; I think it would have needed to be replaced even if I wasn’t changing this part of the garden.

  10. Yes, I can see the arches. I love Trachelospermum jasminoides. It grows on the arch leading from my patio into the front garden, and it is incredible when it blooms. I agree that whatever you do, don’t lose your long view, but merely frame it. I do think you need some low hedges to define your formal areas.

  11. Why not exaggerate the asymmetry with repeated blocks of bay at different heights placed to draw the eye. Balanced but differently weighted. I’m seeing those two distant blocks as reading very clearly and defining the distances. Some could be kept low. Not too many obviously, it would look like a cross between a cemetery and a builders yard. But they do show up well and I think the lavender looks too uncertain and blurry against a subtle, gentle view. You could soften it all with low planting. I’m less keen on the arches idea never having found it easy to accomplish except close to a house. It would be good to see photographs of the pillars – I do not have them n my mind’s eye. My impression is that your formal garden reads well from above but I see it is much harder to see from below, where you are most, probably.

    • It is my mistake to continue to call this area The Formal Garden, that is not what it will be after the changes have been made. I like your idea of blocks, it is in fact along the lines of what I have in mind. Actually the formal garden looked fine when the lavender was clipped as can be seen in my header (which I must change) and images I showed of the calender I produced for this year. The two important issues are the need for some void space and to create more shade. I will post later today with some images now that some of the lines of vision have been cleared. Thank you so much for your thoughts, it is exactly what I hoped for when I started writing about the changes that need to be made. There is no one here I can bounce ideas around with, so I am very grateful you took time to comment.

  12. I love the idea of long views especially in your garden since you have such lovely views around you…and grapevines sound heavenly as long as you have the conditions. I am finding here that even our grapevines that should grow aren’t but wild grapes are so I am letting a few wild ones grow.

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