Sitting outside in summer offers a good chance to look at the overall layout of your garden and question whether you are making best use of the space – especially if it is small and enclosed. Using perspective and the odd optical illusion can increase the sense of space and subtly change our perception of an awkward shape. I am not talking about extreme measures or creating a false-looking garden but these are simple things to consider. For example you can appear to widen a narrow garden by emphasising the diagonals with a curving or zig-zag path instead of one straight up the middle. A circular lawn opens out a small garden, allowing maximum width for grass and still providing space for planting in the corners. Cheat with the natural effect of distance by narrowing a path as it runs away from the house to make it look longer (not so much that people notice though!). The same trick works with a series of archways or a pergola.
Understanding the effect of colour can be another very quick and easy way to maximise your garden and, just as important, avoid accidentally making it look unnecessarily small. Objects in very pale colours appear to the human eye to be further away than they really are: they recede. So stain fences pale blue or grey (great colours under green leaves) and put your white border at the far end to ‘push out’ the boundaries. Bright colours leap forward so put these near the house to stretch the distance in between. Make sure that trees and shrubs do not foreshorten the garden by shading the last metre into obscurity, instead provide a focal point – something to catch the eye at the farthest point – a planter or a seat, ideally in a pale colour and quite small or delicate. Your garden will soon go on for ever…..