Once deciduous trees and shrubs have lost their leaves and hardy perennials have been cut down for the winter, late autumn is a good time to look at the overall layout of your garden and question whether you are making best use of the space – especially in a small enclosed garden. Using perspective and the odd optical illusion can increase the sense of space in a small garden 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 space for grass right to the boundary and still providing space for plants in the corners. Cheat with the natural effect of distance by narrowing a path as it goes away from the house to make it look longer (not so much that people notice though!). I once installed a tunnel of foliage between two archways and made the distant arch just a little bit smaller than the near one to exaggerate the natural effect of distance with the result that the tunnel appeared longer. Understanding the effect of colour as well as shape and size can be a very quick and easy way to maximise your garden and, just as important, to avoid accidentally making it look unnecessarily small and cramped. Objects in very pale colours appear to the human eye as further away than they really are: they recede. So stain fences pale grey (a great colour 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…..