Thursday, August 5, 2010

Outdoor Rooms

Some time ago I talked about what elements I want in a landscape and I listed all of my wishes for our yard.  As time progresses I'm starting to define different areas in our yard and what elements each area will include. 

The simplest way to define an area of your garden is to think of your garden as a house.  Houses have different rooms for different functions.  For example, kitchens are for cooking and bedrooms are for sleeping.  The same idea can be followed in your garden.  For instance, the vegetable garden becomes a 'room' and its function is growing plants for food.  An area with several perennial beds is also a 'room' and may function as simply a beautiful resting place akin to a living room.

A porch is perhaps the most obvious outdoor room as it is actually attached to the house and generally contains household type items such as chairs and barbeques.  The edges of the porch create a hard defining line between the porch and the yard beyond.

Defining areas in your garden is helpful in many ways.  When starting to landscape it breaks the project down into smaller pieces.  Instead of being overwhelmed by creating a plan for your entire yard you're able to work at it a piece at a time.  Different areas also allow you to have different styles in your garden.  Not satisfied with just a perennial flower garden or a rock garden?  Have one of each in their own 'room'.  The division between rooms can be as simple as a pathway, a hedge, trellis or fencing.  Rooms are helpful for someone like myself who has a large property as it makes the space more manageable and keeps the whole thing from running together in one big glob of green.  However, rooms aren't just for large gardens.  They can make a small space appear larger and allow you to add more contrasting elements without having them clash together.  

I recently started a garden journal that lists the plants I have bought as well as when and where they were planted.  Identifying where the plants are located means defining the space they are in.  This is a good exercise as it makes me aware of the different spaces I am creating.  In defining these spaces and giving them a name I'm also defining what they are.  What do they look like?  Is there a theme?  The vegetable garden is an obvious defined space because it's where I grow vegetables.  Other areas aren't quite as simple.

A shady nook among the apple trees
I have been calling the spot in the picture above the "shady nook' for some time.  The apple trees create a ring of shade hidden out of view from the rest of the yard.  This ring creates a natural room.  The fact that it's one of the only shaded areas on our property also defines it from the rest of the yard.

The front flower bed doesn't seem like a room at first but I intend on enlarging it and using the edge of the bed to help define a pathway leading to the door.  By using the flower bed this way it becomes part of the entryway and a 'room' in the way that a hallway is used in your home to direct you to other areas.

Now that you've seen the rooms in my yard can you think of what sorts of rooms your garden has?


  1. Marguerite, I have always loved the idea of rooms in a garden. Even in my very first garden where the whole lot measured 20 feet x 90 feet, (and there was a house on it as well) I had an arbour dividing the back yard inti two rooms. At Kilbourne Grove, I have a number of rooms, all named. This way I can tell my husband that I will be in the Flora Glade, and he can find me, lol.

  2. I've tried to keep a garden journal, but I'm too undisciplined for that. I do really well in the spring, and then it just tapers off and I forget about writing in it lol.

  3. I don't have a garden journal but I definitely have rooms. I just didn't call them rooms but I may now!.

    My favorite room has always been the shade garden. I love the plants that thrive and dwell in the shade. Perhaps it is the hot southern summers that make is so attractive to me.

  4. Deborah, how fantastic that you've come up with real honest to goodness names for your garden. I tend to be very logical and call stuff front bed, side bed, etc. I must learn to be more imaginative!

    Kyna, I hear you. I used to have a garden journal that I would be updating several months after the fact. But I look at that journal now and it's still full of useful information. I thought the garden blog would be better for recording but there are mundane details that I think a journal better suits. This time I'm trying to keep it fairly simple though, what plant and where, is it alive or not.

    Cheri, my whole yard used to be shade and I hated it, could never grow the vegetables and beautiful plants everyone else had. Now I miss the shade dearly. This yard gets stinking hot and there's nowhere to hide - particularly if I'm on the far end away from the apple trees.

  5. I recently found out that the idea of Garden Rooms became famous through the gardens of Sissinghurst where they made garden rooms in the old castle where the actual castle rooms once were. It was a folly, but not so much a contrivance as it's now become. You can't deny it's appeal to order the outdoors the same way we partition up our homes.

  6. Susan, how interesting to find out where this idea originated. I like the idea of rooms as a tool for landscaping. It makes this large property much more manageable to break it up into 'rooms' and helps me to define what it is I want out of a particular space.

  7. I don't have a garden journal either and my garden rooms are still evolving as is my garden. My beets look like yours. What's with the beets this year?

  8. Wonderful concept of rooms in the garden, Marguerite. Yes, I think I can see the rooms in my own garden too. There is the sunny spot which the butterflies love and the orchid room and the room under the cashew tree where everything shade-loving grows.
    I wish I were as disciplined as you about keeping a garden journal, though.