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Garden Ideas: 5 Uses of Features and Focal Points In Garden Design

car garden morris minor

All images and gardens by Peter Donegan/ Donegan Landscaping, Dublin

The better nee best features of any garden I have ever seen work, are those where the client, with the designer or creator almost decides to compel that design feature to commission.

A little Machiavellian by way of word choice maybe – but it is the revelation, the revealing over time and finally the receiving of that something very unique, created one-off and just for you and your garden  – that makes what may possibly seem like a gamble that I note, irrespective of garden size and budget – so very, very, very worthwhile.

That said, there is a difference between a house and a home – and – with gardens, better gardens – the main feature or what some may feel should be the main focus, should also work in tandem with its surrounds. Get that chemistry spot on and you might just have something very special.

The following are five examples of features in gardens that I have created. They are also decisions that made that garden a little different from the rest and for their owners, for the better.

1. Garden Walls with a Difference

donegan gardens dublin

If you can get this one right, you are on to an absolute winner. What I will say is it does require one to be a little bit daring, maybe, at the point of imagining what it will look like. Most tend to choose, as one might in interiors to have one featured colour wall and the rest white, for the sole logic of light purposes. As you can see in this garden, myself in the top corner planting away, the white was actually used on the lower walls the entire way around therefore allowing licence to be a little more sporadic on the upper level.

The backdrop plant of choice to soften is Fargesia, a dwarfed bamboo brought in slightly more mature and that shall only grow to around eight foot tall in its lifetime.

2. Garden Art

gardens dublin

It doesn’t have to be a piece of sculpt type olde art that you choose for your space outside, but do rest assured we have been using art in our gardens for absolute centuries. This piece was used in two of my gardens – one won two awards, one didn’t. Both great gardens. That aside, the decision to use art in our gardens has it seems been on the decline for some time.

That said, pick the right piece for the right space and surround it with choice perfect planting and you might just have that something so very special. In my opinion, we don’t use art outside enough.

3. A Feature Garden Structure

gazebo donegan garden

I’ve made and designed some great structure for some so much the better for it gardens, but this has to be one of my all time favourite garden structures I have ever used. I will admit there is no feeling greater than sitting underneath the stars whilst feeling like you are in a room of your own sipping a gin and tonic with some close friends.

If you can master that feeling ie. including the surrounds, so that the structure just stands out for the very right reasons during the day time, you have managed to achieve something extremely wonderful.

4. The Water Feature

garden water feature

There is nothing worse than a grandé anything in the wrong space and it is at this juncture that some variation of the quality not quantity cliché comes to mind. The key in all garden features is to get it just right and that’s were a good eye comes in for a great overall picture of just what it is you want. A bit like the gazebo, if it can have an additional use ie. during the day and at night-time, you have just got double bargain value for your pound.

5. A Hard Garden Surface

water garden dublin

Decks, cobble and all that is functional does have its place in the great outdoors – but if, once again, one can master so very good-looking with functionality then who am I to argue. I have created many walkable hard-surfaced finishes in my time – one of the simplest ever used in a garden of mine was this timber surface above. Divine perfection. Extreme simplicity.

In summary: the images used are ones I thought might strike a chord with you and personally, I’ll be very surprised if you like all of the images you see here. That said, they are a little unique, a little personal and individually loved by their owners.

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dublin gardens

Garden Ideas: 5 Uses Of Red In Garden Design

Red in Garden Design

Although it may be considered sometimes mildly bold the use of a feature colour in garden design, when one looks back through the ages and historically we quickly realise there is absolutely nothing new to its use at all.

Red seems to resonate more with some when referring to Oriental themed type gardens – a garden style that uses a usually green or basic colour range, at least when compared to that of the olde English type herbaceous borders. Historic, avant-garde or modern-day, that it is used to lead the eye from afar or [reworded maybe] to draw one to a particular space, in its most basic explanation what it does is change entirely what would have been a pretty bland and monotone photograph.

The following examples and explanations show that there is little variance behind the theory in the usage of the colour. More than that it also shows when used correctly just how effective one colour can change the entire feel of a gardens design and your space outside.

1. The Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

red bridge

On the go since the 18th Century – The Monte Palace Tropical Gardens are one of my all time favourites ever visited. But, can you picture just how boring [?] this image might be if the red was removed ? It may well be exciting to the plants person or horticulturist like myself, from afar or when up close – but as a garden to draw one in – would it actually do that ?

2. A Red Garden Bench

red garden furniture

A stark change from The Monte Palace Gardens of Madeira but – this is the most basic format in which I have used and can show this theory – put simple, a bright colour against a neutral backdrop. A solitary garden seat that prior to was beige and appeared so, aged in appearance on a dark shaded side to the garden that very simply needed a lift. Personally, I knew I liked sitting here – but it just didn’t feel it was entirely me when it was just so bland. Can you picture the grey beige bench ? A much, much happier place to sit and have a coffee now.

3. The Red Dead Tree

red garden feature

Just like the walkway of the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, the colour palette I used in this garden is a smooth groove from brown to yellow to green – all great neighbours on the colour wheel. What was required was something that would stand out whilst the similar coloured flowering Penstemons were not in flower, yet also compliment when they were. The red-painted dead Sophora isn’t as stark and unusual as one might think in situ – yet just enough to bolt some inspiration into a fairly solid toned plant choice colour base.

4. The Red Satellite

red satellite

Once again the colour palette here is quite close on the spectrum, but it was my recycling of my own satellite painted bright red that created the highlight in this garden. Sometimes it is the mildly unusual, highlighted, that can change the entire image of how a garden is perceived. Just imagine for a moment [once again] if you can how this garden might have looked had I chosen not to use it ?

5. The Red Exhaust Pipe Bird Feeder

red bird feeder

The exhaust pipe bird feeder – a little different, a little intrigue and whilst the planting had a little to go in order to make this image a little more picturesque, it is clear to see that yet again the neutral colour scheme is used to highlight the more unusual. Imagine if you will, that all the plants are red ? In which case I’d most likely have painted the exhaust pipe photosynthetic green.

And the more we think about it – the more we see it. Masses of green with red being used to highlight where we are intended to go towards and what it is the [beauty is in the eye of] beholder actually wants us to see. Highbury Stadium maybe an unusual one to finish off with but as an image, it proves the point – once again, just imagine if you will for a moment, should the seats be coloured green…. or see below.

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highbury stadium

A bit green….

the aviva stadium

*all images by Peter Donegan.