Whether you have a large or small garden you can add interest by creating garden rooms. You first need to decide how you want to use your garden. Is it for relaxing, dining, playing, working or a combination of these?
Next, analyze the area. How many spaces (or rooms) do you want. Once you define the spaces, then the garden unfolds as you move through it. You also need to decide on style. Do you want your garden to be modern/contemporary or are you more interested in the country/cottage look? What ever suites your own personal taste is what is going to make you happy in the long run. For us living on the farm and being plant collectors, the country look is just fine.
Now approach each section like you would with a room in your house. You need to think of the walls, ceilings, floors and doorways. The walls can be a combination of things such as the walls of the house or other out building, plants (hedges, borders or cluster of pots). The floor can be a hard surface like a patio or walkway, a lawn or gravel. The ceiling is often open since we are outdoors but may be an arbor or the canopy of trees. Sometimes just a partial cover will imply the ceiling for the whole space. The final thing is the doorway or the entrance from one space to another. This can be an arbor, a pair of columns or as simple as a path.
After you have defined your spaces you can start designing them. Determine what the light conditions are for the space and make sure that works for the room you are creating, e.g. does it get sun all day, shady in the morning and sun in the afternoon or shady all day. Now you can add the plants, furnishings and personal touches. This is what makes your garden yours.
At Old Goat Farm we have several rooms because of the size of the garden. The patio off the house was a natural place for dining. The walls here consist of the barn on one side, the house on another and planting beds and containers on the others. The implied ceiling comes from the umbrella and the over-hang from the barn. The entries consist of an arbor on one side and a pair of containers on the other. The walkway on the back of the house is like a hallway with the house and hedges being the walls. On one side of the house the house is again one of the walls along with the garage and a perennial border makes up the others. The floor is the lawn. The ceiling is implied by the canopy of the apple trees and the overhang of the porch. Many of the rooms in the garden are defined by plant borders but the important thing is that they feel like individual spaces. You can’t see the whole garden from one spot so it unfolds as you move through it. This adds interest to the garden encouraging you to slow down and enjoy. After all, isn’t that the point?