Add a third dimension to your garden

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1. Introduction
2. Overview of features for adding a 3rd dimension to the garden
3. Pergolas and loggias for a 3rd dimension
4. Arbours, gazebos and summerhouses
5. Plant suggestions for growing over structures
6. Bridges for low-profile height
7. Water features

1. Introduction

Whatever the layout or planting scheme, many gardens seem to be missing a certain something. Often it’s only when you add the right element that the garden suddenly appears complete. But what is the right element?

It could be a focal point, an interesting feature or two, or a structure that adds height to the overall scene, lifting your gaze from the horizontal.

The most economical, and often the most effective, way of doing this is to choose a single feature that makes use of the existing garden layout and provides height, interest and a focal point. This avoids going too much the other way by filling your garden with attention-grabbing features that create a Victorian parlour effect – cluttered, awkward to walk around and restless on the eye and mind.
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2. Overview of features for adding a 3rd dimension to the garden

Depending on the garden layout and orientation, an archway, pergola, loggia, arbour or gazebo may fit the bill. Although it’s straightforward to make most of these structures yourself, you’ll appreciate the time saved by using one of the commonly available self-assembly kits.

A simple archway of rustic wood, planed timber or metal, set over the garden gate or part-way down a path, looks attractive in most settings and is ideal for supporting climbing plants. Just make sure that the arch is a practical width, and avoid thorny roses and exuberant climbers that will soon block
your route.

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3. Pergolas and loggias for a 3rd dimension

These are simply a series of arches designed to provide a covered walkway. But now these are often used in a shortened form over a patio to give privacy and summer shade in addition to extra height and a place for climbing plants.
Pergolas are free-standing, whereas loggias make use of a high wall on one side to support each arch. It’s possible to grow plants at the foot of each section, either directly into the soil, or in large planters. If the arches are high enough, it’s also possible to suspend baskets of flowers from the overhead sections to add colour and interest.

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4. Arbours, gazebos and summerhouses

Most gardens have a suitable niche for an arbour. These open-fronted retreats, furnished with a comfy seat, should be sited to give the best view of the garden, but also provide a focal point in their own right.
And if your garden provides vistas on all sides, then site a gazebo centrally. With its roof and open sides, it has a more summerhouse feel to it than an arbour.

For a completely weatherproof structure, a summerhouse is a delightful addition to a large garden. However, choose its size and style carefully to avoid creating an eyesore instead of a desirable focal point.

Although it’s straightforward to make most of these structures yourself, you’ll appreciate the time saved by using one of the commonly available self-assembly kits. You’ll also need to anchor the structure in some other way. Metal frames may need anchor posts, or may be supplied with sufficient length to push the bottom 30cm or so into the soil. Anchors for wooden posts are made for any situation, suitable for driving deeply into the soil or concreting into position. A special type is made to bolt down to a flat surface.
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5. Plant suggestions for growing over structures

Annual sweet pea
Clematis (spring and summer-flowering varieties)
Climbing jasmine
Herbaceous hop (but very rough leaves, so not for bordering paths)
Herbaceous sweet pea
Honeysuckle (scented)
Ivy
Kolomikta vine
Laburnum (poisonous seeds – choose Laburnum x vossii which produces very few seedpods)
Roses – climbing
Roses – rambling (send out long thorny growth, so not for bordering paths)
Wisteria (for large structures)
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6. Bridges for low-profile height

Bridges are useful for adding height on a small scale to sites where a taller structure would overwhelm. Bridge designs vary from flat decks with optional handrails for height and security to gracefully curved bridges that may not be as easy to walk across. Both can be bought as self-assembly kits, or designed and constructed as a DIY project.

If you have already planned a pool, then this is the obvious place for a bridge. One of its delights is the fact that you can gaze directly into the water’s depths, so make sure that you can do this from at least one side of the bridge. It needn’t be across the middle of a pool; it can be built at one end, with a bog garden on its other side to continue the theme of wet ground beneath your feet. And if you don’t have a pool or stream in your garden, then create an illusion with a channel of lush plants planted in a rocky groove for a flow of plants rather than water.

Alternatively, site the bridge over a dry stream bed containing rounded stones and pebbles, or over a narrow bed of gravel that’s raked in lines to mimic water-flow, Japanese-style. There’s no need to keep the stream bed completely bare, and an edging of overhanging plants adds to the effect. Choose plants with bold foliage such as hostas or ferns to contrast with the stones.

Wherever you decide to site your bridge, do make sure that a path leads to and from it, otherwise its presence is practical and visual nonsense. The path needn’t be conspicuous – stepping stones set in the lawn suffice – but there has to be something to lead your feet and eyes to the bridge itself.

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7. Water features

Water may not add much in the way of height (unless you install an impressively tall fountain), but its movement adds the dimension of sound. Aquatics suppliers (such as Pondkeeper and Bradshaws Direct) stock a wide range of self-contained features that circulate water from a reservoir to a waterfall, waterspout or bubble jet, with smaller ones being suitable for patios and conservatories. And if you build a couple of raised pools, linked by water flowing from one to the other, you can introduce some height into this very pleasing focal point.

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