This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

March 31, 2014

Designing a visual interest corner in the garden

As a graphic designer, I am always learning about how people use things. That is, everything seems to be designed perfectly until people use it. So it's always a process of refinement.

If you find that people are consistently needing your guidance to look at the correct things in your garden, your design is poor. Like all good design, people should immediately feel comfortable using it, and appreciate what you want them to see, not navigate hazards that you don't want them to trip over, or kick.

The two most basic things that you need to include in your garden are: a place for people to sit, and a place for people to stand. Making people navigate stepping stones, and providing no place for them to walk comfortably just means that they will do the best that they can, probably walking where you don't want them to, accidentally stepping on things, etc. So design with people in mind.

Here by the table is what I call the visual interest corner. I also call these types of things a *walk-up-to-it*. And really, all gardens have these things, but they usually happen by accident. You will find people walking up to things, stepping over the hose you left out, etc., anyway. To do a visual interest corner right, you need to do several things.

• Give people a place to stand. No, not a bunch of stepping-stones, with weeds growing around them, but a nice, big, flat comfortable area. It should look like a landing point. Here I have a very large piece of flagstone, which itself is visually interesting. It should be clean and dry. No, don't put goofy designs on it, it should look good on its own.

• Keep in mind that your visual interest spot will remain in the same place, but things like flowers will come and go. I have added visually-interesting rocks, like the piece of petrified wood that I got this past weekend. If your visually-interesting spot looks terrible during a particular season, you need to redesign. It should look good all of the time. Find the right combination of rocks and plants.

No, no one will criticize your garden. They will make do, finding a place to set down their coffee cup, and apologizing profusely when they trip over the hose you left out. It's just good manners for people to put up with your bad design. Even I won't say a word if I visit. That's why I say it here.
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