Focal Points In The Garden

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Focal Points In The Garden

Last month I talked about the design principal of Foliage in the garden.

This month I’d like to talk about Focal Points. What are focal points? In a nutshell, they're something that's 'different' than their surroundings, and depending on what those different factors are, they can control the way a garden is viewed.

When I look at gardens, there are 3 main types of Focal Points that I see most often:

1. Artistic Elements as Focal Points – such as statues, pots, structures, benches, arbors, birdbaths, sundials - basically anything non-living that draws attention to themselves.

What’s interesting about the photo, above, is that there's more than one structure which directs the eye towards the bench. The arbor, trellises, stone walls and pots all command the line of site, but it's the bench in the very center that captures the attention first.

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2. Plants as Focal Points - If a plant's shape, size or color is drastically different from it's surroundings then it, too, can also act as focal point.
I love this photo – this Agave’s rigid structure amid the soft and wavy grass is what makes it stand out and scream for your attention.

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3. Color as a Focal Point – I’m not referring to the color of plants, but instead to painted objects that are introduced into a garden.
In the above photo, you can’t help but notice how the blue obelisque grabs your attention. Not only is it placed in the center of the garden, but also the vibrant color stands out in this sea of green.

Okay - so why USE focal points, anyway?

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1. Controlling the Eye's Line of Sight - this is probably the main function of focal points...dictating where you should look. No matter the size of a garden, if there’s no focal point the viewer is left to visually navigate it on their own. If your goal is to direct someone’s attention to a particular spot, then try placing a focal point in that area and just see what happens!

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2. Distracting the eye from something 'less than desirable' - like a chimney, or a play structure, or a street sign...you get the picture.
In the above photo, the fountain distracts the eye from the play structure behind it.

And last but not least.....

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3. Focal Points as ‘mood makers’ – depending on the item, they can set the stage for the garden you're about to encounter; whether it’s whimsical, serene, restful or cheery.

Remember, most anything can become a focal point. Figure out its purpose, and the mood you’re trying to create, and have fun!