The Borrowed View

Last week, we discussed a technique used in Japanese garden building, called “hide and reveal,” used to make small spaces seem larger. Space is becoming more of a premium in the Midwest, and the design concepts discussed here can be used by anyone looking to make their small suburban lot feel larger than it is in reality.

The second technique I would like to discuss is one probably familiar to anyone who frequents garden design books. Borrowing from the surrounding landscape is not a new concept; the Japanese perfected it.

The borrowed view works well in conjunction with “hide and reveal.” In concept it is simple: find the nice views (the woods behind your house, the distant mountains) you would like to steal from your surroundings and bring them artfully into your garden. In execution, the borrowed view can be difficult. The goal is to make the view beyond the garden fence seem like it a part of the garden in which one is standing. The key, I think, is how to create/treat the frame of that view.

You may have seen picture frames where the boundary between picture and frame blur a little because part of the frame is painted into the landscape? This is how the very best borrowed views are executed. The “frame” of the view seamlessly transitions to the extended view. This is accomplished by finding what elements in the far off view can be repeated in the frame of the garden.

For example, if you want to snatch the wondrous flower meadow just beyond your property line, include some of the same species, colors or textures and forms in the foreground and midground of the viewing vantage point (see photos above). If it is the distant hills or mountain, include berms and rocks laid out in similar ways as the distant view. By carefully developing the frame of the view (and Japanese gardens are all about framing), one can extend their garden into the wider world.

Josh Steffen, Horticulture and Facilities Manager

2 thoughts on “The Borrowed View

  1. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, most of the scenery is beyond the simple and utilitarian garden. It is not planned that way. It is just how the mountains are. Although nothing of the adjacently neighboring gardens is visible from the middle of the land, the mountains on the opposite side of the valley are the prominent feature of the scenery.

  2. Pingback: Forced Perspective « Wellfield Botanic Gardens

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