Many of the focal point techniques used in large gardens can he scaled down and applied on a small scale. Even in a small space the garden can express the owner’s sense of fun and personality in the little extras that are grafted on to the basic design. In a small garden, every corner can be exploited with devices if not plants, and a degree of flexibility can he built in that makes variety a real possibility.
Well chosen ornaments in particular can set a tone for the garden: serious or frivolous, classic or modern. They suggest the owner’s taste and even sense of humor. Garden lighting can be practical and even a useful security measure, but it also offers scope for artistic interpretation. Experiment with spotlights in various positions and discover the dramatically different effects created by the use of light and shadows from different angles.
Arches and pergolas are a more permanent element of the garden’s design, but they don’t have to be planned in at the design stage and are easily added to an existing garden.
Ornaments can be used around the garden in much the same way as around the house. Choose them simply because you like them, because they will look good in a particular position, or as a device for attracting attention and admiration. In a small garden their use as a focal point is paramount.
Large focal points usually need careful placing in a small garden. Always take time to consider position. They are impractical or can only ever be few in number, but small ornaments like birdbaths, sundials, and attractive urns can be used liberally. The only ‘rule’ is not to have more than a couple in view at once, as they will then compete for attention rather than take center stage. There is no limit to the number you can use in a small garden provided they form part of a journey of discovery. Use them among plants that you only discover from a particular view point, or around a corner that is not visible from where you viewed the previous focal point.
Never let ornaments detract from major focal points that form part of the basic design, and don’t allow the garden to look cluttered. Aim for simplicity with surprises.
The classic garden decoration is sculpture. For centuries, stone statues, busts, and fountains have graced formal and informal gardens, though the use of sculptures and artistic objects demands confidence.
Few people react adversely to a sun dial or birdbath, but sculptures or artistic ornaments that generate admiration in one person can be abhorrent to another. This should never deter anyone from using ornaments, but they are bound to be somewhat more difficult to place in a small garden.
Human figures such as busts can look great in an alcove or on a plinth in a dull corner; ivy tendrils grown up and around figures to soften the statue. Animal figures are always a safe bet, especially if set among the plants, or even on the lawn. Abstract ornaments at times may be difficult to blend into the overall scheme and should be used with restraint.
Wall masks, plaques and gargoyles are great for relieving a dull wall, but are almost always best set amid the leaves of a climber such as ivy. Gnomes, you probably love them or hate them, and that is the problem with using gnomes. One or two little people cleverly used with restraint can be very effective and add a sense of fun, but usually they are either banished from the garden or there is a whole army of them. The problem with the latter approach is that the garden will simply appear as no more than the setting for a gnome collection.
Plinths and pedestals are essential for raising a sundial, birdbath or bust to an appropriate height, but they can look stark in a small garden. Make more of a feature of a plinth by planting some low growing plants around the base, and then use a few tall ground cover plants that can gradually stretch up around the base. A plinth can look severe on a lawn and mowing around it can be difficult. Try setting one in a gravel bed with alpines around the base, or leave the bed as soil and plant thymes or other low growing aromatic herbs.