How to create a beautiful view

When we garden, we tend to simply grab our tool bucket and start digging a hole for our newest plant. Then we water and pull weeds. We spend a lot of time mucking about at ground level without pausing to look up.

But to create a garden that is a cohesive whole, it's important to pay attention to what the edge of the garden looks like, to check out its layout from the house windows, and to see where garden paths lead.

Being aware of the horizon is the first step to creating a garden with beautiful views.

Look to the sky

Choose a tall focal point and design around it. Though this patio is surrounded by a high, solid wall, the overall impression is one of spaciousness rather than enclosure. The key is the tree, which draws the eye upward. Because it's much taller than the wall and has an open, airy framework, it acts as a link to the sky rather than as a boundary.

Double the pleasure

Use your home's colors and atmosphere in the part of the garden that's visible through your windows. The earth tones and subdued atmosphere of this dining room are translated expertly to the small garden outside, doubling the feeling of space on either side of the glass. The simplicity of the garden palette helps create a space that's lush but not cluttered.

Borrow a background

Maximize what you have. The design term for this idea is "borrowed view," and the principle is the same whether you have a charming cityscape or farmland in the background. Here, plants in the line of sight are kept low and sparse so they don't distract from the borrowed view. Dots of colorful blooms serve as an arrow pointing to the horizon.

Go with the flow

Choose plants that magnify the characteristics of the site. Here, a deck is perched next to a grove of mature trees that lean down the slope, creating the effect of an island in a slow-moving river. The garden landscape echoes this rhythm. Wide stone steps are bordered by waving grasses and creeping ground covers. Repetition of colors and forms adds to the sense of movement.

PHOTOS: CITYSCAPE, ALAN AND LINDA DETRICK; DECK ON SLOPE, SAXON HOLT