Remodeling and Home Design

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    Rebecca Sweet

    Great post, Susan. You really illustrated through your drawings as well as real-life 'views' the basic principals of focal points in your own gardens. Very interesting (and sad) comment that so often it's the lawn that unifies parts of the garden! Boy how times have changed, huh?

    Thank you! I LOVED your post on this topic, so high praise coming from you!

    Robert Webber

    Great point re focals as links!
    LOVE your design work!
    Best Wishes

    Thank you Robert!


    Girlfriend you called me out right from the beginning! As an architectural plant addict, I often think - focal point ... meh! But I DID put down the plant catalog and read your awesome post - which looked like a total magazine article, by the way (you total PROFESSIONAL!!!) and of course you are so on point.
    The task you had in front of you with your client's garden was AWESOME - but you did a spectacular job! Integrating that much statuary into one space is DAUNTING ... but you did it with finesse.

    LOVE it that I got you to put your catalog down! At least...did you REALLY, or were you surreptitiously browsing out of the corner of your eye the whole time?

    Sadly, the first garden is a tad less magazine-like these days. I took these pictures right before a garden tour, and since then my irrepressible client has been steadily sneaking all the extra art and pots that I banished back in! But it's still one of my favorite gardens to relax in :-)

    jocelyn/the art garden

    Must add my compliments to your thoughtful, educational and well written post! Smaller spaces are my favorite challenges, and I think you've offered some great solutions here. Thank you!

    I'm glad you enjoyed it! Over time I've gone from dreading small space gardens to actually preferring them. The only challenge I haven't been able to overcome is when a client doesn't seem to understand the actual size of the garden and wants a patio, pond, built-in-barbecue, play structure, firepit... :-)

    Susan aka Miss R

    I never consciously thought about a focal point being a unifying feature. I'm going to have to explore that for sure...never above stealing a great idea!

    I didn't quite realize how addicted I was to this idea until I started combing through old designs for something illustrated to use for this post. Wrapping a garden around a tactile object is apparently a signature style of mine I hadn't even recognized.

    Laura Schaub/InterLeafings

    I love the examples using your landscape plans so that we can see how the underlying geometry affects our perception, whether we realize it or not! And we are obviously on the same page with our overflowing pot water features! Great job, Susan!

    Yup, we have a lot in common alright! (That's why it was so easy for me to take credit with Fine Gardening Mag for one of your designs, LOL!


    Great photos to illustrate your point of how the focal points work on their own as well as together to unify the garden. What a wonderfully unique space you helped to create.

    I always love looking at detailed photos of other people's designs, so just assume others feel the same. Thanks for the kind words!


    Susan, your gardens always capture that WOW factor. I loved the insight into your design process, especially with a client who has too much busy-ness happening in the garden! That can be very challenging to tackle, yet the "after" is simply stunning.

    Gen, to quote you, I'm blushing! One of the nicest things about the first client's garden is that it wasn't the usual clean slate that I usually do, so there were lots of mature trees and some shrubs left to give the garden a much more finished look while it's still young. Plus, she's a fellow master gardener and lives in a neighborhood where I have several other clients, so I'm able to drop by and see how things are doing on a more regular basis than most of my clients.


    Like your other commenters, I'm impressed by the pared-down after shots of the busy garden. But your comment about how she's started to put back in the plethora of little pots and garden art shows that for many people, more is more. Funny.

    Defining a view is really important in today's small gardens, and that's how I use focal points most often. Thanks for a great post.

    What can I say, they're breeding like rabbits over there! It's bad enough I can't get the plants to obey, without the clients having the nerve to have a mind of their own as well

    Susan Schlenger

    I enjoyed seeing both your designs and the after pictures as examples of focal points and integrating parts of a design.

    Water features are always winners! (Well, usually.) I also agree about small gardens...sometimes the design can be more important than large ones since you only have a little piece of the world to enjoy and view.


    This was really interesting. I'm one of those garden art all over the place types, although it's not as nice as your clients. I like how you used them as focal points (do gnomes count as focal points? JK :) )
    My yard is such a weird narrow shape trying to create a focal point is difficult.
    I love your wall!

    What are you talking about? You've got that beautiful pond! You can't beat that for a focal point.
    And as far as gnomes go, they only count as focal points if they are in some sort of classical pose, like holding a water jug on their shoulders. Otherwise, they're just plain old gnomes.


    Wonderful post, Susan. Loved your use of focal points for unifying the space and how you placed your client's art pieces . Your renderings are awesome as well.

    Thanks! I had to dig deep into the past to find the renderings. These days I'm mostly boring old black and white on the computer. I guess you can call it progress, but I admit I miss the pleasure in creating a beautiful drawing.


    A very enlightening post, Susan. Love the after pictures. I'm not a big garden art person, but I put a birdbath as a focal point outside my living room window. I'm planning to use a columnar boxwood as a focal point to catch the eye and draw visitors toward the front door. I'm also using a columnar stone for the same effect along the path leading to the backyard. I'm keeping focal points in mind as I plan the backyard - especially for the views from the house, since we spend so much of the year inside around here. Thanks for the reminders of their importance and purposes.

    Your strategy is similar to what Susan Cohan describes in her post on the same topic - using focal points to guide the eye. There's a design concept called occult balance - did you study that in school?- that uses placed objects to guide people on a path, but as the most famous example is the Acropolis, I'm not sure if it is truly employable in the small scale of a home garden.


    Hi Susan

    You make a good point as ever.

    I have a number of pieces here and there, A Greek looking bust (it's on my blog header), a metal stork, or as a mate of mine says, 'that bloody tin bird' and even teepees (I'm trying to grow hyacinth bean up them).

    As I've said before, I love those pots against that colour wall, you have the light to make that really work.

    Sounds well balanced. I believe the triumvirate of greek bust, tin bird and hyacinth beans is a fairly classic focal point combo :)
    If you're successful with the teepees, I'd love to see the results.

    Alice Joyce

    J'adore my designer cohorts, such as you, GardenChick, for reminding me about such things as 'focal points' ...which I am aware of, but might...just...
    forget about at times!


    A delightful and thought provoking post, Susan. Love those stunning pots in the last photo!

    Thank you Joey! My favorite thing about the Roundtable posts is seeing how other designers approach the same topic.

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