Pauses Along the Way

Strong transitions make moving through a garden a satisfying experience.

By Shirley Remes


how to create flow in the gardenCreate Mystery

Perhaps the best reason to learn how to create attractive and effective transitions within a garden is to engender a sense of mystery, so that a garden’s treasures may be discovered and savored. Nyquist says that Jens Jensen, an early-20th-century Midwest landscape architect who was known for his naturalistic style, was a master at this. “Jensen used curves a lot rather than straight lines,” he says, “so that you want to go and see what’s at the other end of that curve.”

Hursthouse likes gardens that entice someone from the threshold of a house into the outdoors. He loves it when a person stands in a doorway and asks, “I wonder what the yard looks like from over there, what is around that corner?” Once people are drawn outside, they can be guided, using transitions, to discover the rest of the garden and to experience and enjoy it. •

More Ways to Create Flow in a Garden

  • Color and texture. Bright colors and interesting textures attract attention, so to move people through a space, use these elements to create a destination.
  • Materials. A change of materials underfoot marks divisions between spaces. When a hard stone surface changes to a loose gravel, it signals that this is a different area.
  • Rhythm and movement. Nyquist’s long arbor is shaped like a tunnel, beckoning to be walked through. Lining the sides of the walkway is a stream of hostas, all the same variety, that repeat the sense of movement through the space.
  • Hallways. Some garden areas, such as the side area of a house going from front to back yards, serve the same function as hallways in a home. “They’re not spaces for lingering,” says Hursthouse. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be attractive transitional spaces.
  • Walls. Hedges and walls divide spaces, serving as pronounced transitions from one area to another. Use them to effectively and quickly change from one garden style to another.
  • Seasons. Use different elements throughout the season to create focal points or mark an entry. Bold-colored spring bulbs, winter’s dancing grass plumes, and autumn’s fiery-leaved shrubs are seasonal elements that encourage movement through a space.


Photo: Bob Stefko