Might think of a title later...

I remember a few years back being struck by the point made in an architectural book that one of the best ways of making low ceiling heights less oppressive was to bring the ceiling down lower still in some parts of the house, so that the original ceiling heights appeared at least relatively higher.

My thinking immediately leapt to garden spaces, and clarified a previously vague concept about space sizes; that your perception of the size of any garden space is heavily influenced by the size of the spaces from which you approach it, and particularly the size of the opening – the aperture – through which you enter it.


The most literal image I can find to illustrate the point is this, from the tower, at Sissinghurst.  The circular junction point is known as The Rondel, and there’s no planting in there.  That alone makes of it a different experience to the intensely planted surrounding spaces, but it’s the spatial thing I’m interested in.  Just by looking at it, you can imagine what it would be like to step into it, and that while its quite a small space, your sense of its size, and the momentary pause it induces, would be heavily influenced by the constriction of the entrance.  The short returns on the hedge on some of these entrances add impact and expansiveness to the final arrival by creating an almost tunnel-like effect.  The same trick is used again as you exit from the rondel and head towards the lime walk. 

It all feels extremely contained – very nearly cramped – with the statue at the end of the lime walk framed in the hedge that funnels you along.  A few steps along, and the walls open up wide.  You swing around in alignment with the pleached limes, which aren’t on a grand scale, but their impact is certainly amplified by the constriction of the entrance.


Even an absolutely tiny space like this, in a garden in Benalla, Victoria, with just enough room for only a small table and two chairs, can be made to feel like a valid ‘space’ – a place for pause in your walk around the garden – by making the entrances into it tighter still.

Can’t wait until I actually achieve something akin to enclosure on this wind-swept site, so I can put something of this into practice…


  1. Is this a little like the ex-Simon Rattles beautiful garden at Musk, where you wandered thro short hedged walkways and into the extraordinary huge circular also hedged open space centred with the fish pond? It totally blew me away.Magic!

    1. Alas I never saw Mask Farm, but from the pics I saw over the years, I’d think that this is exactly like it, Bev

  2. Just finished reading “The Gardenist”. Best gardening book I’ve read since The Education of a Gardener (Russell Page). I do read a lot of gardening books, so this is high praise. Look forward to keeping up with the blog. Thanks for all your work, Michael.

    1. Wow. Really appreciate your encouragement Anne

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