8 Design Moves That Can Give a Flat Garden More Depth or Height
Sunken patios, stacked beds, berms and other features are a great way to add interest to level outdoor spaces
If you’re keen to add interest to your plot, take a look at these eight ways designers on Houzz have built up or dug down (or just created that illusion) to give flat ground a new perspective.
Instead of building up, consider digging down to add level changes to a flat plot. This garden by E2 Homes features a sunken seating area around a fire pit. Dropping the height of the patio visually makes the garden appear larger, and the level change allows for casual seating around the fire in the evening.
Tip: Sunken seating areas require a solution for drainage. It’s best to work with an experienced landscape professional for design and installation.
This small garden has a series of raised beds at staggered heights to create level changes. The raised design adds drama and creativity to a classic planting of spring bulbs, box hedges and mixed edible greens.
Ready to revamp your outside space? Find garden designers and landscape architects in your area on Houzz.
Building berms (raised mounds of soil or mixtures of sand and gravel topped with soil) can be an effective way to add subtle level changes to a flat flowerbed. For this planting, landscape designer Linda Bresler created low berms, ranging from 30cm to 45cm high, before planting to add modest height changes.
As well as adding interest to flat gardens, Linda says she uses berms to create an ideal growing environment for dry-garden plants. “Succulents don’t want wet feet, as they can rot,” she explains. Planting them on a slight mound of soil allows for proper drainage.
“Plus, smaller succulents are better showcased on a slight slope, where you can admire their beauty more thoroughly,” she says.
The shallow roots of the succulents hold the soil of the berm in place, but, over time, Linda says, the berm will soften and slightly flatten out.
Note: Adding berms or otherwise changing the topography of your landscape can affect drainage on your property. Hiring an experienced landscape professional to map out berms and redirect drainage into a swale, if needed, can prevent unwanted drainage issues down the line.
More: How to Start a Garden Redesign
Draw the eye upwards with vertical elements, such as climbing vines, narrow trees, arbours or other features that emphasise a height change.
In this single-level garden by Mackenzie Wheeler Architects & Designers, the eye is drawn up to steel beams draped in climbing roses, a dynamic contrast to the smooth surface of raked gravel below.
Dry stream beds are made from a combination of raised berms and sunken areas lined with rocks and gravel. They create the illusion of a stream running through a garden while adding dynamic level changes within the space.
In this garden by Sage Ecological Landscapes, the designers suggest water with a dry stream bed that can be traversed via a small bridge.
Winding pathways combined with layered plantings of varying heights can create the illusion of land rising and falling, as shown in this level garden by Annie Elliott Design.
Emphasise this trick of the eye even further with the addition of low berms in the planting beds and a few vertical elements, and a garden that started out as flat will feel more dynamic.
In a tight city space where there’s no room for berms, sunken patios or winding pathways, built-in planters may be your best bet for instant level changing.
When design-build firm Outhouse Design were asked to reimagine this patio, the space – measuring 3.5m x 6m with 3m-high walls – felt like a concrete box.
If you’re willing to experiment more with your landscape, consider introducing landforms in shapes of your choosing. These can be created on a relatively grand scale, such as this raised, curved lawn edged with steel by Exterior Worlds, or in smaller configurations.
What design solutions have you employed to add creative drama to a flat garden? Show us in the Comments.