4 Gardens With Creative Outdoor Room Dividers
Outdoor room dividers — whether in the form of a hedge, a screen, a freestanding wall or an elevation change — are often used to define areas of a garden. In addition to serving the practical purpose of separating use areas, outdoor room dividers also can add an element of mystery and drama to a garden. By selectively blocking views, garden barriers may entice one to walk through a space and see what can be discovered.
Looking for inspiration? The following yards all make use of outdoor room dividers to define zones, strategically screen views and guide movement. Although the walls and hedges split the gardens into smaller areas, each space feels more dynamic and expansive as a result.
1. Framing a View
Location: Etobicoke, Ontario, a neighborhood close to downtown Toronto
Designers: Dan de Vries and Jay Vanderkruk of Cedar Springs Landscape Group
To separate a kitchen and dining area from an outdoor lounge, the designers of this Ontario backyard added a handsome freestanding wall. The wall separates the two spaces but leaves them room to relate to each other, thanks to a 5-foot-diameter circular cutout.
For those looking from the dining table, the cutout frames a view of a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, USDA zones 5 to 8; find your zone) in the foreground and a fire pit seating area slotted into the back corner of the garden. Subtle lighting illuminates the Japanese maple at night and shines down from the top of the cutout, highlighting the cutout as a landscape focal feature when viewed from the house.
The wall measures about 8 feet tall and 1 foot deep and is constructed of wood with metal edging. In this view, you can appreciate how the wall artfully divides the fairly compact space and creates the feeling of two distinct destinations.
2. Leafy Screens
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Designer: Beth Mullins of Growsgreen Landscape Design
What appears to be a dense, leafy backdrop for an outdoor seating area in this San Francisco Bay Area backyard is in fact a discreet outdoor room divider. The hedges completely conceal a home spa.
Designer Beth Mullins used a tight planting of fern pine (Podocarpus gracilior, zones 8 to 10) trained on trellises to form a thick hedge bordering two sides of the hot tub. The back property fence, draped in flowering vines, encloses the third side.
Behind the leafy hedge, the hot tub area feels utterly private and secluded, despite being right next to the outdoor lounge. When the spa is not in use, your eye would never catch it in the landscape — unless you knew just where to look.
3. Pretty Pergola
Location: Essex, England
Designer: Patricia Fox of Aralia
Designer Patricia Fox used a variety of outdoor room dividers, both traditional and more contemporary, to separate spaces in a backyard behind a 14th-century Essex home. Traditional pleached European hornbeam trees (Carpinus betulus, zones 4 to 8) — seen on the far left — screen neighboring buildings and add privacy for a small patio off the back door. Down a gravel path, tall grasses and mounds of perennials provide a soft midlevel screen for curved lounge seating.
Before: Taken from the same vantage point as the previous image, this photo shows how the original open-plan garden felt smaller and left little to discover.
Aralia: Innovation in Landscape Design
After: The most dramatic room divider of the backyard is a contemporary-style pergola that sets the outdoor dining terrace apart from the larger garden. The structure, build of solid oak beams set into metal sleeves, measures 17⅖ feet (5.3 meters) long, 16⅖ feet (5 meters) wide and 7⅕ feet (2.2 meters) tall. Newly planted wisteria vines will grow up to provide more shade and a stunning floral canopy in spring.