Picture Perfect

Picturesque Garden

Picture Perfect

Australia’s leading garden designer, Jim Fogarty, shares some great tips on how to make your garden look good enough for inclusion in a magazine or book.

Magazines and books are a great inspiration for garden design ideas, but sometimes glossy images of beautiful gardens can be intimidating and leave you lacking in confidence. Here are some tips on turning your garden into something good enough to be photographed and featured in a magazine or book.

Pick a view

Every garden should have a best view. Find that view and make this the part of the garden which you’ll focus your attention on. If you can’t find that best view, take loads of photos. A digital camera is best as you can view the photos on your computer and delete the worst ones until you end up with the best outlook of your garden. Remember these snaps aren’t your ‘magazine shot’ yet, it doesn’t have to look amazing. All it needs is potential.

Add depth

A great view should look like it continues forever, and if it doesn’t then you need a strong focal point to end the view. A garden path should look like it continues out of shot – for example a lawn should sweep away and beyond the frame of the photo. If you can’t create this illusion, then choose a really good feature to use as the final view – the focal point – in your garden. This could be a plant in flower, or one which has really interesting, large or colourful foliage. It might be a feature wall, a water feature, furniture, sculpture, or any other garden ornament.

Foreground details

Good garden photos in magazines will draw your attention because they look good in their entirety. So if you create a nice view, you also need to consider dressing up the foreground, too.

Paving should be neat and well laid. Design elements in paving are important to add some focus and interest. If you have gravel or loose pebbles, rake them and make sure they look neat and well laid-out.

Add some potted colour to gaps in paving to bring some life to the foreground. Strategically placed furniture can help to dress up a bland part of the garden.

Pleasing backdrops

Backdrops are crucial as a great garden will not photograph well if you have something ugly in the background – for example, a forgettable or tatty fence. Plant out garden beds to hide fences, use screens to hide clotheslines, and paint fences so you notice the plant foliage rather than the rotting timber. Paint is great at hiding ugly bits in gardens and old retaining walls can be given a new lease of life with strong feature colours.

Tell a story

Try to tell a story in your garden. Don’t confuse the viewer by having every colour of the rainbow and every plant in the nursery on display.

If you live near the beach create a beachside garden and use the setting to add beach-themed details. In this case, sand, driftwood, seashells (legally obtained), rope and pier bollards, and weathered decking will all help to bring the story together and make your garden look like a seaside stunner.

Connect the foreground to the background using curvaceous paths, interesting paving details, stepping stones, or even plants. The connection of the foreground to the background is vital, as it forms part of the story, and the fantasy of the journey through the garden.

Styling touches

The most effective way to bring a garden to life in a photo is through styling. This is the term used to describe the use of ornaments, accessories and other decorative objects in photos. Furniture, fabrics, cushions, colour schemes, pots, table-settings and barbecues are all part of good styling. There are endless options so to avoid confusion, and keep it simple.

Use styling to unify colour schemes. For example, use some blue colour in your accessories to highlight the blue-flowering plants in the garden. Again, keep your colour selections to a simple palette and often a subtle effect will be more powerful on camera.

Start shooting

To test your garden, take some photos and check your progress. A photo will tell you where the weak spots are in the garden. These weak spots might be areas which need more mulch, more foliage, more flowers, more colour, more cleaning or more painting. Try taking photos at different times of the day to see how shadows impact on a photo. Track photos each season and keep records from year to year so you can compare and see what plants have been the best performers over the years. Doing this will help to improve your garden over time.

Keep it tidy

Remember that a garden can look great in a magazine, but without ongoing maintenance everything can fall apart very quickly. Pruning is most often overlooked in garden maintenance and many plants will benefit from regular tidying up of dead branches and shaping. Consider pruning shrubs for structural effect whether they’re domes, balls, or clipped hedges. Creating some clipped structure in the garden will make your garden look controlled and neat, and in a photo, this helps to add definition to the garden outlook.