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Looking from the inside

By Chris Larkin, APS Victoria

I am fortunate to have a lot of large windows drawing my attention to what is going on outside. They give me views from the sky to the garden around the house. This article is about designing the outside garden so it’s stunning looking from the inside.

Staying connected when inside

Hot days, cold days, windy, wet, illness and housework days sometimes we need or chose to stay inside our homes. But we can stay connected to what is going on outside through our windows. This is about viewing our garden looking from the inside.

Looking outside when the afternoon light transforms the foliage, I might leap up and go outside to wander around and wonder at the beauty.

Viewing wildlife from inside

From one of my windows I spy on some of the visiting wildlife: birds, lizards and the occasional welcome echidna.

Recently I moved a very shallow birdbath to a position beside a south facing deck. I waited to see if it was getting too close to the house for comfort or not.  Soon it was being visited by a range of small birds. Scrub wrens, eastern spinebills, grey fantails, thornbills, pardalotes and New Holland honeyeaters all visited. 

Their lack of fear in coming so close is partly due to the safety provided by a small shrub closeby. This gives them cover for entry and a quick escape route.  There is how to protect small birds accessing water in a garden.

Health benefits from nature, looking from the inside

The health benefits of gardening, being in nature or connecting visually with the natural world have been well researched.

During Covid, people found relief from anxiety if they could take a walk in a park or reserve.  There are health benefits in hospitals and nursing homes with windows overlooking gardens or with views of treetops. The response to our environment, built or otherwise, is an emotional one completely bypassing the analytical brain. Looking from the inside to view nature will be good for our wellbeing.

How our environments are arranged or designed is a deliberate activity that elicits an emotional response.  As designers of our own gardens, we choose the style of our home gardens to give us comfort and pleasure.

Designing gardens looking from inside

Before committing to changes in hard landscaping, or positioning a plant, check whether views out into your garden will be affected by any changes.

If the answer is yes, then consider this factor before making any final decisions. Try to visualise what you will see from inside the house if you make that particular change? Will it improve the view and give you more pleasure?

Windows can frame a simple view like the framing of eucalypt trunks from my kitchen window.  Because I can see between the trunks, this tree is not blocking the view into my garden. Instead it provides depth of field.

Plants can also frame a view beyond the window frame, drawing your eye down a garden path.

Lawns commonly extend a view from a window. But to see a long way into the garden space you can use ground covering plants and small shrubs instead.

You can create visual corridors within or across garden beds by using ground covers or small shrubs between taller framing plants.

Neighbouring buildings and fences can be blocked out entirely with a wall of foliage or a hedge.

Alternatively, the sight of the hard structure can be partially hidden by plants that distract and soften the outlook.

Structures can be partially hidden by plants, image Chris Larkin

Chris Larkin is a member of the Australian Plants Society, Victoria.

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