“All of my life’s a circle,” the pop group The New Seekers sang in 1972. Circles are all around us — from tables and clocks to plates and wheels. Circles also have been in our landscape for millennia — only think of the stone rings of Stonehenge in southern England. They continue to shape the modern garden designs, both formal and informal. They may lie flat on the landscape, framework vistas or make doorways, and they come in our gardens three-dimensionally as spheres. Let us look at a few examples of how this very simple shape can be used to enliven garden designs.
Ginkgo Leaf Studio
I’m passionate about using geometric forms in garden designs, but circles aren’t always simple. If not used carefully, they can become rather synthetic, grating against the other features of the plan. Where circles are utilized, they need to have a visual or functional purpose.
Here we see an almost flawless use of the circle, which acts not only as a full stop in the plan, but as a practical setting to get a seating and conservation area and in addition as a viewing platform overlooking the garden.
Huettl Landscape Architecture
In less-formal designs, circles can be used to add structure, building a statement within naturalistic plantings. The plantings here, though loose, emphasize the shape of the circle, leading the eye inward. The gravel within the circle is kept to a crisp shape with metal landscape edging with a black painted finish.
Set among simple evergreen plants and overlooked by a silver birch tree, this round patio is a perfect setting for reading and possibly getting in touch with nature. The circle for the seating is lively and inward looking, something that a square or rectangle wouldn’t be.
In the preceding examples we saw that the practical uses of circlesbut sometimes it can be interesting to use them just as a decorative feature. There could not be a more stunning use than these sunken, lit circles within a very minimalistic landscape. The bands appear to replicate the round canopies of the mature deciduous trees and bring a completeness to a very simple plot.
Rather like the omnipresent crop circles found in cereal fields in a variety of areas of the world, these grass circles create an interesting pattern. The group creates movement within the space without competing with the encompassing conventional plantings. Lean metal edging separates the circles from a weed-suppressing bark mulch.
Exterior Worlds Landscaping & Design
The plan of this garden links circles with a sphere that adds texture and dimension.
Spheres create a statement, particularly when put in a round pathway. I saw slate spheres such as this one a couple of years back at the Chelsea Flower Show, and since have seen them used as quite powerful water features — most dramatically when lit from the inside, creating a stunning night attribute.
Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture
Spheres don’t need to be large or control the space. Small ones can also create lift and interest a garden design.
Living topiary spheres in containers can be moved based on the time or just as the mood takes you. The most prosperous living spheres are shaped from small-leaved evergreens that can be tightly clipped, such as boxwood (Buxus sp) as well as the shrubby honeysuckle Lonicera pileata.
Living spheres also can be created through round mounds planted in grasses or moss.
These round iron arbors are a smart twist on the conventional pergola. With its vertical bands, the walkway both includes and concentrates the plantings while directing the eye into a viewpoint at the end of the path: an amazing pierced metal sphere. The metal bands have the feeling of a conventional moon gate.
The conventional moon gate has roots in Chinese garden design, in which it played a significant role in the culture of prerevolutionary China. The structures since we now see them stem from the Chinese influence on English design in the 18th century.
Perhaps the ultimate use of a circle in garden design is that this beautifully simple wrought iron metal moon gate. Even though it creates a view and a passing through the garden outside, it’s also sculptural in its own right.