garden design, fashion, colours, catwalk, boardwalk

Strut your stuff!: Boardwalks, bridges and elevated spaces in garden design

Boardwalks and elevated spaces overall are simple but effective ways to add dimension to your garden design. Imagine a painting; if it is one-dimensional and lacking varying heights and textures, it will never be as striking as one that is two-dimensional and laden with differing heights, textures and movement. This idea can be applied to one’s garden design. By adding another dimension, the overall effect is pleasing on the eye and provides more movement in the garden considering there are more ways to get around.

Hard landscape can be designed to provide useful functional space and add character whilst immersed in a natural planting situation
Patio, pond, boardwalk and view!

Take this woodland garden in Kildare, for example (see above). The wooden decking is a practical part of the garden design but it is also a viewing point from which one can appreciate all the other elements of the garden. From this position one can perceive the depth of the garden and can move directly forward into the garden passing next to the water feature alongside, which is highly visible from the elevated perspective. Nearby, the stepping stones across the water also heighten an air of playfulness that one might associate with a woodland, fairytale-esque garden (with a splash of modern lines and structures in this case).

An elevated space could also be a bridge, as seen in my 2008 Bloom entry (see below). It harmoniously connects each side of the garden while providing a tranquil space of contemplation.

Tim-Austen-Garden-Design-Bloom 2008 Inspiration from Mount Usher-11
Sweet bridge over my show garden constructed at Bloom in 2008, the bridge was inspired by one which featured over the Vartry River in Mount Usher

The elevated space can be, however, the central feature of a garden design. My parents’ garden, for example, is adjacent to a wild bog. The juxtaposition of the bright red boardwalk and  the wilderness of the bog is incredibly eye-catching as well as practical (not even the sturdiest of welly boots would survive that bog!). 

Boardwalks should be constructed of sturdy and sustainable sourced timber. A horizontal frame is usually made that is held in place by vertical posts that are driven into the ground at suitable intervals. Then the boards are laid and fixed at right angles to the direction of the main frame. In terms of finishes it is possible to leave the boardwalk as a natural timber finish if the idea is to blend it a bit more with the surrounding landscape. The timber used in the garden design in the first, top image above is composite decking and in this case it was supplied to us by Millboard. Alternatively, you can paint whatever the preferred colour is – the latest incarnation is purple! For paints we recommend water based paints that will decompose naturally.

red boardwalk, garden feature, funky design, bog walk, new path
The red boardwalk provides access to the bogland area from the main garden

Boardwalks and elevated spaces are adaptable. Whether you want it to blend in with the other features of the design or stand alone, it is definitely worth considering. Think dimension, think movement and think practicality.

Using a boardwalk to create features and something special in your garden design
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