Create an illusion of depth in a narrow yard

panorama of garden on Parkside Garden Walk in Buffalo
Pulling your garden away from the fence makes the garden appear deeper, said Robert Then. He actually has a path between the fence and the garden to allow for weeding, which you don’t notice. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
kitchen area on Parkside Garden Walk
A tower had been a playhouse, and underneath is the kitchen area. When you walk into the kitchen area, you see a surprise to your left. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

In a narrow yard, you can create an illusion of more depth in your gardens. Instead of planting flowers right up against a fence, pull your gardens away from the fence and add shrubs in the back. The darkness at the back of the garden makes the gardens appear deeper.

That was a tip from Robert Then of 25 Greenfield St., Buffalo, who shared his gardens during the Parkside Garden Tour on June 26.

His yard is 36 feet wide, but it feels quite large.

Then, who is a sculptor, also believes the vistas and view points that you see from various angles and entry points are more important than the particular plants you choose.

“The design and layout of a garden– That’s what makes it interesting,” Then said.

He has designed his gardens to block the views of his neighbors’ yards as well as to block the view of the railroad tracks that run directly behind his yard.

To create a better view, he contacted the telephone and cable companies to have them move the wires from one corner of the house to another corner. There were also wires that weren’t in use anymore, and he had those taken down.

The brick building that is his studio as well as his home was a health food restaurant in the 1960s and ’70s.

He owns the property next door as well, and on the garden walk, visitors entered the simple garden next door, then walked through a gate into his fenced backyard. Gardens run along the fences on both sides of his yard.

At the back of the yard is a tower that was a playhouse for his son when he was a child, and under that is an entrance to an outdoor kitchen area.

Walk into the kitchen area and, surprise! To your left is an outdoor living area. It is built at the back of the second property, but is enclosed and set apart from the rest of that yard. It looks great at night with lights on and tiki torches lit, Then said.

outdoor living room in Buffalo NY
This secret garden is off the kitchen area. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The outdoor living area was added about 15 years ago, and Then’s landscape has evolved over the 30 years he has lived there. When he moved in, there was a car in the backyard, but the space was so overgrown, he didn’t even know the car was there!

“It’s not like you come in and do this all at once,” Then said.

Noting that visitors love his artwork that he has interspersed among his plants, Then’s final tip is to use artwork in your garden.

“More people should have garden art– real art, not tchotchkes,” Then said. “And artists need people to buy their work.” He suggested visiting some of our many wonderful local galleries to find art.

sculpture by Robert Then in his garden
Robert Then, a sculptor, displays his own artwork in his gardens. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko





1 Comment on “Create an illusion of depth in a narrow yard

  1. Interesting design. Making a small garden look big takes some good design ideas. One is to use some large plants. It seems counterintuitive, but too small of plants makes a boring design.

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