|The circular mound at Througham Court|
|Inner and outer circles of boxwood surround a tree
at The Laskett, the garden of Sir Roy Strong.
|A stone circle on Dartmoor, in Devon, dating back to Neolithic times.|
Circles suggest motion: the repetitive cycles of nature, the turning of a wheel, the never-ending idea of beginning as end. The Japanese see the circle as a sign of strength, elegance and enlightenment. For the Chinese, the circle represents heaven, and the square represents the earth. In every culture I can think of, circles represent celestial objects: the sun, the moon, the earth.
|The oculus sheds sunlight in the underground grotto at Stourhead.|
|The lady in the white dress is sitting on the edge of the stone wall that became the yin yang.|
|These annuals contrast sharply in colour, height and texture.|
|I added red brick mulch and festuca glauca to the yin yang, along with a new stone coping.|
|The old asphalt walkway is visible beyond the yin yang.|
|Walking the labyrinth is meant to concentrate the mind.|
|The circular ‘welcome mat’ at the entry to the China Terrace
reproduces the design that appeared on the hotel’s china.
|Sir Roy Strong asks us to look around at his garden, his personal monument.|
|The sundial clearing, part of the installation called
In Transit/En Route
|Log circles make good steps around the perimeter of The Egg.
Round boxwood also makes an appearance.
|Kim Wilkie designed this circular land form to hide the M-40 motorway.
It protects against noise as well as providing a fitting end to the long view from the hotel’s terrace.
Flowers are a comforting use of circles in a garden. During my recent trip to England, the round head of alliums bobbed in almost every garden. My favourite was the allium that appeared at Bury Court.
|The wonderfully curly stem of allium obliquum.
Too bad it’s not hardy in my zone 4 garden.
I hoped to end this post with some perceptive observations about circles in gardens, but the only conclusion I have reached is subjective. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t. The mound at Througham is only partly successful — it feels arbitrary and too small for the space. The boxwood planted around the tree at The Laskett is a nice idea, but the shrubs are too large, too close together and need to be given room to breathe.
I’ve looked quickly through my photos from many gardens, in England, France, the United States and Canada. Circular fountains, pots, art objects like armillaries and trimmed shrubs occur in some, but the circle as a form is rarely the central design element. Except in this one, from a garden in Charleston, South Carolina, pictured in Gardens of Historic Charleston, by James Cothran.
|A circular garden in Charleston, S.C., designed in 1969 by Loutrel Briggs.|
Here every important element is circular: the small pool and statue ringed by boxwood, the trees whose circular tops we see, the pattern of the bricks in the elevated section behind, and the sundial centred on an open circle that invites you in.
Generally, I’m not a fan of traditional southern gardens but this one enchants me. Despite the formality, I find it inviting. I feel embraced by the design, welcomed as an insider.
How does it make you feel? Do you use circles in your garden? Where, and why?