Garden Illusions, A landscape of lies

There are many tricks and techniques to alter your perspective and create garden illusions. Bringing some of these design ideas into the garden can change a feeling of a space. Here are some effective ways to alter your perspective in a garden.


Our eyes love lines. We unconsciously follow lines with our eyes as our eyes have evolved to have fantastic edge detection. This means edges and lines guide our perspective and alter our senses of a space. Vertical lines focus the viewers’ attention up and bring a feel of hight to a space stretching our perspective. This is greatly enhanced with tall and slender lines or the effect can be lessened with thicker and lower lines. This is particularly effective with fencing and planting.
Lines that journey straight into the space in front of you can create an illusion of length. This can be enhanced greatly if the lines are more narrow at one end. Looking from the opposite direction this can make things appear closer than they are. This will bring your eyes to a focal point or if used in the opposite direction create a feeling of an opening of a space.
Alternatively lines can be horizontal in direction. This brings a feeling of width in a garden and also guides your eyes toward the sides and edges of a garden. Useful when you want the viewer to explore and be interested in another area of a garden and guide them to new spaces. This is particular effective with paving.

garden design Illusion Drawing

2. Mirrors

With mirrors you can create extensive views beyond the boundaries of your garden. These work great against walls with planting, used as a focal point at the end of a path way or a highly reflective sculpture. This works really well with mirrored doors and window frames creating a feel of realness to a reflection.

3.Size and scale

Changing the size and scale of repeating features in a landscape creates a highly illusory experience. Using this technique you can make areas seem unusually close or far away, paths to appear shorter or longer, and to close the feel of a space as well as open it up. Using repeating elements with a change in scale creates this highly effective illusion.

4.Colour Design

Colour can alter our perspective also. Creating a colour gradient in a planting scheme can also extend or reduce the perceived size of the space. Using darker colours like purple and red as a foreground and lighter colours like orange, yellow and white further away create an effect of distance. Our eyes are drawn to the lighter colours and if the colours are laid out in a smooth gradient this can be highly effective.

garden design colour planting


Much like colours and scale, textures and leaf sizes can also create an illusion in a garden. Using large leaved plants in the foreground and finer leaved plants in the back round can also create an illusion of perspective. If done properly this trick can also help make a space feel larger than it is.


Lighting at night can bring a lot of dimension to a space. Use lights to create focal points in the garden or upplight trees and features. This can bring elements of hight in the dark night sky and draw your eyes to key points in the gardens. Its important to use lighting effectively as too much can actually make a garden feel smaller.
Have a go using some of these techniques in a garden environment. You may well be surprised as to how much it can alter the feeling and space in a garden.