In Need Of A Focal Point

April 4, 2009 010 (2)
There is an area of the Fairegarden that gives the eye of the wandering path follower a jolt of joy as said eye falls upon it. This bed is referred to as the flat bed. Even the untrained eye can see it is not exactly flat, but in comparison to the rest of our property, it is. This is a most difficult planting spot for at one time it was the parking destination at the end of the gravel driveway of the house next door that we bought, knocked down and replaced with our garage. While it looks quite pleasing in the above photo, ah the perfection of early April light in the earliest of morning sunshine, …
September 20, 2008 032 (2) … or peeking through a spiders web strung gracefully on the Arborvitae hedge in glorious fall, …
July 27, 2009 046 (2) … late July’s earliest morning light finds its charms much more difficult to discern. The term *little leaf syndrome* used to describe an affliction that plagues many spots in the garden here should be substituted with *long pointy leaf syndrome* in this case. The compacted gravel base, heavily enriched with compost and mulch always defeats the efforts of those amendments. One happy consequence is that this is the only alkaline soil we have, thanks to years of gravel additions by the owners of the former rental property as the stones washed down into the street with heavy rains and vehicles traveling up and down the steep incline. The driveway is now a half circle, joining the original house with the garage, and paved with concrete. A gravel path leads from the new driveway around the side of the garage and into the back, mostly hidden with a hedge of Arborvitae to add some mystery and surprise for first time visitors.
June 8, 20092 022 (2) From a crouched position below the flat bed, the image is enhanced with color dots of assorted Cupheas. These were added after a C. ignea overwintered here successfully.
June 17, 2009 046 (2)
Looking down from the top of the steps also gives a pleasing image, with the central planting of Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ taking top billing. In the three dimensions that the human eye views the world, this flat bed is always thrilling. In the world of two dimensional photography though, it is often lacking. It needs a focal point to help the eye find a place to rest. July 30, 2009 103 (2) It just so happens that a certain magazine article has been gazed upon nearly daily for the last year and a half. Daily because it sits on the glass shelf next to the commode. I never tire of looking at these photos from the Horticulture December/January 2008 article about photographer Clive Nichols’ garden ‘Photo Finish’, pages 26-33. My friend Pam of Digging even wrote a post about this same story. Click here to read her take on it. While I love every single thing about this garden, his use of a twenty foot piece of driftwood as a sculptural focal point, seen in the upper left corner of the left page, seemed something that could be done here. All that was needed was that piece of driftwood. And where does one find such a thing? …
July 22, 2009 new cam 017 (2)
Well, the beach is a good place to look, wouldn’t you say? It just so happens we recently enjoyed our yearly beach vacation, this time at Isle Of Palms, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston. On a walk along the shoreline with family members Semi and Lynn I mentioned that on the agenda was to find and bring home a seven foot long piece of driftwood. Twenty feet long would not fit into or on top of the car. Seven foot seemed doable, if it could be found. This was a very clean beach. There was not a lot of flotsam and jetsam that had washed up into heaps along the dunes. But there was one lone single solitary item noticed on this particular walk.
July 22, 2009 new cam 087 (2)
Perfect! Thank you to the gods of the sea for anticipating a humble gardener’s request. It was not heavy and was summarily drug back to the rental house and placed in the screened in porch to dry out. Figuring out how to present the idea to The Financier that this simply must come back home with us would be cogitated on and brought up at an opportune moment before the cars were loaded for the return trip later in the week. (The broom standing just outside the door brings to mind the Disney masterpiece ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ starring Mickey Mouse.*)
July 27, 2009 044 (2)
And here it be. Did you doubt for a moment that the prize would make the seven hour car trip back to Tennessee? Although The Financier did mention yesterday that the wood poked a hole in the leather of the car interior. He is the one who packed the car, but still, pangs of guilty remorse cloud an otherwise happy ending.
July 30, 2009 001 (2)
The daily rains this last week have inhibited photo shoots. Do not read that statement as a complaint please, for we are ever so thankful for each drop of life giving liquid from the sky above. It is just to explain the lack of clarity in the image showing the driftwood, which is attached with copper wire to a metal electrical conduit pipe found under the garage deck. This set up was to give an idea of placement and position for analytical assessment. It should be better secured in the future, but for now does provide a place for the eye to alight. Maybe it needs something dangling from the end? Food for thought.
~~~
Photo tip: A focal point can be nearly anything, a large pot, a tree, shrub or plant, art, just so it draws the eye. Situating the focal point at the end of a path, in the center of a circle, or as the first thing seen when a hidden vista comes into view, as used here is an effective design device to bring interest to an otherwise boring spot.
~
Frances
~~~
* To view the clip of brooms in revolt, click here.

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30 Responses to In Need Of A Focal Point

  1. Randy says:

    Great piece Frances, I wouldn’t worry too much about the upholstery mishap. In the grand scheme of things its just a little thing. I’ve always been so EXTREMELY peculiar about my vehicles; my 13 year old convertible was in pristine condition before the storm. When I bought my truck is was for the purpose of using it to it full potential. It’s my very first new vehicle and before it had 1800 miles on it I had already dented and scratched it hauling rocks. It’s just a thing. The older I get the more I realize we tend to put too much importance on the wrong things. The wood is an excellent addition to your already gorgeous garden. You just had to bring it home with you, it was meant to be. πŸ™‚

    Thanks Randy. I have the same attitude as you do now about cars. The car I drive, a ten year old gas guzzling suv v-8, 4 wheel drive, 8 passenger was purchased brand spanking new in Texas. The first month I backed into a fence that was in the blind spot and dented and scratched the left back, cracking the light cover. It remains exactly in the same condition today and has not affected the driving one bit. Not sure The Financier is one the same page as we are, yet. When the piece of driftwood suddenly appeared on an otherwise barren beach, it was almost not possible. Honestly, I had just said that I was looking for a 7 foot piece of driftwood and within seconds there it was. Lucky there were witnesses. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  2. Catherine says:

    Isn’t it great finding inspiration and being able to use it in your own garden? It looks really nice and does make a great focal point. Worth the hole I think πŸ™‚

    Yes, Catherine, it really is. There is inspiration all around us if we just look with the right eyesight. Thanks for your approval, it is hole-worthy. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  3. Carol says:

    Lovely solution… you should have interesting creatures perching on that slight horizontal too. So sorry to have read about your troubles with identity theft!

    Thanks, Carol. Don’t you picture a vulture sitting there for Hallowe’en? Or maybe a hummingbird would be more faire? HA Thanks for the sympathy about that mess. Glad to have it behind me.
    Frances

  4. Chandramouli says:

    Hi, Frances! Oh, you’re doing great, Frances. It’s so refreshing and inspiring visiting your blog after long. Love the shot of the garden through the spider web.

    You are too sweet, Chandramouli, thank you. The spider web shot is from last year, but is still one of my favorites. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  5. Mary says:

    Hi, Frances! I’m in love with your site and Fairegarden and would love to include you in a book I am writing on joy. Would you please contact me by email so that I can tell you more? Thanks!

    Thanks Mary and welcome. I am really not interested in this right now, but thanks for thinking of me and do visit again. πŸ™‚
    Frances

    • Mary says:

      Thanks for responding, and please let me know if you change your mind!

      Will do. πŸ™‚
      Frances

  6. Balisha says:

    I need to go look for a focal point. Taking Hubby’s car!

    HA, Balisha! Good one! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  7. Dave says:

    A windchime or prism of some kind might be neat to hang from its end. Sorry about the upholstery!

    Thanks for those good ideas, Dave. I do have some crystals already and might see how I feel about one hanging outside. Right now the whole thing is a little unstable. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  8. Lola says:

    Lovely photos, Frances. I was gonna ask you about the Blood Grass but you answered my question when you answered Jean. I’ve been thinking about it in a pot in my garden for height.
    Thanks bunches.

    Thanks, Lola. I have only good things to say about the blood grass. It looks lovely in pots. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  9. chuck b. says:

    My garden also suffers from little leaf syndrome this time of year–glad to finally have a name for it. I used to call it fine texture overload.

    Hi Chuck, glad you are embracing the terminology. πŸ™‚ The trouble is that so many xeric plants have those little leaves for reasons of survival. It is hard to find a nice larger interesting leaf for the tough conditions of my flat bed and the slope in general, but there are some that will work.
    Frances

  10. Lythrum says:

    Congratulations on your new focal point! πŸ™‚

    Thanks, Lythrum, so nice to see you. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  11. Rose says:

    I thought the flat garden looked lovely before, but I have to admit that piece of driftwood provides the perfect focal point! The Financier deserves a big hug for not complaining too much about the hole in the leather interior:) I wish I had your artistic eye, Frances, for adding some interest to the garden; I guess I need some better magazines in the powder room:)

    Thanks Rose. The Financier is not much of a complainer, so that little tidbit was a surprise. Sometimes a man of few words needs to speak up. High quality magazine articles seem harder to come by anymore, except for the British Garden Illustrated. Just my humble opinion. I do think blogging has raised my standards. So many excellent posts on the topic are published daily. Should we take the laptop into the loo? HA
    Frances

  12. Sunita says:

    Ah, thats just perfect, Frances! Just what that spot needed.
    You could always tell The Financier that he’s lucky this happened. Now he doesn’t have to worry about that first blemish happening.

    Hi Sunita, thanks. I am not sure The Financier would appreciate such a comment, though. HA
    Frances

  13. Enjoyed your post, Frances, as always. I will now be paying more attention to focal points as my focus has been more on the sweep of the lines across the “canvas”.

    Thanks, Kathy. My main concern has been the view as a whole also, and there are lots of places to rest the eye on the slope. This area is not part of a view from any window and has been neglected, until now. I am happy with this siting of the driftwood, for now. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  14. Joy says:

    Frances girl .. I too have a garden magazine library in the main “library” next to the commode .. and I also never get tired of day dreaming over such pictures .. focal points really pull elements together in a garden .. I’m working on more even though the issue os space is going to feel the pinch soon.
    That is what we do though .. isn’t it ?
    Number One Son’s friends from South Carolina came here for over a week and enjoyed Kingston’s hospitality : )
    A positive chord in diplomacy ? : )

    Way to go, Joy, with positive hospitality! HA Even small garden spaces can benefit from focal points. We are always learning, then applying those lessons in our own gardens. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  15. sallysmom says:

    How is the flower bed doing that you planted after you came back from Chicago?

    Hi Sallysmom, wow thanks for asking! πŸ™‚ The muhly bed extension is looking good, most all of the plants survived being divided and transplanted and some are even flowering. I was waiting to post about it until the muhly begins to bloom in September. Stay tuned!
    Frances

  16. “Little Leaf Syndrome?” You crack me up. Now, that would be a good gardening article. How to avoid LLS. Enjoy your new focal point. I also have restroom garden reading. Sometimes, I hide in there from the children. Just kidding.~~Dee

    Thanks, Dee. There was a post written last year about that syndrome as I was trying to figure out why the garden looked so blah. As for hiding from the children with some good reading material, with four kids, I often indulged that guilty pleasure. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  17. mothernaturesgarden says:

    Little leaf syndrome afflicts my garden. 😦 I have fun trying to solve the problem by visiting nurseries often. πŸ™‚ I also have too many focal points which read jumble.

    Hi Donna, your solution sounds perfect! We have too many focal points so for one to really draw the eye it was to be BIGGER! HA
    Frances

  18. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What fun finding the very object you wanted for your focal point. I think a dangly thing would enhance it perfectly. Something with a prism so color could dance through this part of the garden.

    Thanks, Lisa. Another vote for a prism. We’ll have to give it a try. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  19. Joy Stewart says:

    Hi, Frances. My name is Joy S. Laurie F. told me about your beautiful website and suggested that I contact you. I live in Bristol Tennessee and am a master gardener who is very interested in native plants and native plant communities. I have been working for about 3 years to convert about half my .8 acre yard from mowed lawn to natives.

    It was fun reading your section on focal points. Very good advice and it would be one way for me to help tame the sometimes wild look you can get from just native plants.

    I have had a little bit of a problem with complaints from neighbors. Have you had any problems in this regard? Any advice for me?

    Thanks. And keep up the beautiful work!!

    Joy

    Hi Joy, thanks for visiting and welcome. I have changed the surnames to initials to protect the innocent. πŸ™‚ As for the neighbors, mine are more of the MYOB types and would never make any comments like that. Our neighborhood is older, with stands of wildness on the unimproved lots, so my habitat does not stand out. I don’t know what you could say to your neighbors, or even what I would say to someone who complained about that sort of thing. It would be irritating to say the least. But I do know that you draw more flies with sugar than with vinegar. Maybe a tour pointing out the goal of living in harmony with nature and how it benefits us all? Good luck and nice to meet you. Do stop by again.
    Frances

  20. Tatyana says:

    Hi Frances! It’s nice to know that I am not alone who has a garden that….let’s say is not looking as good as some other times. As for your focal point, it’s GREAT. It looks like that piece of driftwood was there forever! Enjoyed reading your post, thanks!

    Thanks, Tatyana. Oh yes, you are not alone! There are certain times of the year when this garden just is lacking and I never can figure out why. Little fixes are tried, but really the whole thing should be dug up and redone. Not gonna happen! But it is the process, not the destination that makes life worth living, right? πŸ™‚
    Frances

  21. I love found objects, especially those that nature, weather and time have helped fashion. It’s useful to remember that the features in our gardens don’t always have to be green or growing. Good luck with the stabilizing.

    Thanks Helen, me too. This particular piece of driftwood, I should have shown closeups, is very full of holes giving it lots of character. This patch of garden is so difficult to grow things in, the driftwood was a good addition. The Financier will have to get out the pickaxe to help dig the hole for it. I hope he feels more kindly towards it in the future. HA
    Frances

  22. Les says:

    I just want to thank you for the email security tips, and I am sorry you had to go through all that mess. I have been away on vacation for two weeks and am just now catching up on all the going ons. Your beach trip looked very nice and restorative. IOP is a very nice beach. Your garden looked liked it survived in your absence. I have a few stressed plants, but only one real casualty. Oh well, a new opportunity to put something else in.

    Thanks Les. I hope you enjoyed your vacation too. We had no rain while on vacation and things were quite droopy on our return, but recent rainfall has perked everything up now. The only losses were some unpicked produce. Your philosophy about casualties being opportunities is spot on! πŸ™‚
    Frances

  23. tina says:

    A lovely reminder of your trip to the beach. Driftwood is awesome in a garden. Please say it did not really rub a hole in the leather though!? The garden and arborvitae are so pretty!

    Thanks Tina. I don’t know if it rubbed or poked as he loaded the beach stuff into the car. I had suggested it go on top of the roof carrier but he did not do that. All this rain has really perked up the garden. Hope yours has too. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  24. Beckie says:

    Frances, once again you have taken the perfesly beautiful and made it into the awesome! I love all the different angles of the flat garden as it really helps to get a better idea of how it looks. As you said 2d is hard to convert into 3d, but you have done a great job of it.

    The broom does look like the one from Fantasia. How charming the rental house must have been.

    As for your treasure- a focal point indeed. But in my opinion(only offered and no need to take action on) it needs just a little more to ground it. Great post and wonderful photos.

    Hi Beckie, thanks so much for the kind words and suggestion. I agree completely and have been thinking of things to plant around the driftwood that would ground it, as you say. There are several different types of asters there, and I will wait to see how it looks when they come into bloom later in the fall.
    Frances

  25. Jen says:

    Love your “new” driftwood, Frances. I lived in Florida when I was a kid and my mom used to collect driftwood for “art projects” We thought she was so crazy! Now there is much less of it than there used to be – driftwood is collectable and rare. Maybe she wasn’t so crazy.

    Hi Jen, thanks. I seem to remember there being more driftwood at the beach years ago too. It was quite rare at this beach and I feel very fortunate to have found this gift from the sea. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  26. TC says:

    I once saw a piece of driftwood at a home and garden store with an attached price tag that read: $250. Although its allure was worthy of that dollar figure, I couldn’t fathom the thought of anyone paying such a fee for flotsam.

    Might you consider a reflective piece of glass work hanging from your flotsam?

    Hi TC, I agree with you on this. It seems that finding it on your own is much better than paying some exorbitant price. Another sparkly suggestion to hang from it as well. I need to go look at the crystal collection hanging in the guest room for likely objects. πŸ™‚
    Frances

  27. I like the driftwood. It looks perfect there. I have a few “toting home the driftwood find” stories myself. None of them involve holes in upholstery, though.

    Hi Hands, thanks. It sounds like we are both *let’s bring this home with us* kind of gals. My husband tries to resist, but knows that I am a bulldog about some things. He didn’t stand a chance with the driftwood, after it just appeared when I said I needed it. I am sorry about his car though, but glad I wasn’t the one who packed it. πŸ™‚
    Frances

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