Borrowed Landscape

My friend Lacy introduced me to the “borrowed landscape.” She said the term means a person pulls in the surrounding environment as part of landscape design. The idea is to borrow from outside your space to enhance what you have. Lacy’s friend from Japan shared that “Shakkei” or “borrowed scenery” honors the relationship of the garden to what is around it.

Exploring this concept, I found that the borrowed garden is a useful tool to maximize a space. Using views, plants, trees and other assets around your home and property can enhance a landscape. An easy way to do this is to repeat some aspect of the surrounding asset in your landscape design, whether nature or your neighbor created it. This might mean that you repeat the foliage texture, shape or color of a nearby tree. Or, you could borrow the shade of a neighbor’s tree for your space. Perhaps pinyon trees and mountains are a backdrop for your yard as they are in Lacy’s.

Broaden your vistas by using a beautiful view as a focal point. Design your landscape to accentuate a view by framing it with trees or arbors. Carry the eye out to a distant vista to increase your visual space. On a recent garden tour, one of the homes had an amazing view of Washoe Lake. Their entire landscape framed that magnificent view with ponds, waterfalls and trees. They extended their yard out to the horizon and it was stunning. Perhaps you have a view of a distant mountain that would provide a pleasing background to your design. Framing it visually is one possibility, but you also could repeat the mountain concept in your landscape with artfully arranged boulders or plants.

I recently saw an excellent example of borrowing. Two neighbors had comingled their front yards with similar landscape designs. They didn’t put a fence between their yards, but had the sweeping lawns, berms, boulders and plants blend and complement each other in both spaces, doubling the visual size of each individual lot.

Make the most of your landscape by blurring the boundaries between it and the surrounding area. Use one of the four concepts of borrowed scenery to augment the beauty of your space: distant borrowing (mountains, lakes), adjacent borrowing (neighboring buildings and features), upward borrowing (clouds, stars), or downward borrowing (rocks, ponds). Capture the harmony between nature and the nurtured garden.