Did you ever walk into a garden and somehow you just knew where to wander? The placement of the planting beds, the lure of any focal points, even the way the birds flew, drew you into the garden. As you wandered through, you felt like the garden was gradually revealing itself to you, guiding you on where to walk.
I call that element of garden design* “wanderability” or perhaps it is ‘strollability”? (I don’t know why those words aren’t in the dictionary.)
In either case, I would like a garden that is easy to wander through, that in some places presents a very distinct path to purposely walk down, but in other areas presents a blurred path, one that is more subtle but that still leads you through the garden or out onto a bit of lawn.
Easy enough, right?
To be wanderable (another word that somehow the dictionary writers missed), I think the garden shouldn’t have a bunch of right angles to walk around, unless it is a raised bed vegetable garden, which is usually accepted as being full of paths with right angles.
But elsewhere in the garden there should be no intersection that looks like it presents four choices on which direction to walk. That would always remind me of the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz and the Scarecrow without a brain. I would always imagine the Scarecrow hanging on a post at the intersection pointing in first one direction and then another direction, indecisively trying to direct people on where to go in the garden.
The garden should decide! I think you should be able to enjoy a lovely evening garden stroll just before the sun disappears, in the last light of day, the glooming, with the garden paths leading you along so that you can be lost in thought. You shouldn’t encounter a place where you have to decide “go left, go right, go straight, or turnaround”. Why? Because every day we have to make a thousand decisions. Big decisions, little decisions, fast decisions or well thought out decisions. When we are walking in the garden, let the garden decide for us.
That’s what the garden design element of wanderability means to me.
*I should note that these five garden design elements that I’m posting about are what I am looking for in a garden. I do not have training or experience in garden design, landscape design or any design. In college, I avoided the design classes in favor of classes in floriculture, woody ornamentals, insect pests of ornamental plants, herbaceous ornamentals, plant taxonomy… subjects like that. Oh, wait, I did take a class in floral design just for fun, and it was fun.