How to ‘do’ Garden Mirrors

I have always been a lover of garden mirrors. Mirrors are a great design tool, available in every shape and size, but mostly because; a well placed mirror in the garden can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary!

What’s so great about garden mirrors?

Mirrors have 4 main functions in any garden,

  • To reflect sunlight into dark spaces
  • They add depth to a garden
  • Mirrors can be used to help hide uglier objects
  • The mirror itself is a piece of artwork or garden sculpture.

Having said all that though, getting a the mirror placement right can be a bit tricky and there are some rules to follow. The key point is this though, it is what the mirror does that is the important bit and not what the mirror looks like that is important.

For example, take a look at these pictures of mirrors in the garden. Which ones look the best. But more importantly, why do they look better?

Lightening darker corners

Every garden has it’s dark dingy corner and mirrors are brilliant at increasing light levels. The key to the mirror becoming a feature and not a discussion point (oh, there’s a mirror there’) is how the light is reflected back into the space.

image A Jones

The worst thing the mirror can reflect is direct sunshine and the sky, it will just look odd, the mirror needs to only reflect ambient light. Angle the mirror so that from your favourite seating area, the mirror will reflect back an image you want to see. Then try to conceal the edges of the mirror, it’s just the light you want to notice and not the mirror itself. This placement is almost right, the edges of the mirror need to be disguised to create a better illusion.

Adding depth to a garden

A mirror in the garden is absolutely brilliant at this, but in order for it to work well, the reflected image should as far as possible be plants and not open space. That is because as you walk past the mirror, you or part of you will be reflected too. Motion is something we always notice, so the reflection or anyone walking past will pop out ruin the illusion.

In this image the mirror is less noticeable as an object, but it creates a gap in the wall. Sadly birds will fly through what they think is a gap killing or injuring them!

Helping to conceal ugly objects

What could be better, you hijack a nice view and reflect it in front of a not so nice view. In order to achieve this, the mirror must be large enough to conceal what’s behind. Planting around the mirror will also help divert attention, especially if the planting moves as this further breaks up the visual lines of the offending object behind.

#Shedart – a new trend for the next lockdown maybe?

Using mirrors as a piece of sculpture.

All gardens need something nice to look at. In most cases, plants form the main artistic features. Flowers come and go, plants grow, change colour and it all adds to the garden performance. But objects can enhance a garden too. The most fundamental rule from placing any sculpture in the garden is to ask the following question.

‘When sitting outside, where does my gaze naturally fall’

Adding a sculpture in that area of the garden will add to that view. If however, where your gaze naturally falls highlights a less than attractive feature, sculpture can be used to draw your attention elsewhere.

It doesn’t have to be expensive either. This is an old window frame with mirrors not glass

In order to achieve this, you must also use other design tools to reframe the garden. All of which can be found in my book ‘I Want to Like my Garden’ or by reading more design advice here.

Rules to using mirrors

There are always some do’s and don’ts, but with mirrors there are some safety issues you must take care of.

Shattering glass!

Old glass mirrors can be used in a garden setting, in fact these can look absolutely gorgeous, but these are made of glass so before these are installed outside, prevent the mirror shattering by taping the back of the mirror with some thick adhesive tape. There are Perspex and outdoor metallic mirrors available. The reflection is sometimes not quite as perfect as a glass mirror, what type you choose depends on what job the mirror needs to do.

Protect the birds!

Sadly a big open mirror is a death trap for garden birds. They will not see the mirror and fly headlong into it, severely injuring or killing the birds.

Stunning it may be, but this will kill the birds

So always have a screen so the birds know not to fly on through. This can be a trellis or even a criss-cross of wires, anything to break up the open expanse of the reflection.

This may be a show garden, but big mirrors can be really effective in a small garden

So there you have it, some simple on how to use a mirror in the garden. But just in case you are still a bit stuck… why not visit our design shop for planting ideas to use in front of the mirror or look at our amazing book ‘I Want to Like my Garden‘.

Or email me: rachel@plantplots.com and check out some of the garden designs we have created for our customers.

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