I developed an interest in garden boundaries while my wife and I were in the process of converting our barn into a habitable space. Although our hilltop location afforded a magnificent vista over the valley beneath we were equally conscious that we lay open to the gaze of everyone below. The solution we arrived at was to create a small garden on the terrace immediately in front of the barn, to serve as an outdoor extension to the living-room behind it. We surrounded it with a waist-high boxwood hedge, which provides the requisite seclusion when we are seated yet affords a view of the landscape beyond whilst standing.
Curious to learn more about the function of boundaries I embarked on a series of tours of public and private gardens across Europe and North America. During my travels I came across a work by the English geographer, Jay Appleton. In his book, “The Experience of Landscape,” published in 1975, he argued that the twin requirements of all animal species are for food and security. The most sought-after habitats are those that present hunting or foraging opportunities together with secure places in which to raise offspring or retreat to in moments of danger. Human appreciation of landscape, he suggested, is biologically related to such needs. The most desirable landscapes afford both prospect and refuge. His theory struck me as entirely plausible since this was precisely the motivation that led to the creation of our own enclosed garden.