I was in a beautiful downtown landscape today with Ryan Snyder, owner of Ryan T. Snyder Group (843-425-1663). For a few moments we talked about focal points in that garden and their importance.
A focal point can be anything, really. A fountain, a piece of sculpture, a well-formed tree- basically anything that captures your attention.
For example, in this landscape, a large Stonehenge-inspired rock is the focal point. And I liked it enough to stop my car as I was driving through this North Carolina town. Simple and effective.
Not all focal points are intentional, nor are they attractive. A mile or so later, I saw this badly brutalized tree in the front yard of a house:
Even though the landscape is uninspiring, it is more than adequate for this house. But all I see is a sad-looking Bradford Pear. Unfortunately, this tree became the focal point of this landscape. The tree should be taken out of it's misery and cut down.
This is my cardinal rule for landscapes: Remove what looks bad and everything else will suddenly look better.
Poetic? No. But you will be amazed at the difference. A flat of impatiens can't compete with the removal of a dead Dogwood.
So before you rush off to the garden center, take the time to pull everything out of the yard that is dead or dying. Then take a few minutes (or hours) to prune out dead limbs from trees and shear the old growth from perennials.
Think of your landscape like it is a room in your house. Would you hang a new piece of art on a wall that needs a coat of paint? Not likely. You'd see the scuffs, not the painting.
It's really no different in a garden.