The purpose of a focal point in the garden is to ‘bring the garden into focus’ - and while it might sound pretentious what it’s really about is leading or directing the garden viewer’s eye to a particular point or points in a garden.
It’s almost like a signpost that tells a viewer where to look and give their attention and in looking at the focal point, the setting around it - the rest of the garden - suddenly seems to come into focus too.
It’s a typical designer’s trick but we all tend to do it inside our homes without thinking – the fireplace, the coffee table with a striking ornament or flower arrangement, the large screen TV on the wall – all of these things are focal points, but they give balance and context to the rest of the room they’re in. The same principle applies to the outdoor space too.
The means of creating focal points in the garden are limitless – you can create them with sculptures, plant pots, colour, planting, structures, water, doorways, shapes, collections of things – the list does go on and on. There were some lovely examples at Chelsea Flower Show 2013.
The trick to using focal points though is to limit them; you only want 1 per ‘viewing area’ or section of a garden otherwise they will compete with each other and the viewer’s focus of the garden will be lost.