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Past Articles Library | Trompe L'oeil in the Landscape Part II

In Part I of Trompe L’oeil in the Landscape, we covered a little of the homework that needs to be done prior to creating an illusionary landscape.  Part II will describe how to create a landscape that many homeowners would love to have but do not have the time to maintain it.  This landscape element I refer to is the water element that many times equates out to be a decorative pond.

While in a perfect world, pure water in a landscape would be no problem.  In some situations having a pond, as part of your landscape, is impractical or against one particular housing rules, due to safety issues.  The design below can be used in any type of environment from subdivision dweller to apartment resident and the best part is it is low maintance.

To begin this process, one must first look around for a reflective element.  The best reflective item I have found to trick the eye with is a mirror.  It provides the reflective nature that water gives, is lightweight and can be cut into practically any shape you would want.

Once you have your reflective element selected, it is time to choose the location.  An easy way of creating a trompe l’oeil pond is to choose an area that is moist already.  This will provide the proper environment for the needed plant material.  Natural areas in ones landscape that could easily use this design element include valleys, drainage areas, and natural depressions.

If you do not have any areas such as this in your landscape or you live in an apartment, do not worry.  This trompe l’oeil technique can be used with a little manipulation by creating a depression on the land or placing your “pond” in a container.

The next thing you will need to do is to dig your pond.  Digging a small depression and placing the trompe l’oeil pond in that depression creates a better illusion than simply placing the reflective material on top of the ground.

Once that is done, lay down your reflective material and fill in around the edges with a combination of soil and stone.

Next, pick your chosen plant material and begin to layout a natural landscape design.  Keep in mind when doing this though, that plants have their own best season when they show off their wares.  Observing this and arranging your plant material around this fact will give you the chance to create interest all the way around your pond.  Also, look at the plant layers or strata that surround a natural pond.  Reeds, and cattails generally line up around the waters edge due to their individual water demands.  Mosses, on the other hand, grow on and around stones that are place along the waters edge.

Now the sound element needs to be addressed.  While a trompe l’oeil pond does not actually have running water, the sound can be mimicked.  Setting up a small fountain is another part of the landscape is one choice.  The background sound of a small trickle is all that is needed to trick the mind into thinking this is a pond environment.  Another choice is to setup a small sound system that would broadcast the sound of slowly running water.  Today, speakers can be found in the shape of rocks that can simply be placed in the trompe l’oeil design itself.

Touch is the next design element that needs to be addressed.  Choosing the correct plant material for that environment will help.  Also, locating the trompe l’oeil pond in the correct location will aid the touch element.  While some ponds in nature are located out in the open and in bright sunlight, this was not their original environment.  Algae growth due to sunlight exposure hides the beauty of these ponds.  Instead, consider placing your trompe l’oeil pond not only in a moist area but also in the shade.  The shade will help create that cool moist environment that is associated with a pond.

The last part of this element is the hardest to replicate unless you have designed your trompe l’oeil pond in a moist area.  This element is smell.  There is really no easy way of tricking the nose into believing this is really a pond environment.  If you did not have a naturally wet area to place your trompe l’oeil pond on or live in an apartment, the best way to create this illusion is to let nature do it for you and enjoy your pond after it rains or setup a misting system that could be turned on when the pond is in use.

If you live in an apartment, the above design elements apply but instead of being placed in the ground the design is done to a miniature scale in a container.

Once all the elements are in place and the design has aged somewhat, the trompe l’oeil effect will become clearer.  A true test of a trompe l’oeil landscape design is if that environment’s wildlife starts to visit.  At that point you truly have created a design that fools the most qualified expert, that is Mother Nature.


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