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Mirrors & glass in gardens

Catherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart

December 10, 2012

The fragility of glass plays well against the strength and ‘rough outdoors’ feeling of a garden. Somehow it seems both slightly out of place and beautiful at the same time. Yet glass is actually quite robust – remember that we use it in external windows that protect our houses!

Design Peter Nixon, Paradisus

Glass sculpture for outdoor is not very common but there’s no reason you couldn’t use stained glass windows, blown glass or slumped glass.

Mirrors for outside use have to be specially made and well-sealed for that purpose. It’s not the glass itself that’s the problem; the silvering on the back of the mirror can discolour, making the mirror look blackened or stained.

You can use mirrors in several ways. The most common is to make a garden seem bigger than it really is by giving the impression that there’s more through a doorway or ‘window’, when it’s really the reflection of the existing garden. The mirror is often slightly angled so that you don’t see yourself in it from the main vantage point. Rather than more garden, you can angle it upwards as well so it reflects back skyscapes. I’ve often thought you could use low-down angled mirror to better enjoy those plants that like to hang their flowers downwards out of sight, like hellebores.

Another use is to reflect light into a dark, shady part of the garden by positioning the mirror to catch the sun.

A third way is to make the mirror a ‘picture on the wall’, where it reflects something if beauty that you would not normally see at that angle, such as the flowers turned to the sun, or some spectacular foliage.

‘The Illusionist’ Design by Rourke Hartwig MIFGS 2012

The ultimate mirror text is to create illusions, as in this extraordinary garden designed by Rourke Hartwig at MIFGS 2012. Can you pick exactly where that waterfall is?


Click on any photo to see a larger image slideshow. You can also click photos in the slideshow (top right corner) to see a full-size version.

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11 years ago

Although mirrors are truly great in the garden, one must be attuned to a couple facts that can create problems. Be considerate of where reflected sun may cause problems throughout the day.For the first day, let it become about every 1/2 hour, a commitment to check glare that is being thrown and where it goes. This can be a huge problem for neighbors, it can burn other plants, and even has been reported to distract low flying planes and emergency aircraft. Saddest of all is birds who think they too have an illusion of path or doorway to another area of garden. Although mirrors are very creative & pleasing for us, the poor things can get seriously hurt if not killed.

sue derry
11 years ago

Interesting ideas! We have used garden mirrors for some years now in our gardens in England. We have some more information you might find useful here….http://www.sandedge.com/acatalog/How_to_use_mirrors_in_the_garden.html