When I'm designing gardens I'm always very careful to think about the view points, especially from the house as these exist all year round, even when you're not spending time outside.
A focal point in the garden could be a beautiful tree, an urn at the end of a pathway or a bench across a lawn. It's purpose is to create interest, lure you down the garden, make you want to investigate what's beyond it.
I took this picture at Loseley Park a couple of weeks ago. The hazel each side of the pathway channels your view to the terracotta urn at the end. You're drawn to it, subconsciously you are forced to walk to the end to take a closer look. If the urn was taken away then you'd probably think twice.
Many of the gardens of old are brilliant at using focal points to draw you through the garden. The gardens at Stowe have the most amazing statues and fake follies that were very cleverly designed so that it's not until you reach one focal point that the next is visible.
Focal points don't need to be objects or plants. It's possible to create a focal point from a wonderful view across countryside. I took this photo when I visited Woolbeding gardens recently in Hampshire...
In this case there's nothing at the end of the pathway but your eye is still drawn to the end because the hill implies that you'll be rewarded with a view when you reach the top.
So think about the view from your kitchen or lounge window. Is there something you can do to make that view a bit more interesting - placing an urn in the flowerbed could be enough to create a focal point. Furniture works really well because it's very nature draws you to it. A bench under a tree, for example, won't fail to draw you to it....especially on a hot day when you're desperate for some shade.
(Photos: Lisa Cox)