Designing the Garden of Your Dreams

Designing the Garden of Your DreamsAs a Landscape Designer, I’m often asked for tips and advice on outdoor living and garden design. The single biggest tip or piece of advice I can give is to arrange an on-site consultation with a qualified Landscape Designer.

But, if you want the satisfaction of doing it all yourself, here are my top tips for designing the garden of your dreams…

Whatever and wherever the setting, landscape design should be thought of as the art of beautifying functionality.

A well designed garden needs to balance the aesthetic with the functional. It needs to reflect and complement the home, the immediate surroundings and, above all else, reflect and incorporate the style of its owner. It needs to: frame the spectacular; hide the unsightly; meet the practical needs of its users; create interest, imagination and enticement; evoke feelings of relaxation, romance, sophistication, elegance and wonder; and add value to the home. It needs to be a highly sensory sanctuary – visual, perfumed, acoustic and tactile.

So my very first consideration when designing any new garden is functionality. Think about how you want to use your garden (i.e. year around outdoor entertaining, play area for the kids, a shady spot to read, a veggie & herb garden, putting green, etc, etc). You then need to workout how much room you need for furniture, pools, spas, play equipment, clothes lines, sheds, compost bins, etc and where you’re going to put every thing. The size and dimensions of your furniture, play equipment, the views from the different windows of your home and the way the sun and shadows track across your yard is largely going to dictate the size, shape and positioning of the different elements in your garden.

Now that you’ve created your garden’s functional skeleton, it’s time to release your inner garden designer. This is the point where looking at magazines that showcase beautiful gardens will help you draw inspiration. It is also at this point that you need to consider the financial and, if you’re thinking about a D.I.Y. installation, the labour investment that you’re prepared to make.

Your choice of materials and construction methods can make a significant impact on how far your investment will take you. As an aside…if you are considering D.I.Y., remember to apply the Universal Law that is somewhat lesser known than Newton’s Law of Gravity, but equally unquestionable – ‘The Factor of Three’. Once you have calculated how much you think your project will cost and how long you think it will take you, multiply each of these by 3 – for what is likely to be your actual project cost and project timeline.

Regardless of the particular style of garden that you choose (i.e. tropical, native, Japanese, cottage, Mediterranean, etc), here are a few tips to help you beautify the functional:

• Try and incorporate recurring themes – carry elements from the front garden into the back garden and use similar colours and textures from inside your home in your garden.

• If your garden is awkwardly shaped, circles and curves work really well to create interesting transition zones and fantastic garden features (studies have also found that curves and circles also evoke feelings of relaxation, calm and tranquillity).

• If you’d like to make your garden feel larger, use large format pavers laid in a simple pattern; espalier climbing plants to produce lush green walls, without sacrificing space (try espaliering citrus trees for a Mediterranean courtyard); paint a bright feature wall and use mirrors or hanging wall art.

• Redirect or divert attention – if you can’t easily screen something unsightly, divert attention from it by creating/placing a feature near by to draw the eye. Use the sound of trickling water or soft music to distract attention from road noise.

• Use lighting and music to set different themes and moods – connect the lights in your outdoor entertaining area to a dimmer switch or install separate mood and functional lighting; soft garden lighting guides visitors through and creates another dimension for your garden; subtle speaker placement means music can be enjoyed from anywhere in the garden (much better than opening the lounge room windows and turning the stereo up).

• Try not to incorporate too many feature elements – apply the ‘less is more’ principal. If there are too many features clamouring for your attention, you probably won’t really notice and appreciate any of them.

• Make sure that any built structures (i.e. walls, fences, pergolas, decks, ponds, etc) comply with local Council Regulations, Building Codes and, in the case of grey-water re-use, Health Department Regulations.

• Before planting, incorporate a good quality composted topsoil (that is suited to the plants you are choosing) into your garden; add bentonite clay and zeolite for moisture retention; test the pH of your soil and remediate if necessary (most plants will grow in pH neutral soils); and apply a good quality wetting agent.

• Make sure the plant is right for the spot, before you buy it. Read the plant labels carefully and match the plant to the location it will be happiest in (i.e. part shade, well-drained soils), take note of its growth habit and plant accordingly.

• Apply about 50mm of good quality mulch to your garden (a good rule of thumb to use is – if you can walk on it in bare feet, it’s not mulch), making sure you keep it 10mm – 20mm away from the base of your plants. Note – while rocks and stones look nice in garden beds, they store heat and may cook the roots of your smaller plants in particularly sunny spots.

• Regular maintenance is then the key to ensuring your dream garden doesn’t become a nightmare – doing a little bit often is much better than doing a lot rarely. It also helps you connect with your garden and you’ll enjoy it even more.

• A garden is like any living creature, it takes time to grow and develop, so don’t be afraid to plant some ‘sacrificial’ plants that fill space while the garden’s more permanent plants fill out.

Landscaping Tips to Make Small Spaces Seem Bigger

Just because you have a small yard, doesn’t necessarily mean you get small landscaping results. When it comes to landscaping ideas, there are many options to choose from without breaking the bank. The important key step is to have a well drawn out plan. This includes having the right plants and designs to flow nicely in your space. One feature that you might have to step away from is anything large like a boulder or pond, due to the size of your space. However, you can still get spectacular results.

Small Spaces

A good tips for those with small spaces is to consider building up instead of building out. How you can accomplish this is by using beds to raise the height of your plants. it’s fairly easy to build one and it will save some money in the long run. Remember, the good thing is that smaller yards typically needs smaller budgets.

Raised Beds and Plant Containers

By using raised beds, you are able to maximize and highlight the plant in your yard with having to plant wide. These beds can be made of wood and can also be made to be movable with wheels on the bottom. Another tip for small spaces is to use plant containers. Plant containers offer a good alternative to planting in large sections in your lot. By using containers, you can separate your plant and grow them base on different criteria. Again, you can also move your plant if you ever needed to. They also take up less space as well.

Colors Are Important

Colors play an important role in landscape design. There are actually colors that make your space look and appear bigger. Blue hues and cooler color plants and shrubs can make your space look bigger. In addition, plants like evergreens place strategically can make your yard feel bigger. Other foliage to consider are the Alberta Pine and Blue Spruce. The Alberta pine tree is a good choice because it’s compact in size and tends to spread itself nicely.

A Rock Garden

Granted large boulders should not be part of any small space, you can add a small rock garden to add texture to the design. A well laid out rock garden can add class and sophistication to your garden and landscape. However, keep in mind that leaf blowers and lawn mowers will need to be able to move around this garden element.

The best place for a rock garden is either against the house or a corner space. Another thing to consider is the type of rocks in the design. Be sure to consider the overall theme, in order to have the stones and plants blends together. Less is more. Your rock garden doesn’t need to be overpowering. Something simple will do just fine.


You can also consider adding some outdoor accent or spot lights to help enhance certain elements in your landscaping. Solar lights offer low voltage and overall subtle illumination in the evening. If you have a path or walkway, you can also add lighting to help bring together both the form and the function of front yard. These are just a few tips to help maximize your outdoor space despite the small space. Why not try out some of these tips and see how you can extend your living space outside. You will not only impress your guests but also increase the value of your home.

How to Choose Plants for Your Yard

How to Choose Plants for Your YardNo landscape design would be complete without the presence of trees and shrubs. These plants can make your yard more visually appealing, but they can also destroy the design if the wrong types are used–that’s why it’s very important to be careful with your choices. Read and follow the tips given below to help you select the best plants for your yard landscaping.

Pick Plants that Grow Well in Your Location
Trees and shrubs come in different varieties and have specific habitat requirements. So if you want your plants to grow properly, be sure to buy the ones that are compatible with the climate in your area. This way, your plants will match your landscape design and last much longer than non-suitable types.

Choose Plants that Don’t Easily Dry
Make sure that the plants you purchase for your yard dry out very slowly especially if you live in a warmer place. You don’t want them to wither easily because then you’ll have to look for replacements and redo the seeding again, which requires more money and effort on your part.

Buy Healthy Plants
Sometimes shrubs and trees have pests and weeds on their pots, so see to it that you inspect them before buying. Look for weak spots and other unusual signs that tell you what the condition of the seedlings are. The plants you purchase must always be in good health so they can grow healthy and look great on your yard.

Select Plants that Match Your Purpose
Consider your goals as well when you go shopping for seedlings. What is it that you want to achieve with your landscaping design? Do you want the flowers and shrubs to be the main attraction of the yard? Are you going to use them to provide some shade? Or do you simply want them to add some color and surround the area? Knowing your purpose will help you decide what kinds of plants are right for you.

How to Implement a Landscape Design

Once you’re done finalizing your landscape design, it’s time to start the process and perform the actual work. Simply follow these five steps below to help you implement your design properly and effectively.

5 Steps to Implementing a Landscape Design

Step 1: Preparation
The first thing you need to take care of is the preparation of your yard. Measure the scope of the area you want to landscape so you’ll know exactly where you should work on. Next, clean up the entire area-get rid of clutter, junk, stones and other objects that can interrupt the process. Get all your landscaping materials and equipment as well so you have everything ready when you need them.

Step 2: Placing the Pipes
The second step is to gather the water supply required for the task. Often times, you’ll be needing some pipes, tanks and drainage systems for your landscaping project, so be sure to have them prepared. Have extension wires, cables and plugs as well to get the water systems up and running.

Step 3: Setting up the Ground
Depending on the details of your design, proceed to leveling out or filling the ground with the appropriate soil type for your yard. See to it that you don’t miss a spot so you won’t have to repeat this step again later on.

Step 4: Installation of Additional Landscape Features
When the ground is finally ready, you can start adding the features you want. Whether you’re installing a fountain, pool, pond, gazebo, bench, statue or footpath, it’s important that you set them up carefully to prevent damage. Placement is also the key to a successful landscape design, so put the features in the right areas to achieve amazing results.

Step 5: Planting Trees and Shrubs
The final step is to plant the trees, shrubs and other flora in your yard. Go ahead and retrieve your gardening tools, put some garden soil and starting seeding in the designated areas. Make sure the plants you’ve chosen are non-poisonous, weed-free and suitable with the climate in your area.

So those are the steps to implementing your landscape design. Always follow them in the right order so you can finish the project in an easy and timely manner.