Planning and planting your dream garden
Moving into a new house normally means an outdoor space filled with soil and debris and perhaps a little spot of grass, or a garden someone else planted that doesn't meet up to your expectations. To plan the garden of your dreams it’s important to think about how you will use the space. Will it be used for entertaining family and friends? Is it a place to retreat? Will it be used as a play area for children ?
The second step in planning your dream garden would be to decide on a theme or layout. Your garden area could take on a casual or formal arrangement, or you may want a more contemporary urban oasis, a cottage garden, a Mediterranean retreat, or even a water-wise garden full of South African indigenous plants!
When finishing off your garden layout, don’t forget to include all those essentials, such as the clothesline, rubbish bin, dog kennel, garden shed and water tank. By planting small hedging plants, a large planter or a trellis to grown a bushy climber, these will soon be hidden out of sight.
When space is at a premium in a small courtyard or on a balcony, make sure each furniture piece, plant, pot and decorative element has earned its place within your sanctuary and think about adding a trellis to a wall to sustain colourful climbing vines or creepers. While vertical gardens can transform a dull exterior wall into a riot of colour and greenery.
It's essential to choose plants that will suit your needs. Do you require shade, privacy or plenty of sun?
A few well-chosen plants positioned optimally around the space is the way to go and a single, tall fast-growing shrub will soon fill and empty spot and become a focal point in the garden, instantly adding interest and creating an illusion of height. Add a few small plants - a selection of seasonal annuals - around this and you have a lovely feature.
And don't forget that a cute little shrub you plant today could be a sun-blocking monster within a couple of years. Allow for growth and be aware of the mature size of everything you plant. A well thought-out garden should age gracefully, not overpower the house and garden. If you’re a novice gardener or don't have a green thumb, choosing the right plants can be an overwhelming experience. Talk to your local garden centre or nursery for advice on what to plant and where.
No matter how small your garden, a patch of lush, green lawn will make all the difference. It creates a soft landing for kids to play on, adds to the overall look of a garden and feels great underfoot. If grass is an impossible choice due to excess shade or lack of room, then paving or decking is an attractive option. Another option is artificial turf. It’s extremely hard wearing, can work in conjunction with a paved area and give the kids somewhere to roll around.
You need plenty of room to move when you have an outdoor dining setting. Ensure you have at least 1.5 metres on either side of the table for manoeuvring chairs in and out.
Braais and grills have certainly come a long way – finishes range from sleek stainless steel to black vitreous enamel, and they will never rust. When selecting, decide how many burners you’ll need and look at other features available on many of these newer models.
Sofa, armchair, coffee table – these are no longer confined to the living room. Outdoor options are making the garden a comfortable and relaxing place to relax and catch up with friends. Add a fire pit, gas heater or fireplace and you can entertain outdoors all year round.
Furniture and accessories
When choosing furniture for your outdoor space, tie in the look and style with that of your indoor furniture. It doesn't make sense to be a traditionalist on the inside and have wildly contemporary furniture outdoors.
These days you will find that decorative touches that you usually find indoors are now being taken outdoors, including floor rugs and floor lamps. Outdoor wall art, statues, sculptures and urns are on offer to set the tone of the space. Meanwhile, solar lighting and beautiful lanterns are redefining how we utilise outdoor space in the evenings and extending the time we spend outdoors even more.
Make sure that any plan you look at incorporates good drainage. Take a closer look at your garden during the rainy season or a heavy downpour to see how water runs around the property. Sometimes you may need to assist drainage with a French drain or by installing an drainage system similar to that of agricultural pipe.
A French drain is a pipe with holes along their length that are buried in trenches and allow water to be drained into the ground. Water is then diverted out of the way, either to flow freely away to a main sewer or drain. Make your own drainage system using PVC pipe with holes drilled along the length and covered with landscape fabric to prevent the holes from being blocked.
Carports and garages can double as entertaining areas, especially for big occasions. The trick is to choose quality pavers that look just as good underneath cars as they do underneath outdoor tables. Cheap rubber mats can be placed under cars to prevent oil drips from damaging the finish. It’s also worth including power points for any extra lighting that might be required.
When designing the garden, it’s essential to look ahead. You may have future plans to add a pool, extend the house or enlarge the garage. Even the kids need different things as they grow, so this may affect the way you design the layout and how you position plants and trees.