Generally the type of design for a garden is split into two groups: formal and informal. You can of course have a mix of the two. For the novice gardener, the informal type of planting is especially useful, as it requires less upkeep and attention to detail.
With informal planting, the emphasis is on achieving a more natural design. We look for balance in design. This balance can come from colour, height or the quantity of plants you use.
Incorporating curves will add interest to your garden, but don’t overdo it. A collection of amoeba-shaped beds would be overkill, as would a curvy path that takes you far out of the way of your destination. Long, subtle curves are often best.
A landscaped garden needs movement to add life and interest. No garden is complete without some ornamental grasses to sway in the breeze. Add flowers and berries to attract birds and butterflies. A well-placed water feature can also help to provide movement.
Some thoughtful plantings can soften the edges of your home and help it blend with the surroundings. Try not to cover your home in an overgrown jungle, but look to the best architectural feature of your home and accent that with your planting.
Adding the plants to your garden is the finishing touch. For most of us, we purchase our plants a few at a time, gradually building up our garden beds. Experience will also be a factor in your choice of plants. For the inexperienced gardener, there are many cheap and cheerful plants that do well in most conditions.
Plant in groups to harmonise colour, texture and foliage. Aim for the plants to compliment each other – tall plants at the back, medium in the centre and ground cover at the front. When planting any trees or shrubs, visualize how they will look after a few years of growth. Try to get a sense of the likely height and width of the plant when it is fully mature.
For all of your plantings, you need to consider the requirements of the plant, soil conditions, sun or shade and the effect that the plant will create.
Tricks of the trade
• Plant in uneven groups as this will more closely follow a naturally occurring planting.
• Less is more when it comes to statues or other garden features.
• Curved borders will give the appearance of length and a greater scale.
• Keep your border curves simple and easy.
• If you have borders on each side of the garden, don’t make the edges match. Stick to irregularity, but get a
balance between the two corresponding edges.
• A garden hose is a very useful aid when forming informal curves. Lay the hose out in the shape you want and cut the edge following the hose along. Before you start, let the sun warm the hose – this makes it more pliable.
• Some plants are naturally bigger targets for pests and disease. Be aware of this when choosing your plants – think about their requirements and susceptibility to attack. For example, roses require a lot of maintenance to keep them free of pests and disease.
• If time and money run short, there is nothing wrong with leaving areas in lawn to be developed later.
Finally, keep in mind that you needn’t have a five-figure budget to achieve an exceptional landscape. Whether your landscape venture is a two-month project, or a Saturday trip to the nursery at Mitre 10, the key is to select your plants purposefully and place them thoughtfully. The result is sure to bring you years of enjoyment.