By Sandy Johnson
There is no denying the importance of outdoor living to all the people in the world (especially New Zealanders) – it is an integral part of Kiwi culture. Our homes benefit from the luxury of space and this leads us to value ready access to our gardens.
Landscaping the garden is just like furnishing a room. While there are a few extra considerations, the basic principles are very similar. Start by looking through magazines and books for design elements you like. Remember this is your garden – it should reflect you and your family’s lifestyle.
There is one important question you need to ask yourself before you start planning a new garden or revamping an old one – how much time do you have to spend on the garden?
Knowing how much time you have will determine the type of garden you can work towards.
Time and finances are variable factors, but they should be considered early on.
When faced with the bare open spaces of a new garden or a developed garden that you want to change, it is tempting to rush in and try to change everything at once. The best advice is to take the time now to think and plan your strategy, as this will save you time and money in the long run.
Start by drawing up a plan of your garden. Sketch the property boundaries, then draw all the permanent features on the plan. This will allow you to visualize a framework that you can work around. Include the following permanent structures on your plan:
Remember to include in your plan any large trees that will be staying. Mark them showing the approximate spread of the shade thrown by them.
Start a scrapbook or garden diary and list the things you like about your garden and features you would like to get rid of. Then add a wish list of the features you would like to have. Get to know your garden and how it functions. Know which part of the garden gets the morning sun and which areas lose out in the winter. It is also very important to know where the prevailing wind comes from as planting for wind protection is wise.
Walk through your garden and see how easily it flows from the back to the front, or from the deck to the lawn. Understand which parts of your garden get boggy in the winter or dry out in the summer.
With this knowledge you can make the following decisions:
• Which views you wish to screen out for privacy.
• Which views you want to enhance.
• Thebestplaceforyourutilityarea,includingtheshed, compost bin and clothesline.
• Whether the garden needs more paths to get from one area to the next.
• If a playground is needed, where it will go.
• Where your entertaining space will be.
• The best place for a vegetable garden.
• Whether you need to mark out boundaries.
Plan for equipment access
At some point in the life of your home, you will be faced with a project or repair that requires getting machinery into your backyard. Even if it is just the mower on a weekly basis, plan for it in advance – tearing out your plantings is very upsetting.
A focal point is something that directs you visually and makes you feel surprised, moved or engaged. Typically a specimen tree or a statue can be a focal point, though there are many other possibilities. It could be an architectural feature of your house or even a borrowed view.
The trick is to make features stand out, yet not stick out. It should be somehow connected to the rest of the landscape. Scale is also important.
For example, if you are lucky enough to have several acres with broad views, then a large oak tree would be fitting. Alternatively, an ornate garden bench or small statue will work for smaller gardens.
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