Planting your garden

A lawn provides a restful balance to structural features.

Trish Bartleet shares some insights on ‘soft landscaping’ – the plants that give life and living colour to your garden.

The soft landscaping in a garden should be revisited every seven years because the form and size of the plants change, and the gardens can become shady. Most gardens look their best between two and five years after planting.

  • Spend as much money on the soil as you do the plants.
  • Don’t use too many different varieties in each area.
  • Select the plants and then halve the number of varieties and double the quantity of the reduced varieties.
  • Keep it simple.
  • All plants require some maintenance.


Nikau palms and a colourful bromeliad wall enclose this courtyard.

Nikau palms and a colourful bromeliad wall enclose this courtyard.

There is no such thing as a maintenance-free garden, but you can make it easier on yourself by:


1. Stay appropriate
Select plants that are climatically appropriate for your garden environment. Be aware that conditions do change during the year and as plants grow.

2. Keep in theme
Choose plants under a general theme such as native, subtropical, traditional, colour or kitchen, within different areas of the garden. Then as you wander through your garden, you’ll have different experiences. However this isn’t a hard and fast rule. The most important thing is to have fun creating your garden, and only put in plants that you love.

3. Watch the form
The form of the plant is very important. Plants can be pruned and trimmed, but if plants are chosen for their natural shape, it makes your job easier. Small spaces need narrow upright plants so they don’t overhang and crowd in the space. Standardised specimens are good in small spaces as they give a feeling of depth and layers. Large shrubs and trees are better in large gardens and borders.

4. Aim for contrast
I love putting together contrasting plants. Dull against shiny. Textured against smooth. Dark colour against light colour. Rounded against upright form. Small leaves against large. Playing with plant combinations can create a spectacular garden atmosphere. Cleverly cast shadows and dappled light through fronds and leaves can be breathtaking.

5. Flowers
These are really an added bonus. Selecting the form of the plant and the colour of the leaves are the most important aspects. Then you can focus on the flowers. Remember that flowers can add a beautiful scent and attract birds to your garden.

Written by Trish Bartleet of Trish Bartleet Landscape Design
Photos – Simon Devitt
Gardens built by Second Nature