As much science and art goes into shaping the land around your home as the architecture itself. Trish Bartleet takes us around the garden.
Creating the brief: your first step is to define what you want to achieve from the property. Collect all your own thoughts and ideas as well as those from anybody else who will be sharing the space. Write down a wish list that includes everything, no matter how unrealistic. Checking back on this during the design process will help you keep track and show you how much you are achieving.
Planning and local authorities
Check council rules and regulations regarding your site. You should investigate the landscape space’s permeable/impermeable ratio, tree protection rules, sewers, manholes, drainage and storm water drainage. Also check for any work that is proposed in your area. The Council should hold a file on your site that you will be able to copy.
Obtain a site plan showing boundaries and draw on your planned buildings in a good workable scale like 1:100. Check the orientation of the sunlight. Check the prevailing wind so that you can create sheltered areas. Review any existing landscaping, the location and type of trees as well as any neighbour issues such boundary fences. You should also analyse the existing soil and then look for ways to implement improvements like better drainage or adding organic compost.
Defining spaces Divide the site plan up into general areas such as entertaining space, kids play areas, lawn, pool, access ways, service courts, entry foyer, entry path and driveways.These can be fine tuned during the design process but it is important at this stage to begin with everything in the correct place.
Paving and floors — There are endless options for outdoor paving including some great manmade or natural materials. Selection will probably depend on your personal preference, style or budget. However some basic design guidelines apply.
Use the same materials indoors as outdoors. This creates a more seamless transition and makes both spaces appear bigger.
The unit scale and size of the material selected can have a dramatic impact on the space. A rectangular or square module can be laid in a number of different ways to create a variety of interesting effects. It’s best to lay a few metres of any selected materials first so you can understand the pattern. Generally smaller patterns create more intimate spaces. However small patterns used in a larger space can create some wonderful textures when viewed at a distance.
The colour and patterning of natural stone materials can appear different under various lights. I recommend you lay your materials out on site before fixing them permanently to avoid getting a surprise. Loose materials like pebble, chip and shell are ideal for side paths and areas that do not lead directly indoors.They also combine well with paving slabs.
Walls and fences
Fences don’t just define a boundary — they can also add texture and colour to landscape design. Wooden fences painted or stained a dark colour disappear into the shadow and provide a great backdrop for plants in front. Feature walls within the garden and between garden areas give more depth and space to the garden. They draw the eye and provide another opportunity to make plants stand out. Partial walls can also be fun. Put up a series of 2m posts or poles and paint them a gorgeous colour or decorate them with sculptures.
Water features add wonderful sounds and light to the garden. They reflect the sky and the surrounding plants. Fishponds and plants add a natural dimension and their flashing orange bodies are a delight to watch. What’s more, they’re easy to maintain once you have your plant balance, pump and filter sorted. Fireplaces, pools and spas add expense but add significantly to how you can enjoy your outdoor space.
I love using pots, elevating them on plinths for emphasis and to keep them above the plants. A major mistake is to buy too few or too small. Think scale — the bigger the better.