Welcome to my first blogpost back for 2021. It’s frustrating to be back in lockdown again but I think these extended times at home are allowing us to enjoy our living spaces, including our gardens much more than we ever did.
When designing a client’s interior space, I always consider the aesthetics of their exterior and garden too. It is important to consider the flow between both and the outlook from each window. A couple of years ago I shared a blogpost about the details of designing my own garden (here). We engaged my brother-in-law Mark from The Landscape Department to complete the job. I recently interviewed Mark to find out his Expert Tips For Designing A Garden.
GB: What Are Your Top Three Tips For Designing A Garden?
1. The best place to start is by asking “What do you want to use the space for”? If you have a young family and/or pets, then the use of your land needs to cater for that stage of your life. Once that question is answered the aesthetics can work around that.
2. Realise that you can be as daring or conservative as you want. Most designers have a certain style. But if you as a client want a hot pink entrance gate – then push for that. You are going to be the one to live in that space for as long as you decide to. I believe a designer is there to make sure that all of the ideas from both client and designer can work functionally and aesthetically to create an amazing result that both parties are proud of.
3. Have a budget in mind. There isn’t any point in having a design drawn up if it is 3 times more than you are able or willing to spend. If you provide a designer with a realistic budget, then a design can be created to fit that budget. If you are unsure of what costs are involved in landscaping your property then ask a professional for ball park figures. This will help decide whether or not it is within your budget to include a pool, pergola or other higher price item.
GB: What Materials and Colours Are Currently Trending?
Mark: That is always evolving but in general the hard landscapes usually stick to natural colours; browns/silvers and greys. We are spoilt for options of natural stone paving. Bluestone has been the mainstay for the past 15 years or so due to its price point, colour, and durability. Travertine continues to be popular and seems to have made a slight resurgence and there are many varied colours of travertine readily available. Likewise with crazy paving – this is being requested more in recent times. There are new ranges of porcelain paving options available these days also which look great. We seem to have steered clear of concrete paving options since the 90’s.
In regards to planting colours it really depends on how daring the client is and what colours complement their house/property. Green and white with a touch of blue/purple and silver foliage is a mainstay that is requested frequently. The inclusion of black as a colour for hardware and backdrops is also popular.
GB: What is the Biggest Challenge When Designing A Garden?
Mark: Fitting everything in. Most residential blocks of land these days have less room for the landscape due to the demand for larger houses. Trying to squeeze a pool in as well as an alfresco area can be tough. Quite honestly though, the most difficult part is finding room for a clothesline and bin storage! Other difficulties involve working with easements and the restrictions that they create. More so with smaller blocks of land.
GB: Where Would You Suggest Your Clients Look to Find Inspiration For Their Garden Design?
Mark: The internet, books (remember them?), magazines. Websites such as Pinterest and Houzz have some great images to gain inspiration. Likewise with Instagram. I think it is a great idea to follow local designers and landscape businesses. Seeing what they can create and provide in the local area allows you to see what materials are available, and what plantings will work for your specific area.
Head (here) to see my Landscape Design Ideas board on Pinterest which provided much inspiration for our garden design.
GB: What Garden-Related Products are You Loving At The Moment?
Mark: Natural timber. We love using reclaimed timber as it has so much character. Blackbutt has quite a neutral tone which we believe works well with any other colours throughout the house and garden. Spotted Gum is nice if you prefer to head towards more orange tones in your timber. I love the texture and the look of spilt stone. It’s not the best option in all areas due to its rough surface, but whenever we can we love to use it. I never get tired of secondhand red bricks also. Every single brick is different. I am a big fan of variation in materials.
GB: What Are Your Top 3 Plants For Hedging/Blocking Out Neighbours?
1. Tristaniopsis Laurina “ Luscious” – An evergreen native, that has a lovely white trunk, and large glossy foliage. It doesn’t create a dense hedge but great screening all the same.
2. Waterhousea Floribunda “Weeping Lilly Pilly” – A mainstay. They are usually readily available and create a great option for larger hedging.
3. Pyrus Calleryana “Cleveland Select” – Ornamental Pear. Yes they are everywhere… but for a reason. They are deciduous and won’t have foliage throughout the winter months but they are tough. They respond well to pruning so you can keep them pruned to a desired height. And you can get them at 3 metres plus at time of planting at a very reasonable price which creates an instant screen. Screening during the winter months isn’t usually as important. The lack of leaves during winter sometimes allows for more light during the cooler months which can be a benefit also.
GB: Finally, Any Tips For Garden Lighting?
Mark: Highlight the focal points. As in feature trees, urns, pots etc. And then add softer lighting to the backdrop. Lighting up a hedge along boundaries creates depth and compliments the focal points. Know that you can always add more lighting in the future. I believe that having the “less is more approach” is a good way to start. And then add to it if you think it is lacking.