design elements

Tips for working with design elements

Working with accessories in small gardens

When we’re talking design elements, a bold, eye-catching container or feature in a small garden can be far more effective than a collection of smaller items. The same principle applies to the texture of plants in a small space. Choose a few plants with large, interesting foliage and combine these with more delicate plant material for an interesting planting scheme.

Using mulch as a design element

Ensure that the soil is always covered with either a thick layer of compost, a layer of small to medium-sized leaves or with a lovely selection of groundcovers. This covering will insulate the soil against the heat of the sun and damaging wind, and will also help to keep weeds to a minimum.

Structuring garden beds

Wide garden beds may seem daunting initially, but they will certainly be low maintenance in the long term, and will also give you more options for a lovely selection of plants. Shrubs form the background of any garden and, when spaced correctly, are possibly the most low-maintenance plants. They last for years and deliver an interesting combination of foliage, flowers and seeds. By providing sufficient space for them to mature, you will seldom have to alter the shape or size of your garden beds. Generous planting areas will also allow space for you to include foreground filler plants such as perennials, grasses, herbs and groundcovers. Depending on the size of your garden, a bed with a depth of 1.8 metres is a good starting point. Research your plants carefully so that you know just how much space each plant will require.

Always have a plan when it comes to design elements

Well-designed gardens are the direct result of proper planning, even if you’re only planning one section at a time. Planning involves measuring the area, observing the prevailing conditions of the site and then shaping the lawn or hard surface in that area. Factors such as the quality of the soil, light conditions, possible prevailing winds, slope of the land and, of course, the style of garden you would like to implement will all influence your plant choice. Quantifying materials, labour and plants off the plan will allow you to establish an accurate budget.

Invest in trees

Trees as design elements are an investment in any landscape and should be chosen carefully according to their eventual height and width. Fortunately, there is a huge selection of indigenous trees to fit any size garden. Many small trees can be grown in a container as well. If your home is double storey, the trees can naturally be taller than for a single storey home. Sloping land will also offer the opportunity to plant trees of differing heights.

Garden for the environment

A garden that is teeming with wildlife such as birds, butterflies, bees, spiders, lizards, frogs and snakes, to name a few, is making use of the best form of natural pest control. Insects are the food source of reptiles and amphibians, so to have a variety of wildlife in your garden will naturally mean not having to use pesticides. An added benefit is that they keep their own numbers in check. Snakes will feed on the frogs that keep your mosquitoes in check. Predator birds will control snake, lizard and frog numbers, and so it goes.

Monitor light conditions before planting

Plants enjoy either full sun, full shade or a bit of both. The key to a low maintenance garden is understanding the light conditions that prevail in each season and choosing plants accordingly. In a new garden, most plants will start off in full sun. However, as the trees mature, you will inevitably need to relocate the smaller sun-loving plants and replace them with those that enjoy more shade. In an existing garden, swopping the smaller plants around so that they are placed in their optimal light conditions is sometimes all that is needed to revitalise the space.

Think about inside-out views

Every window in your home offers the perfect opportunity to ‘frame’ a section of garden. Consider the view of your garden from inside each room and optimise it with an appropriate feature, theme, particular colour scheme or selection of plants with interesting textures.

TIP: An uncoordinated selection of plant containers will not complement your home. Rather choose a style of container to use throughout the garden that will enhance your theme, and plant them with an interesting selection of plants. Old containers can be refurbished with a coat of paint or mosaic – or donated to a friend or charity.