Landscape design isn’t just about selecting plants for your garden, it includes all the elements of your outdoor living space. When you are renovating or building a new home it's important to start planning your landscape early in the building process. It can be tempting to forget about the outdoor area until the home is well and truly underway, but you will save time and money planning this early on.
Often the most successful landscape designs are those that have an effortless connection with the building they surround, so planning the location and aspect of your gardens early in the design process is key. A seamless transition between an open plan indoor/outdoor area can be achieved by maintaining the same floor level inside and out. To do this you will need to consider the height of the flooring materials you will use and whether the slab will need adjustment to allow for these. Another great way to link the two areas is to use a similar floor covering indoors and outdoors, whether that be in the materials, finish or colour.
There’s other behind the scenes details for a garden such as electricity and plumbing which, when incorporated into your house planning and building timelines, can save you money and double handling. For example, getting a tradesman to install drainage for pathways or electrical conduit for lighting an outdoor structure as part of the work they are doing within your home will ensure it's done logically instead of being an add on at later stage.
Access is another important consideration and if you have a tricky site or narrow access pathways, then getting machinery and materials on site early in the building process can make things much simpler and avoid the need for expensive crane costs when it comes to installing your garden later. Likewise, if you're thinking of installing a pool, planning this into the home building timeline is a must.
So even though you may not have the headspace to think about plant styles and turf variety when you're getting into a home build, taking time to plan out your hardscaping and the location of the big ticket items in your garden can save you a lot of stress and dollars down the track.
Zoysia tenuifolia also known as 'No-mow' lawn gets this name because it's a very slow growing style of grass. Because of its slow growth rate (about 20cm spread per year) it is not used as a lawn, but more often in planting schemes amongst ornamental plants as an interesting ground cover, between stepping stones, surrounding walkways or on tricky slopes. Zoysia is a mounding ornamental grass which clumps as it grows giving it that fairyland appearance.
Zoysia likes full sun to part shade and moist but well drained soil and is moderately drought tolerant once it's established, feed in Spring with slow release fertiliser. For full coverage leave 10-15cm spacing between plants which should fill in approximately one year.
Herbs are a great place to start when it comes to growing your own produce. They can be grown in pots or the ground, so no matter how much space you have a bounty of some sort is achievable. Nothing annoys me more than spending $5 on a bunch of herbs that go soggy and gross after couple of days and have to be tossed to the worms. When you’ve got home grown herbs at hand, they are always super fresh and you can take just the amount you need!
As a general rule, when planting in pots use a high quality organic potting mix and enrich your garden soil with compost or worm castings prior to planting, this means your soil will retain nutrients and moisture. Once your seedlings are established, mulch your herbs with sugar cane or pea straw.
Below you’ll find profiles on some of my favourites.
Basil likes the warmer weather, so plant seeds or seedlings from September to February in a spot that gets full sun. Basil likes to be fed more than most other herbs, so although it’s an easy herb to grow some extra effort when it comes to fertilising can really pay off. Liquid feed with seaweed emulsion or worm wee every two weeks during the summer growing months. The more you harvest, the bushier your plant will get, but be sure to leave enough of the plant so it can continue to photosynthesise. When harvesting, cut just above the point where a set of leaves joins the stem. Pick off flowers when they appear to increase the lifespan of your plant. Plant it next to your tomato plants and it will act as a natural deterrent for pests.
Plant Coriander seeds from September to April in a brightly lit but shaded/cool spot or during Autumn to early Winter in a nice sunny spot. The reason for this being, Coriander will bolt to seed in the searing heat and then the show will be over before it even started! Water Coriander twice weekly (daily during the hot months) and feed once a month with seaweed emulsion or worm wee. When harvesting, cut mature stems from the outer edge of the plant. You can also harvest the entire plant and use the roots, stems and leaves in cooking. Sow seeds every few weeks so you will have a continual supply.
Mint loves soil with constant moisture, not soggy, just damp. Plant Mint seedlings anytime but be sure to plant in a large pot as Mint will roam if planted in a garden bed. Mint likes sunshine, but not afternoon heat where it will lose its lushness, you will also find it starts to get leggy if it’s not getting enough sun. The benefit of growing it in pot is you can move it depending on the season/sun to find the perfect spot. Feed once a month with seaweed emulsion or worm wee. Harvest by cutting the stem just above the point where a set of leaves joins the stem.
Plant Rosemary seeds or seedlings (or cuttings of your own if you’re feeling adventurous) anytime of the year in full sun. Rosemary thrives in warm, dry conditions so make sure your soil is free draining. It’s a great one for beginners, as it will survive long periods without watering and you really only need to prune it once a year in early Spring to encourage a new flush of growth. During the rest of the year, general picking to add to meals will keep it in shape. Feed with an organic slow release fertiliser twice a year. Harvest sprigs by cutting the stem just above the point where a set of leaves joins the stem.
Plant Thyme seedlings anytime of year in a sunny position. Thyme also likes free draining soil and can suffer from root rot if it remains wet for too long. Test moisture in the soil before watering by sticking your pointer finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If it’s still damp, leave watering till another day. Feed with an organic slow release fertiliser twice a year. Harvest by trimming with scissors, much like a hairdresser would, but be sure to leave enough foliage for the plant to continue to photosynthesise.
Find a sunny well drained position for Oregano seedlings and plant from April to September. Oregano is another one that doesn’t like soggy soil and generally does better with some tough love in the watering department. Feed once a month with seaweed emulsion or worm wee during the Spring/Summer growing season. Harvest in the same way as you would Thyme.
Probably the most frequently used herb in my garden, as one family member has a penchant for Tabouli. Plant your Parsley seedlings any time of the year in full sun or semi-shade. Parsley is another one that benefits from some extra feeding, so be generous with the seaweed emulsion or worm wee applying it fortnightly during the growing months, this will ensure you have plenty of lush foliage. Harvest by cutting mature stems from the outer edge of the plant.
Worm wee is the liquid produced from a worm farm. Worm farms are fantastic in a small space as there are many very compact varieties available, you can even make your own. The worms will gobble up a huge portion of your kitchen scraps which reduces the amount you put in your red bin every week and they produce fabulously nutrient dense worm wee for you to give back to your plants. Win, win! More to come on worm farms in the future.
* Planting times are based on a warm temperate climate such as Sydney, Australia.
This gorgeous shrub gets its name from leaves which are bronze grey underneath and beautifully felted on top, with tiny hairs that start off the same colour as the underside, but age to a deep copper colour.
They are fairly low maintenance, best in full sun with moderate water and free draining soil. Suitable for both pots and the garden, Copper Spoons could be used to create a low hedge or as a statement on their own. Relatively slow growing, they can reach about 1.5 - 2m in the garden.
Hedges are a very handy landscape element that can really enhance your garden space by providing you with a green boundary. They can be used to screen neighbours, as windbreaks, they can divide your garden into different rooms as well as providing a backdrop for feature plants or sculpture.
We generally think of hedges as something around fence height but, depending on your plant choice they can be just as striking at waist or even knee height. There are loads of options when it comes to hedging plants, what you need to consider is the shape and level of formality you are after.
If you want a hedge that requires minimal pruning, there are some plants with a natural form that is well suited to informal hedging, meaning you won’t need to be out there pruning monthly during the growing season.
LARGER HEDGING PLANTS
Murraya paniculata (which often blooms time and time again after rain), Photinia, Raphiolepis indica, Buxus japonica (traditional look but slow growing),Viburnum odoratissimum or the very delicate Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Sheen'.
Some Australian native options are Acmena smithii or Syzigium australe (both are types of Lilly Pilly), Backhousia citriodora (Lemon Myrtle), Elaeocarpus eumundii, Callistemon ‘Great Balls of Fire’.
In narrow spaces Bamboo can be a great option, for example Bambusa textilis Gracilis ‘Slender Weavers’.
SMALLER HEDGING PLANTS
Teucrium fruticans, Gardenia augusta, Lavender, Raphiolepis indica ‘Oriental Pearl’ (last months Plant profile), Pittosporum tobira 'Miss Muffet', Alternathera dentata (for some Burgundy colour), Trachelospermum asiaticum.
Australian natives Acmena smithii ‘Allyn Magic’, Westringia fruticosa (loads of different sizes and colours available), Baeckea virgata ‘Compacta’, Callistemon 'Little John'.
For something a little different you could use the succulent like Crassula or a textural plant like Philodendron ‘Xanadu’.
HOW MANY PLANTS DO I NEED?
To calculate your spacing and quantities, use the mature width of your chosen plant as your guide to spacing between the rootballs when planting. If you are after a dense hedge that establishes quickly and you have the space, consider planting two parallel rows with the plants staggered.
HOW DO I GET AN INSTANT HEDGE?
Apart from buying mature plants that will fill your space instantly, which often the budget won’t allow, unfortunately there is no magic way to get an instant hedge. The best thing you can do is provide regular water and a good covering of mulch. After planting, water weekly with seaweed solution and then a month or so after that continue with the seaweed solution once a month and fertilise at the start of each season (except Winter) with slow release fertiliser.
When gardening in small spaces, real estate is valuable. That is why its great to use every surface available for planting, including the walls. By using vertical gardens you can keep floor space clear for seating or walkways.
Vertical gardens can be used for ornamental planting but, are also useful for growing productive plants in urban environments. They can offer thermal benefits by shielding walls from the sun, assist with acoustics by dampening noise and, when used indoors create living art in your home as well as purifying the air.
STYLES OF VERTICAL GARDENS
There are a many green wall products available, such as individual pots that are fixed directly to the wall or, complete kits where multiple small pots are hooked onto a backing board which is then fixed to your wall. The main advantage of using a kit with a backing board is that you limit the number of anchor points you need in your wall. There are also other products using sheets of thick felt with built in pockets where plant roots are placed with a minimal amount of growing medium, the roots then grow into the felt.
If you are looking for something a little more individual there’s also the option of using recycled materials like small pots and reinforcing mesh, timber pallets, pvc pipe or guttering, PET bottles, the options are endless.
Vertical gardens can also be combined with an aquaponics system, where water from a fish pond is circulated through the pots taking full advantage of the nutrient rich fish waste. This is a completely organic way of growing plants.
When designing the planting in your vertical gardens you can create interesting effects by mass planting using contrasting coloured foliage in different patterns, diagonal waves work well. Or, more subtly combining a variety of leaf shapes, for example a thin strappy leaf with large open leaves. Succulents also do well in vertical gardens because of their hardy nature and they are available in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours.
Consider the location of your vertical garden. Get an idea of the amount of sunlight it will receive each day and choose plants accordingly. Because of their elevated position outdoor vertical gardens can be subjected to high winds. If this is the case, choose hardier plants that are suited to coastal locations as they are built tough.
The key to a successful vertical garden is water. Because pot sizes are generally quite small they can dry out quickly. The best solution for this is to install a simple automated irrigation system that will keep your plants hydrated. Pots are often fitted with a small reservoir in the base that can hold some additional water that the plant roots can draw on during a scorching day and an overflow point so plant roots aren’t left siting in soggy soil for long periods of time. Like pot plants, vertical gardens will need regular applications of liquid fertiliser to keep them thriving.
It was a walk down the street this morning and whiff of something a bit farmyard that inspired this post. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s copped a noseful of fertiliser lately. When the warmer spring weather hits, plants start growing once again and to help them with this, a good dose of fertiliser is just what they need.
In the plant food aisle, one can be spoilt for choice or just plain confused. The information below, should help you narrow down the options.
I’ll try not to get too nerdy scientist on you, but this will help you decipher the numbers on the back of the pack. Fertilisers have a breakdown of the top 3 nutrients required by plants, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). As a rule of thumb Nitrogen assists with leaf growth, Phosphorus is overall plant growth and Potassium helps with flowering. So for example a plant food for Citrus would have higher amounts of Phosphorus and Potassium and small amounts of Nitrogen so the plants energy is not put into the leaf growth but instead focuses on juicy fruit.
A BIT OF EXTRA LOVE AND ATTENTION
There are some amazing benefits from growing plants indoor:
In saying that, it doesn’t give you much of a warm fuzzy feeling, when your little green friend turns up its toes and dies. This survival guide has some tips that should help with your nurturing, so your plants can stick around for the long term, letting you reap all the benefits.
As a general rule, plants need light that is bright enough to read a book by. Take note of how the light in the room changes between Winter and Summer, plants may need a holiday to another spot at varying times. Be aware that a bright North facing windowsill may get very hot, especially in Summer, and your plant leaves could burn.
Most often we kill our poor plants with kindness. We want so much for them to grow well we water them at every opportunity, making the soil at the bottom of the pot a soggy mess, then the roots begin to rot.
To find out if your plant needs a drink, stick your index finger into the soil up to the first knuckle, if it feels damp - no need to water, check in again another day soon. Water the soil as opposed to the foliage and be sure your pot has drainage holes, so any excess water can drain away.
SPECIAL NOTE: Ferns love moisture on their leaves, so feel free to give them a mist of water on their foliage every few days. This can be particularly beneficial in winter when heaters can dry out the air.
You can water with a liquid fertiliser about once a month from mid-spring to early autumn. This will give your plants the goodness they need to grow during these months. Don’t fertilise over winter, as plants go into semi hibernation and don’t need to be fertilised at this time.
Plants convert light into energy using the green pigment in their leaves, they also have pores in their leaves that help them breathe. By keeping the leaves as dust free as possible, your plant will be free to flourish. Give them a wipe with a clean damp cloth.
SYMPTOMS AND REMEDIES
As you’ve probably noticed, it’s not an exact science. If you keep an eye on your green babies and they start to show any of the symptoms above, try out the remedies and you should find them starting to improve in a week or two.
"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments"
— Janet Kilburn Phillips