Vision becomes reality

Vision becomes reality


A cleverly placed pergola brings a distant mountain into the garden at Larnach Castle, Dunedin, NZ (www.larnachcastle.co.nz/)

A cleverly placed pergola brings a distant mountain into the garden at Larnach Castle, Dunedin, NZ (www.larnachcastle.co.nz/)

Aa

Staring at the gardening shelves in our local bookshop recently, I noticed a lack of offerings on design for large gardens.

Aa

Staring at the gardening shelves in our local bookshop recently, I noticed a lack of offerings on design for large gardens.

There was no end of reading matter for courtyards and balconies, but zero for those of us whose first decision on making a garden is where to put the fence.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, the Australian Housing Industry Association says house sizes have been increasing for many years, while block sizes have shrunk, along with expectations of a large garden.

Landscape designers follow housing trends closely and we can’t expect them to cater for a market that barely exists. But if you live in and love a sunburnt country, advice can be harder to come by. So, where to start, when faced with a large paddock containing little but potential?

Begin by knowing your site. Start with water, as your supply will dictate the type, and above all, size of your garden. Discover your land’s height above sea level, whether your soil is acid or alkaline, sandy, clay or loam.

Know your annual rainfall and when it mostly falls, if and when to expect frost, the direction and strength of prevailing winds.

Find out what grows well locally, particularly trees. Visit nearby gardens, walk round your town, talk to local gardeners.

List your site’s advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are a north-east facing house, especially one with a good view; mature trees; easy access to useful items like manure, stone and gravel.

List your site’s advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are a north-east facing house, especially one with a good view; mature trees; easy access to useful items like manure, stone and gravel.

Disadvantages might include a house that for whatever reason is hard to link to the garden; power poles/lines exactly where you don’t want them; sheds ditto.

Ideally you should live somewhere for a year, madly taking notes as you go, before embarking on major remodelling. I expect you’ll ignore this excellent advice (naturally I did), but try not to do anything drastic like removing a large tree you might later regret.

Think about your vision, because whatever you want from your garden it must belong in your climate. If you fight nature you’ll lose. When considering a ground plan, start with the house and biggest nearby trees. Look at levels, where you’ll need steps – no site is absolutely flat – and where you might need drains. Decide where to place your all-important outdoor living area and somewhere for utilities such as washing line and compost.

Working outwards from a door or a picture window and framing a distant focal point makes a garden appear bigger. Dividing the space with hedges or groups of shrubs does the same thing while inviting exploration.

Limiting the range of hard landscaping materials and repeating favourite, simple plants gives a garden unity and creates a cohesive whole.

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional if you’re nervous of making expensive mistakes. Catriona Glanville, a Landscape Architect working out of Grenville (www.outscape.net.au, phone 02 6343 8220) encourages clients to know their site intimately so that they retain ownership of it. Take things slowly, Catriona recommends, and plant in stages over several years so as not to over-extend resources.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by