Create interest with diversity
Having a mix of plant types in the garden enhances the aesthetic appearance while extending the interest level throughout the year.
Plants, in general, cover a wide spectrum of types: trees, shrubs, palms, ground covers, cacti, succulents, vines, bulbous, herbaceous, etc. All have a part to play in garden design.
The size of garden will, to a degree, dictate plant types and associated potential size; such considerations being reviewed in there totality before purchasing.
Other factors to take into consideration include shade, sun, salt spray, wind and whether exposed or protected. When considering using larger plants, also think about root spread as it is a potential problem for foundations, tanks, cess pits, pathways and driveways.
Trees and shrubs are the usual foundation plantings, offering a wide range of subjects for interest for much of the year. As well as flower, consider such attributes as seed, fruit, leaf shape and colour, bark and outline of plant. With larger trees, shade to under plantings should be taken into consideration. Also when in full leaf cover, rainfall will be less around root zones.
Research each species as to spread and height when designing a bed, allowing enough space between plants to allow them to attain their natural “outline” without being crowded, and if need be allowing for ground-cover material.
Be careful when designing around pools, especially for potential root problems and leaf drop. Deciduous trees include poinciana (Delonix regia), golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata), golden shower tree (Cassia fistula), black ebony (Albizia lebbeck), African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata), calabash tree (Crescentia cujete), screw pine (Pandanus utilis).
Shrubs normally comprise the majority of plantings as they are a diverse group. Contingent on location, use contrasting materials such as leaf shape, seed and fruit, flower size and colour, etc.
Shrubs to consider: lucky nut (Thevetia peruviana), lavender star flower (Grewia occidentalis), Chinese hat plant (Holmskioldia sanguinea), yellow bignonia (Tecoma stans), peregrine (Jatropha hastata), blue sage (Eranthemum pulchellum), snow bush (Breynia disticha), cloth of gold (Thryallis glauca).
Palms should be specific in their placement if they are to make a statement or highlight a feature. Most are single-trunked species which can be planted singly or as a group. Multi-trunked or suckering types are best planted as a stand-alone to enhance under plantings, such as lily grass.
Single-trunk species include spindle palm (Mascarena verschaffeltii), bottle palm (M. lagenicaulis), princess palm (Dictyosperma album), thatch palm (Thrinax radiata), queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffianum).
Multi-stemmed species include lady palm (Rhapis excelsa), European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), fishtail palm (Caryota mitis), parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans), which prefers shade.
I much prefer using ground cover plants rather than mulch to arrest weed growth as they add more interest. Ground covers are basically very low-growing plants that tend to spread out instead of having an upright habit. Lantanas and pentas need to be pruned back after each flowering, which produces several flowerings a year; one of my favourites is a lantana hybrid, which is found in numerous colours, Egyptian starcluster (Pentas lanceolata).
Salvia species: Tasman flax lily (Dianella tasmanica variegata), Chinese violet (Asystasia gangetica); liriope and ophiopogon species: Mexican flame vine (Senecio confusus).
Cacti and succulents are ideal for exposed areas and, though not of a floriferous nature, do offer colour and “architectural” outlines, with the agaves and aloes being most prevalent in their usage.
Also consider: variegated lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus tithymaloides variegatus), prickly pear (Opuntia stricta), candelabra cactus (Euphorbia lactea), night blooming cereus (Hylocereus undatus), jade plant (Crassula argentea,/i>), crown of thorns (Euphorbia splendens millii).
Instead of planting tall plants against bare walls consider using a trellis and vines — which are underused in Bermuda. They can also be grown in the “open garden”, against tress and large shrubs; this being especially so with bougainvillea, chalice vine (Solandra longiflora), giant potato creeper (Solanum wendlandii and Clematis sp), Easter lily vine (Beaumontia grandiflora).
For a trellis, consider yellow allamanda (Allamanda cathartica hendersonii), Clerodendrum thomsoniae, Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia durior).
Although not that popular bulbous and herbaceous plants add an element to the finished product — if nothing else than their flowers and growth habit. They are usually grown in small drifts between shrubs and towards front of bed.
Candidates include lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus), African Iris (Dietes sp), daylily (Hemerocallis vars); kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) has attractive pendulous flowers and narrow leaves that are fragrant if torn.
With the wide variety of material available, there is no reason to have a drab-looking garden, it just needs some creativity and “nouse”.
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