From the drawing board into the ground

  • Ground work: it is always advisable to design a garden on paper both to gain a visual perspective and to better understand the available space (Photograph submitted)

    Ground work: it is always advisable to design a garden on paper both to gain a visual perspective and to better understand the available space (Photograph submitted)


When designing a garden it makes sense to create a plan which is to scale.

A ratio of one-eighth to one inch is usually enough to give a visual of the total finished product and not just isolated areas.

The landscape should cover both soft plants and hard features — paths, driveway, etc.

What often looks good on paper is not necessarily so when it’s in the ground. This is true with both soft and hard areas and so when considering plant selection it is important to understand the rate at which a plant grows.

Overplanting is wasteful and costly and, in the long-term, requires more maintenance to control growth.

I often see hedges which have plants far too close together, especially oleander and hibiscus, and so when purchasing plants for hedging consider unit cost per plant against length of time to grow in.

For example, instead of purchasing 10x1 gallon oleander at $15 each and planting them at two-foot centres, consider buying 2x4 gallon plants at $68 each (the highest unit price at nurseries) and plant them at five-foot centres.

The result is obvious. You save money on your purchase, the labour cost of planting is less and there is usually a quicker infill time.

You also get healthier plants which fill out naturally and, there is less ongoing maintenance if they are pruned correctly.

The same approach applies to garden bed material. Say, for example, you want to plant rubber vine (cryptostegia madagascariensis) which has a rambling habit and should be planted on six-foot centres.

If you give it as a neighbour lavender star flower (Grewia occidentalis), which has a growth width of five to six feet, then to allow natural infill they should be planted at least six feet apart; each plant only needs to grow out three feet before it is touching its neighbour.

Considerations regarding hard landscaping also need to be assessed as to their function and whether they will work out when on the ground.

Hard landscaping includes paths, driveways and parking, litter bin locations, patios, barbecue areas, garden sheds, animal enclosures, etc.

Paths can be viewed from a utilitarian use.

For example, a path which is a primary path to a front door, garage, etc, should be wide enough to allow two people to walk side by side; if narrower, there is a tendency for one person to walk on the lawn and thus wear down the grass.

Paths which are secondary, such as a side path to a gate or back door, would usually be used by one person in which case a two-foot width is adequate.

Driveways and parking are important features and size should be assessed in the early stages of development.

Points that need to be considered are how often you entertain, the number of cars typically in the drive — which should include an area for reversing to avoid driving on the lawn and compacting soil.

Any design should include flowing lines to allow manoeuvrability for reversing/turning and be wide enough for easy movement, especially if a car port or garage is in play.

The litter bin location should be easily accessible from the kitchen door.

It should be large enough for several garbage bins and tucked away in a screened off area, but should also be close to the pick-up point of the works and engineering collection truck.

Having additional patios on lawns expands the use of a property.

They are useful areas for relaxing and entertaining when adorned with a gazebo, even more so when a barbecue area is placed to one side.

For properties with large dogs, a dog run is often a practical extra. Placing them beside a garden shed usually proves to be a functional exercise.

It is always advisable to put a design on paper not only to gain a visual perspective but to better understand the available space and therein the possible movement within that space.

As the adage goes: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

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Published Sep 16, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 16, 2019 at 8:01 am)

From the drawing board into the ground

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