Throwing some light on the subject
Designing a garden is, to many, an interesting exercise in creating a mix of plant types that hopefully will turn out to be an attractive area which appends the home. The main components of a garden are shrubs, palms and trees with a smattering of herbaceous, bulbous and cacti/succulents.
The size of the garden is the determining factor — or should be — as to design criteria; location is also important, with wind and salt spray dictating choice.
Plant selection should also be based on the need or desirability to create specific areas for example, barriers from trespass. Privacy is oft a major aim when planning the design layout.
It’s important to consider such factors as location, plant habit and access to the area (for pruning large material in the future).
I would never advise planting a tree on the boundary — unless agreed by your neighbour — as it often ends up being a problem. For functional purposes your neighbour may decide to cut overhanging branches back to the “boundary line”.
There is also the question of root growth being subterranean and trespassing into the next property although, as far as I am aware, removing offending roots back to the boundary line has never been challenged by a homeowner.
Maintenance is also a consideration, with plants in general but especially trees — the bigger the tree the more pruning on a regular basis.
Where a tree is used for privacy between a home and a two-storey property, it may be necessary to plant a hedge or mixed planting to infill the area between the tree’s lower branches and the ground level. Remember to use as much hardy and evergreen plants as needed to achieve the goal.
Deciduous plants, especially in exposed areas, will create more visual intrusion even during the growing season if strong winds and salt spray are experienced.
Also consider the potential shape of the plant — both height and density are important not only for privacy, but also for wind protection.
While viewing the garden during the day is normal, consider highlighting various areas of interest at night.
There are now various types of lighting for outdoor use; a “wash” on blank walls creates a silhouette effect as the light merges with tree branches and plant outlines. Groups of palms, or standalones, can be highlighted with types of uplighting — especially porthole fixtures that focus on covering foliage and stems with an arc of light.
Group plantings of various heights can be bathed in a “wash” of light adding an interesting dimension to an area little seen in the evening, thus creating a connection with the outdoor patio and every room on that side of the house.
Patios and other hard areas should also be considered as possible candidates for a lower impact-type lighting that will also enhance the visual property at night.
In larger properties, with driveways and footpaths, use bollard-type lights which are topped with a cowling to direct the light down, thus highlighting the outline of the path/driveway, whilst reducing “floating ambient light” that is of no visual use.
Lighting, when installed correctly and not overly done, will bring the garden to life throughout the year and enhance the outside, especially between January and March.
Installation should be such that it does not impact on the landscape maintenance, but does facilitate the needs of the area, which becomes a win-win exercise.
• Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in Britain. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society
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