When I started this garden and looked around at options, there was talk about low maintenance, sustainability (a much misused word), permaculture, and even using a garden as an extension of the house – with massive outdoor kitchens. So much choice, opinion, and conflicting advice. What to do?
The first thing to consider is your own personal priorities. Is the garden a major part of your life? Quite likely if you are reading this blog. What do you want out of your garden…
- areas for entertaining, bbqs, picnic table for afternoon tea on the lawn
- areas for children to play
- quiet places to sit and reflect, to read, to observe
- areas suitable and safe for pets
- beds to grow herbs, food, flowers, trees, collect certain plants, try bonsai
- plants to provide habitat for wildlife – bees, birds, butterflies, lizards, etc
Whatever your dreams, there are some things you can’t change. Don’t fight them, incorporate them into your design.
- Size. A small garden will limit your options for trees. A large garden could be a challenge to maintain.
- Aspect. Take note of which way your garden faces. Which parts of the garden get the morning, mid-day and afternoon sun? How does this vary by season? Do any parts suffer from harsh wind or rain?
- Time. Be realistic about how much time you can devote to the garden.
- Soil. If you have heavy clay or very sandy soil, it will affect the types of plants you can grow.
- Skills, age, fitness or disability. Design your garden so you can maintain it.
There is no right and wrong – just make them so casual glances can give you little bursts of pleasure as you go about your day.
In the books, they talk about formal gardens, cottage gardens, modern, traditional, native, etc. It’s good to read about them and get the gist of what you can do with symmetry, sweeping curves, focal points etc but I think the biggest decisions are more basic.
- Do you prefer neatness, abundance, variety, cheerful flowers, elegant greens, straight lines, curves?
- Do you want a garden to impress your neighbours and guests, for the kids/grandkids to play, or to enjoy peace and solitude?
With these in mind, I think it is worth placing seats at vantage points around your garden where you can just sit, and observe the movement of the sun at different times of the day.
Think about the access points. What sight greets you when you walk through the front gate, when you look out into the garden from each window, and when you walk out the back or side doors? What is the street view of your garden like? There is no right and wrong – just make them so casual glances can give you little bursts of pleasure as you go about your day.