Inspiration

These 5 landscape design tips will help you get the best out of your garden

Is your garden a bleak vista inhabited by a few straggly citrus trees on the lawn, or do you live in a house where the outside areas feel disconnected from the inside? From creating a good first impression to planting for the future, our expert landscape designer has some sage advice

5 golden rules landscaping

Like anything worthwhile, the design world has many rules and formulas, which if not followed can mean things will not look or feel right. Landscape design is no exception to this, but if we take a little time and take the blinkers off, we will see that the basic rules of good landscape planning are something that everyone can agree on.

1. Create a good first impression

Most Kiwis live in their homes, on average, for around seven years, so resale is an important consideration when it comes to your landscape design approach.

Any real estate professional will tell you that street appeal has a massive impact on the value of a property. First impressions count and the first thing potential buyers see is the approach to the house.

Outdoor living spaces add almost as much value to a property as indoor living areas, so investing in these elements will not only enhance the way you live in a home, but will also pay huge dividends when it’s time to sell.

A home with a nice outlook has mass appeal, but many homes look out onto the neighbours and fences. As our outlook has a big impact on property value, landscaping has the power to create an aesthetically pleasing landscape with careful planting. Every backyard can become an oasis
with foresight.

Smart landscape design decisions can also yield a return on your investment of anywhere from 200-400 percent, so don’t be afraid to spend here – it’s one of the best investments you could possibly make on your home.

5 golden rules landscaping

2. Objectively evaluate the space

The first step in planning a garden is to observe what is there already, but do this as though you were viewing the property for the first time. It’s amazing what you stop seeing when you’re familiar with the view, but if you use fresh eyes you’ll be able to note the good and the bad.

Stand inside your home and look out of every window – what do you see? Fences? Neighbours? Rooftops? These are the first things you should address in the planning stage.

Ask yourself what calms you, what offends you and what can be done to enhance the outlook?

When you’ve answered these questions objectively, you’ll be able to imagine a different view, and walls of greenery rather than the fences you’re currently seeing, with birds feeding in trees rather than the neighbouring rooftops. Imagine also, private calming spaces to sit, relax and enjoy being at one with nature.

5 golden rules landscaping

3. Consider your environment and look to the future

Plants and landscape design trends go in and out of style. Your garden takes many years to mature and establish, so it’s important that you plan for the future, rather than planting what’s hot in gardening right now. Generally speaking, as with any trend, if everybody’s doing it now, it will be soon be out of style. It also pays to look around your neighbourhood and immediate environment. There will be reccurring plantings that flourish in each specific environment. Try and incorporate these into your garden so there is a context greater than being the lone planting in the area. A great rule is to utilise our gorgeous New Zealand natives. They’re at home throughout the country and look right in our gardens – not only do they belong, they tell the story of our land.

The architecture of your home can also give many clues as to what garden feels right with a home. Tropical resort-style gardens may be on-trend now, but they don’t always work with a traditional Kiwi villa. Likewise, a relaxed coastal property is never going to look quite at home with formal clipped plantings no matter how in love you are with topiary.

5 golden rules landscaping

4. Allocate budget wisely

Prioritise your budget to incorporate your whole garden. You wouldn’t spend all your money on your benchtops, and then not be able to afford the rest of the kitchen, but time and time again, I see people spending huge amounts on one area and neglecting the rest.

Choose materials that will last the distance in our weather conditions – longevity is key with landscape design.

For example, moisture is the enemy of timber, so any ground-level deck in wood could deteriorate over time. Any timber construction should be well built and maintained to ensure they last the distance. Concrete or natural stone paving is a wiser choice in low-lying areas. My formula is to spend a third of your budget on plants, a third on outdoor living areas, and the final third on the driveway, fencing and lawns.

I see many people spending big money on fencing, for example, when they should be screening it with planting. Kiwis love concrete, decks and fencing – it’s where we spend a lot of our budget. While these are the practical elements of landscaping, we often go too big, neglecting the areas for planting that will soften spaces. Try to prioritise your planted areas first, which will screen and beautify, then plan your hard surfaces around them.

If you lack the skills to plan the garden yourself consider investing in a good landscape plan from a regarded, well-researched designer will not only be worth every cent, it can also save you money. View their work first because this will give you clues as to whether their style and your own will be compatible.

5 golden rules landscaping

5. Remember to enjoy your garden

It is planting that makes a garden a garden. If we view our properties as environments rather than simply sections, we are focusing on the truth of all good design, it makes us feel good, relaxed and calm. This is the connection to nature we crave and a vital element in the human experience.

It is our senses: sight, touch, smell and sound that we should have at the forefront of our minds when selecting plants, the sound of native birds and rustling leaves, the smell of fragrant flowers and the feeling of grass beneath our feet, to name a few of the joys a daily connection with our gardens can bring.

Take the time at the planning stages to create a low maintenance garden if you can’t foresee spending a lot of time on garden maintenance. This is easily achieved with the right plant and material selection but don’t underestimate planting something. Nurturing it and watching it grow is one of the greatest joys in life for those of us who will simply make the time to experience it.

Words by: Michael Mansvelt.

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