How to make your outdoor living area look the way you want it to
Think of the garden as needing to be divided into two separate zones – near the house and not near the house. In other words, the garden area you use as your outdoor living area, and the rest of the garden for which you need to put your shoes on to explore. Some people think of it as the tamed space closest to indoors and the wilder space further afield. Not that we’re talking acreages here. The theory applies whatever the space and it is the key to success.
Once you’ve done the mental division, the rest is relatively simple. It’s time to be firm and to do that you’ll need to save your love of growing the trickier plants for those parts you’ve now categorised as the ‘distant’ garden. Why? Because your failures won’t be sitting in the limelight. Neither will your fading bulb foliage, your dropped browning flower petals, or the seasonal death of your flowering annuals. It’s a little like having two fruit bowls – the one in the kitchen full of bits and pieces including the wrinkly apples for stewing, and the one filled with perfectly blushed peaches sitting centre stage on the dining table.
“In other words, the space to relax and play around with gardening is that part of the garden which is viewed at a little distance, not placed under intense scrutiny.”
In the same way, the space where you live in the garden – the outdoor extension of your home – needs to look its best. And this is what the landscaping professionals understand. This gardening space is the close-to-the-house zone and it needs to be filled with easy care plants which look fantastic, all the time. –
If you take a look at a professional planting you’ll see that’s exactly what they’ve done. To achieve this they usually pull together a mix of three plant types per planting: a bit of a play on the theme of a sprawler, a mounder and something vertical whether that be a tree or a vine. For example, in a sunny raised planter edging the barbeque deck, there will be some trailing prostrate rosemary (ideal for basting lamb chops), a strappy mix of Big Red kangaroo paw and Cordyline Red Fountain, and a mass of white star jasmine running up the wall behind. Each of these plants is not only beautiful but tough, and choosing them is a bit like selecting the right couch for the family room – something with good looks that will keep on looking good.
Do start looking around and then be firm with yourself. Try to keep the spotlight off your garden experiments and make use of successful simple plantings closer to home where they can depend on being beautiful.
Top tip: Pots have always been a brilliant way to raise the profile of plants without actually building raised beds. Here Red Fountain plays hero while flowering annuals and a small pond add dimension to the grouping.
Expert tip: A pool area revamped to link the house to the outdoors: the Cordyline Red Fountain teamed with what will grow to be a wall of star jasmine is not only beautiful year round, but it copes well with pool splashing.
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