Now is the time to plan your outdoor projects


Chris Slaughter, of Scenic Blue Design, answers some questions and shares his advice on how to make the most of this season as you plan for the warmer months ahead

1. Plan and prepare with a purpose, why do you say this?

Winter has finally shown its head and the warmer days are closing in. With this, we will see rain along with possible drab, grey and cold outdoors. But the real upside is the countdown is on to spring. With winter, the last thing we really want to do is think about the outdoor room. In actual fact, this is the very best time to start planning ahead for your spring landscape projects! Gardens which boast the healthiest and best arrangement of structure, plants, usability and (equally important) of asset value are gardens where the owners have a solid set of plans behind them. When you walk into a garden which offers a comfortable ambiance or causes you to think ‘I never knew you were hiding such a jewel’ these are the ones which have been thought about and designed to support a specific lifestyle.

It has been my pleasure over many years to have been involved in the truly fascinating subject of Landscape Design and Architecture. The spaces which have drawn both myself and others back are the ones which have been passionately designed and thoroughly thought through. Such spaces hold the concept and structure with grace whilst un-exhaustingly beckoning you to enjoy the ambiance they offer.

2. Ok, so how do I start to think about what I want and if it works aesthetically?

One of the first things to consider if you are thinking about creating your own outdoor room is to consider very simply what it is you would enjoy. You may also think about what elements you feel you may tackle yourself. There are pro’s and cons to this approach, but I feel you need to start somewhere. If your desire list carries sufficient detail to warrant a design then your time and energy would be best served by considering using the services of a professional designer. To clarify what I mean by your time and energy I simply mean this: when designing for yourself you can spend too much time procrastinating on smaller detail at the start. Such slow progress can sap what free time and energy you may have. This, sadly, can lead to a road of disenchantment and subsequently you seek the help of anybody claiming to be able to build what you want just to get the job done. That is great, but it is not until after the event and all the dust has settled do you sit back and start to think about what you could have considered. It is a sad time and your outdoor space most likely shall not have that draw that I mentioned earlier.

3. So, if I consider appointing a qualified Landscape Designer and or Architect, what should I think about, so we work with our chosen designer seamlessly?

It is all very well me preaching, and please forgive me I do not intend to do this, but I do know that such forethought and cost output with design before you start is money spent well. It allows elements which are so important to be enveloped into the grand scheme of things. Elements like service runs, drainage, lighting, adequate space, growing conditions for certain plant types… the list goes on. It is easy to spend a considerable sum of money on something as simple as concrete only to find that it needs removing or you have actually placed a potential weakness to your home which is then a loss on asset value.

So, if you opt to use professionals, now is certainly the right time to start to book appointments and interview respective registered professionals. It’s not that designers are not busy it’s just that they will become busier in the warmer months with days being booked quickly. This fact may place you at a disadvantage if you leave it too late.

Let me give some points to help you through this beautiful subject and hopefully allow you make the decision as to which way to go.

  • When you plan for your project, ask yourself what are you trying to accomplish with your landscape design? Are you looking to complement the architecture of your home or create a personal getaway to hang out in?
  • Will you be entertaining? The design then needs to consider a comfortable terrace interwoven within the grounds that will accommodate guests, while making it easy to serve them.
  • Do you want a private space? You may have a very busy life and only want a small space to sit and reflect, meditate, or just have an intimate conversation. You then need to design a simple terrace surrounded by soothing plantings and maybe a small trickling water feature.
  • What are your favourite seasons? What times of day will the garden be used most? What do you really like or want? What are your favourite colours or combinations? What are your least favourite colours or combinations? Do you like to garden? What landscape features would you like to include? What building materials do you like? and on and on.

Once the planning is under way, start on the preparation process.

  • Determine what you are looking to accomplish with your landscape design. If the objective is to add curb appeal, then look at height, size and colours to complete that task.
  • If the creation of an outdoor living space is what you want, then determine what type of furniture will work for your needs and plan around the big pieces. Also consider issues such as privacy from the neighbours.
  • Establish visual and physical flow. A space should be able to offer both but in a way that is not too obvious and allows you to explore and have a journey. Structure plays a key role here so think about what such structure is important to you or what the garden topography leans towards.

Once the space has parameters, then it will be much easier to choose the plants that will thrive and accomplish your goals.

  • As you are envisioning your design, it’s also important to understand the light requirements and any other components that will influence the way the plants grow.
  • When you’ve identified the desired outcome and understand the environment that your new landscape design will thrive in, you can start to select and purchase plants that accomplish your goal. Continued success will be based on amending the soil at the time of the initial planting, a regular fertilizing schedule and appropriate watering practices based on the needs of the plants. The garden space should be designed for the people using it. If you are extremely busy and have no time for gardening, the design should not require a lot of maintenance or you gain the help of a professionally qualified horticulturist who is able to adopt your garden as their own.

Once you have a good idea of what your landscape should look like, consider the budget.

    • Be realistic in how much you are actually willing to invest in your outdoor spaces.
    • Sometimes you’ll find that your dream landscape is beyond your budget. A good landscape designer can help you phase your landscape design in over time. They should also be able to help homeowners come up with creative solutions for tight budgets, such as reusing materials on site, and fabricating interesting features out of some simple elements.

Be honest to yourself and not cheat your mind by thinking ‘Ah it will be alright’ or ‘I can get the same result cheaper’. As with everything and an expression that embraces this element; ‘Cut your coat to suit the cloth’

Remember you are investing for:

      • Lifestyle
      • Enjoyment
      • Rest
      • Your back pocket – homes asset

We hope this gives you the direction to approach your garden and allows you to enjoy your outdoor room. Take advantage of the winter; turn it into a positive so you can start to consider enjoying the garden at the warmer times sharing it with family and friends.

If we can be of help with your garden and the designing of please do not hesitate to give me a call on my direct number 0405 663222 or visit my web site for further details at

Drop me a line so we can arrange a time to come over and discuss the many design options which lay ahead of you.

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Scenic Blue Design

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