Armed with a professionally designed landscape plan, you can create the garden of your dreams
Story: Georgina Martyn
Photos: Simon Griffiths
Are you thinking of creating your own garden but do not know where to start? Maybe you have ideas of your own and need assistance with bringing everything together in ways that honour your needs, add interest to your garden and bring unexpected excitement and joy to your life.
Behind many great gardens is a well designed, carefully considered, creative landscape plan. One that provides for aesthetic beauty as well as practical function and considers the planting theme and other aspects such as entertainment areas, produce gardens, shade, and play opportunities for children.
Richard and Nicole, the owners of this lush, abundant and oh-so peaceful garden in one of Melbourne’s bayside suburbs, wanted to build their own garden. But while they planned to do most of the work themselves, they still wanted a professionally designed landscape plan to follow. The first step was to engage a garden designer for a consultation to discuss their project brief.
At that initial meeting, Richard and Nicole made it clear that they wanted flowers for picking, somewhere to plant vegetables, trees for shade, a place to entertain with friends and family, and secret paths through the garden for their children to explore.
With a professionally designed plan in hand, starting the project was easy. “We began pulling up shrubs, demolishing fences and removing old paving,” says Richard. However, as time progressed, each day bought new challenges for Richard who admits: “I had no building experience whatsoever.”
Realising that he needed the help of experienced contractors to complete some of the hard landscape works such as paving and retaining walls, Richard outsourced these aspects of the design to various contractors. Planning to have the garden finished in time for Christmas, Richard took a month off work but it took another two months to complete, using his days off. Richard finished laying the turf on Christmas Eve. “Just as the first guests arrived for lunch!” he exclaims.
Throughout the project, Nicole was also took an active role. “Nicole discovered she was adept at project planning,” says Richard so she was responsible for ordering paving stones, bricks, mulch, compost, and concrete. Yet the most remarkable thing Nicole did was lay pebbles on the garden path. Remarkable not because every stone was hand picked from the pile but because Nicole was six months pregnant at the time. She even thought to hide a tiny shell among the stones to test people’s observation skills.
The garden was completed a few years ago and in that time, Richard and Nicole have seen it grow and evolve to fulfill its design intent — and they are thankful they had a clear landscape plan from which to work.
The plantings offer seasonality and a succession of flower colour throughout the year and the honeyeaters come into the garden to feast on the nectar in the red-hot poker flowers. “We have three varieties, ensuring that at least one species is in flower at any time of the year,” says Richard.
“The garden is in a constant state of flux,” adds Nicole, “as some plants brown in winter, bulbs of jonquils, daffodils or hyacinths appear.”
Richard and Nicole also have the summer shade they wanted, offered by a group of Ginkgo trees planted either side of the paving. Being deciduous, the gingko trees also let the winter sun into the garden from the north.
Importantly, the garden offers play opportunities for Richard and Nicole’s children. The sandpit under the canopy of the existing eucalyptus in the rear garden provides hours of imaginative play and the children love running along the stepping-stone paths that loop through the garden beds. A stainless steel water ball in the front garden designed as a tactile water feature invites the children’s interest and helps to drown out the traffic noise from a nearby main road.
An area for vegetables is cleverly included behind a curved garden seat. “The vegetable garden is a family affair, from planting through to watering, to harvest,” says Nicole. “The kids love getting their hands dirty as they cultivate the soil and watching the seedlings develop gives them a firm understanding that nothing is for free and even the food on the table involves labour of some kind.”
Herbs like semi-prostrate rosemary and thyme are also included in the garden as ground cover, offering a heady, welcome fragrance.
Richard and Nicole invested a lot of their own time in bringing the original landscape plan to life. They love the tranquility, functionality and privacy of their garden. “The front garden now provides a ‘welcome home’ long before opening the door. At night it is artfully illuminated with low voltage lamps and it brings a smile to a tired face returning late from work,” delights Richard. Nicole agrees: “The enjoyment the garden has given us is immeasurable.”
For a brilliant result in your garden, think about the planning first. If you are keen to build your own garden, consider engaging the services of a qualified professional designer. Investing in a well designed, creative landscape plan is extremely worthwhile, bringing all your needs together in ways that work, offering opportunities you may never have imagined. A great garden begins with perfect planning. With the right plan in hand, you can work at your own pace to create a stunning garden for the whole family.
Georgina Martyn is an award-winning Melbourne-based landscape designer whose passion is sustainable designer. She is also the founder of BoldSimplicity. To find out more about Georgina, turn to our Designer Profile on page 107.