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How to plan a garden - expert tips from a Landscaper

Last Updated Feb 12, 2018 · Written by Philippa Land


We asked our landscaping expert John McMillan from General Lawns and Landscapes for his thoughts and handy tips on creating the perfect landscaped garden. How can you choose the right plants, set a theme, include a deck or a water feature or know how to describe what you want into a brief? We asked an expert to spill his knowledge on building a garden fit for your home.

How can you select the right plants for your climate?

A mistake that most people make is to neglect to research what plants best grow in their environment. The most important thing to consider when planting is how big your plants will grow, the last thing you want is a tree that outgrows its area with a root system reaching into your foundations and drainage pipes.

Before buying plants, think about: what kind of light the plant will need, what are the best types of soil, heat and wind tolerance levels to keep the plant alive.

Start with research - there is a wealth of information online including hundreds of photos of almost any plant you can dream of having in your garden. Try searching databases starting with the area you live in, plant type, colour, name, and you can see instantly what would be best suited for your home.

Only go to your local nursery when you have a good idea of what you want and will avoid buying too many mistakes. Ask nursery staff about any plant you don't know before buying anything unresearched.

Another mistake you can make is to buy plants that require different weather conditions to yours. Check the labels on the plants for details about where they grow best. If a plant does not have a label check with nursery staff. Sometimes plant labels may be incorrect so doing your research can save you costly mistakes.

Choosing the right plants for your garden

Photo by Irene Dávila on Unsplash

What should you look for when selecting plants?

When planning your plant selection think about these considerations to ensure you get the right plant:

  • The most important thing to consider is how high and wide the plants you choose are going to grow. Planting large plants in unsuitable areas can be a costly disaster.
  • Consider the form of the plants you choose. How will they grow in the area you choose for them? Plants will grow into forms and shapes as they mature - columns, weeping, climbing, creeping, and oval. How does this fit with their permanent home?
  • Use plant textures to give your garden light and shade. Texture relates to the thickness and colour of the leaves. The rule is to use lighter textured plants more densely than those with coarser textures.
  • Think about how your plants change with the seasons - fruit, colour, and foliage.

Some secondary things to think about when choosing plants for your garden:

  • Are your plants insect and disease resistant?
  • What type of light do they need to thrive in your garden?
  • How much water do your plants need to survive?
  • Are your plants drought resistant?
  • What type of soil preparation do you need to do for your new plants?

Remember, before you visit your local nursery, do your research - online, at the library or at your local bookstore. Don't just drop into the nursery to 'pick up a few things'. You may regret it sometime in the future.

My dear mum planted a Tallowwood sapling when I was 8 years old. 40 years later we cut it down with a nearly 2m in diameter trunk and it was at least 35m tall. Good one mum!

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How do I select a theme for my backyard?

The first question is what is your lifestyle? Are you wanting to spend time outside? Some other things to think about are space and how much do you have, whereabouts are you located geographically in terms of what plants can be planted in your yard, and at the same time is the aesthetics, how is it going to look?   

How to select a backyard theme

What should you consider before building a patio, decking, paving or a retaining wall?

Firstly: your budget - finding out costs. How do you want it to look in terms of functionality and aesthetics and do you have a plan in mind or would you need a plan made for you? If you have an idea in mind, do a little research into the cost for materials and timelines that it might take to get a realistic perspective. Also keep in mind that construction in reality is not like tv shows such as Backyard Blitz or The Block, hardscaping will take some time.

Think about the big picture and consider any boundaries (internal and external), location, soil types, surfaces and planting design are all key to determining what will work best.

Selecting a water feature

What should you look for when thinking about a water feature?

It’s all about building a sanctuary and a place to call home. Before going out and buying a water feature, it's good to think about what your priority is in the garden. It’s also beneficial to think about the long term - how will the garden be looking in 2, 5, or 10 years time. Will it date quickly?

  • What are your desires, interests, personality?
    • More time with family?
    • Kid friendly?
    • More entertaining?
    • A showpiece?
  • How much time are you willing to invest in maintaining?

Make sure a water feature will amplify all you want to get out of your garden.

How can you get the brief right for a landscaper?  

Definitely consider the realistic timelines of getting jobs done, especially big projects like installing a swimming pool. Do some research on timings but also trust the experts with what they advise.

It’s also important to remember that landscaping and gardening is an investment which needs to be taken care of, so what can you maintain yourself and what will you need professional help with? How much time do you have realistically and do you want to spend it in the garden? If your time is limited then consider it may be worthwhile to invest in a professional team that can manage the garden for you.

 

If you’re looking to landscape your garden we have some of the best landscapers in all major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart. Get a quote today to update your space.  

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