Friday, February 13, 2009

Design with Nature - Planning a Native Garden
Excerpts from the PowerPoint presentation prepared by Lawrie Smith landscape architect providing a check list of the principal aspects to be considered in the landscape planning, design and plant selection for your home garden.

FIRST . . .
Record the physical characteristics of your garden whether new or under rehabilitation
Prepare a layout plan showing the size and shape of your block . . .
• Most important – locate north!
• Indicate the slopes and levels
• Indicate the on-site & adjacent structures
• Show the underground and overhead services
• Define the landform, rock & soil patterns
• Locate existing vegetation for preservation

SECOND . . .
Get to know your site and its surrounds, personally
Illustrate on the layout plan the physical and microclimate impacts . . .
• Most important – locate north!
• Assess the patterns of sunshine and shadow
• Identify the effects of storm, wind, breeze
• Identify the effects of rainfall and water runoff
• Identify the positive and negative views
• Assess the quality of the soils & sub-soils
• Identify existing vegetation for preservation, transplant or removal

THIRD. . .
Indentify your principal family needs & functions
Define on plan how YOU want to use the garden . . .
• Assess your budget, priorities & available time
• Plan for interesting arrival & first impressions
• Identify vehicle circulation requirements
• Plan functional & interesting access pathways
• Define and locate areas for outdoor living activities
• Plan for children’s play facilities
• Identify areas for work activities in the garden
Don’t forget – a garden is an artistic creation that evolves over time

Choose a style & theme for your garden
Your preferred garden character will influence the site planning & plant selection.
Is your garden to be . . .
• Formal, informal, traditional, contemporary or for seasonal horticultural display?
• Reflect the architectural style of the house?
• Exciting fusion of plants and materials
• Bush garden, rainforest, coastal, cottage or ?
• Collectors, scientific, experimental?
• ‘Walkabout’ or stroll garden?
• New fresh and uniquely Australian!
• Fundamentally simple, livable & affordable

FIFTH . . .
Now you are ready to select plants for your garden
Each plant has differing attributes . . .
• What is it? – tree, shrub, cover, vine, fern, palm or ?
• Where is it from?
• What conditions does it prefer?
• How big does it grow in nature?
• Does it adapt to horticultural techniques?
• Have you seen it thriving nearby?
• What is its most prominent feature – form, foliage, flowers, fruits, bark or ?
• Where are the most flowers and colourful foliage displayed & when?

To help you select the right species
They can tell you about themselves . . .
• Large leaves = shade tolerance
• Small leaves = sun preference
• Thick & waxy leaves = store water for later (water wise)
• Swollen trunk = store water (drought tolerant)
• Ligno tubers = fire resistance
• Aromatic = insect resistance
• Massive seed production = weed potential
• Grey & silver leaves = sun tolerant & salt resistant
• Delicate leaves = moisture stress indicator
• Thorns & spines = wildlife protection & habitat

Trees have a variety of characteristics and functions
• Evergreen or deciduous
• Consider root systems
• Diverse forms: globular, upright, umbrella, irregular, weeping, conical, etc
• Specimen tree as a feature or focus element: form, foliage, bark, flower , fruit or fragrance
• Shade tree locate to control sunshine and shadow
• Multi planted as a grove, forest or windbreak

Palm fronds add a special & unique character to a garden
• Size: tall, medium, low
• Self cleaning or persistent fronds
• Feather frond or palmate frond
• Individual specimens
• Formal avenues
• Informal groves

Shrubs fulfill some important design functions . . .
• Size: tall, medium, low
• Screens & hedges: privacy, conceal, windbreak, filter breeze,
• Feature: form, foliage, flower, fruit, fragrance
• Shrubbery: foliage contrast, water zone
• Aesthetic: colour, texture,

Covers are diverse in colour, texture and form as well as functionally and structurally useful . . .
• Dwarf shrubs, mattes, tufts, vines, scramblers, grasses, ferns,
• Erosion control
• Living mulch
• Feature plants, seasonal colour

Vines are functionally and structurally useful . . .
• Select & locate to maximize flower display – over canopy, under canopy, along stems
• Shade & shelter: pergola and arbours
• Softening: fence, walls,
• Maintenance: pruning, woody, fire, tree damage


1. Garden Layout & Maintenance - to simplify & minimise water application;
• Group plants with similar water needs together - Hydrozoning
• Shallow regular watering (unwise) – encourages roots to remain in the drier upper soil levels
• Deep soaking watering less often (wise) – draws roots down to permanent reserves of subsoil moisture
• Apply water deep down in the root zone through a slotted tube (wise) – to replenish subsoil reserves of moisture

2. Soil – aeration, fertility, additives;
• Amend soil texture to improve water absorption and aeration – add sand and organic material;
• Use additives to lock applied moisture into soil so it is progressively available to plants;
• Do not over fertilize and promote soft new growth – can you supply enough water to keep the plant alive?

3. Exposure - sun or shade, air movement;
• Reduce exposure to sun and minimise moisture loss through transpiration
• Utilize available shade from house or trees to insulate plants from drying sun
• Protect plants from excessive air movement to inhibit loss of moisture from foliage
• Plant windbreaks and water-efficient shade trees to create cool shaded conditions

4. Landform - water runoff & harvesting;
• Form suitable landform to collect surface water to absorb into subsoil and minimise runoff

5. Insulate the garden against the sun
• Mulch; Mulch; Mulch;
• A minimum of 100mm of mulch will insulate the soil like a blanket and conserve applied moisture

Choose & use Australian Native Plants
a basic element for landscape design

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