Monday, August 29, 2011

Up The Garden Path - A Potted History

Linking house and garden is the primary consideration for contemporary garden designers and a quick look back through garden design history gives us some important precedents to follow.

Persia is the commonly accepted birthplace of the concept of the garden as a designed space. Shut away from the harsh outside world, the Persian garden became a private oasis, a place to walk in comfort and safety, shaded by trees, cooled by water and adorned with pleasure pavilions. The Persian garden was a place for 'secret and voluptuous enjoyments', a paradise on earth.

The Romans enjoyed a happy blend of crisp order and verdant tranquility. Porticos and promenades encouraged walk and conversation, while outdoor rooms invited alfresco dining. The Roman garden, most usually a central courtyard, where water in the form of a pool, fountain or channel was an important element, was designed to refresh the spirit.

The Middle Ages saw the rise of neat, geometric knot garden beds. These gardens were formal and dignified, often with a central fountain symbolizing the conjunction of God and man. By the end of the more austere Middle Ages gardens had re- evolved back into the notion of a pleasure garden, a place for dalliance and knightly pleasures, where there were arbours, pergolas, ornamental fountains and singing birds.

In the wealthy Renaissance  era , where visible signs of wealth and status were displayed, the garden began to stretch out beyond the walls and the strict formality of  parterre gardens and grandiose man-made lakes stretched as far as the eye could see. The Palace of Versailles in France is a magnificent, living example of this style.

In England in the eighteenth century strict, formal gardens gave way to the freer garden designs of the English Landscape School with landscaped parks surrounding the grandiose mansions of the wealthy. Eventually the style evolved to encompass the idea of sequence, thus laying the groundwork for the appreciation of Chinese and later Japanese garden design, where each part becomes integral to the overall harmonious composition.

The pendulum of garden fashion continued to swing between formal and informal during the following centuries, however by around the 1920's the pattern of modern garden design was beginning to emerge, a blend between the formal and the informal, underpinned by sound structure.

History is a great teacher and provides us with rich examples to adapt and utilize in our modern twenty first century gardens. Whether we have a small balcony garden, city courtyard or more expansive suburban garden the elements of contemporary garden design - alfresco living, pools and water features, sculpture gardens, vegetable gardens, clipped formal hedges and much more can be traced back to their historical origins. Really we are no different to our ancestors, with the lure of the garden still a powerful force in our contemporary lives.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The 'Wow' And 'Woo' Approach To Garden Design

There are broadly two approaches to garden design - the instant, unsuspected 'wow' factor of immediate impact and the more gradual, subtle 'woo' approach, where the appetite is whetted and the curiosity aroused as we are lured on a journey of discovery.

The essence of the 'wow' approach to garden design is that the 'wow' feature should remain unsuspected for as long as possible. When first seen it must stop us in our tracks. This heart stopper may be a magnificent view, an inspired blend of colour or texture or a fabulous plant, striking in its form, flower display or heady perfume - a little piece of paradise, which through its planning and design can utterly transport us.

The subtlety of the 'woo' approach is more difficult to achieve but by careful garden design the viewer's step can be anticipated and manipulated. We are gently lured by the half hidden, the heard but not seen, or the tantalizing scent from an unseen source. We glimpse features through a window or open door, through a half screening trellis, hedge or fence. Sometimes our curiosity is aroused by the seduction of a path, curving mysteriously, or from stone pillars or columnar, sentinel trees, positioned either side of a gap in a hedge or gate which invites exploration, or even from the distant murmur of water.

Whether we implement the 'wow' or 'woo' approach however, good garden design relies upon order and discipline. The essence of garden design, the principles of transition, linkage and proportion have evolved over many centuries. These principles are the basis of any modern garden, large or small, formal or informal and the garden design traditions of history are still a rich source of inspiration for garden designers today.

Today changing social and economic factors have brought about increased lifestyle expectations and altered how we live in our houses and apartments and utilize our gardens and outdoor spaces. But one thing hasn't changed. There are few of us who do not respond to the 'wow' and 'woo' of garden design and delight in the simple pleasures that a garden, however small brings into our busy lives.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sydney Landscaping Tips For Water Wise Garden Design

In Sydney landscaping companies are looking for creative garden design solutions to make the most of the rain that falls to the ground on our properties.

Although this year in Sydney we have had record rainfalls, this is not the norm. As we move through the regular rain cycles however, dryer times will return to challenge us. Sydney's average rainfall is normally about 1200mm and as a result of previous stringent Level 3 water restrictions Sydneysiders have become more conscious of avoiding wasteful over use of water in the garden despite our dams returning to record high capacities.

In Sydney, landscaping design strategies need to create opportunities for residential garden designs that allow the maximum water absorption benefit for our gardens and lawn areas by slowing down the runoff from paths and driveways to take advantage of every precious drop when it does rain. Instead of the traditional 'let's concrete the side paths and the driveway' these areas should be considered as potential areas for water absorption.

When designing garden paths excavate into the soil sub grades and install agricultural pipes, immersed in gravel and flowing to the lawn and garden areas. With many of  Living Colour Landscapes' landscaping projects in suburban Sydney we have then installed sandstone treads or large scale pavers with decorative pebbles and native violets to add softness and colour.

For several smaller Sydney properties where there is only a car stand at the front of the residence we have followed the same landscaping procedure as in the pathway method but have excavated to a deeper level so that there is a greater depth of gravel. The sandstone slabs need to be 75mm thick and a reasonable size, say 600mm x 400mm and can be placed on a screeded bed of washed river sand and laid as tracks only, so that there is plenty of room left for planting.

When it does rain the water does not flush into the gutters but makes its way through the stone gaps and plants and into the gravel, reducing runoff and allowing more water to be absorbed over a longer period, well after the rain has ceased.

Go to our website at to discover more of our landscaping ideas.