The coming of summer inspires many home owners to fantasise about their ideal outdoor space. But if you’re beyond that phase and have a more solid plan in mind, you could be five steps away from turning your dream into reality.
Step 1: Make a wish list
Embrace the opportunity to compose your ultimate backyard wish list, no holds barred.
Secretly want a heart-shaped pool? No judgement.
Think you could squeeze a rotunda into your garden? Hold on to that dream.
What about a water feature? A private oasis or a large lawn for the kids? Think about the kind of atmosphere you want and what themes might help you achieve this.
Minimal for a sleek, contemporary feel, or a cottage garden bursting with colour and artful rockeries. Once it’s all down on paper, shift from fantasy to reality a moment and consider these two factors: The main purpose of your outdoor space and your maximum budget.
The rule of thumb is to invest 10 per cent of your property’s worth into landscaping.
Step 2: Seek help
It’s important to become au fait with the various types of landscape pros, as it can get quite confusing.
Garden designers can differ from landscape gardeners, for instance, and then there are landscape architects, horticulturalists, landscapers, landscape contractors and designers who also do landscaping.
Pinpoint what you need help with. Perhaps you already have your design and just need a gardener to see it through.
If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, think about hiring a landscape architect/designer by the hour.
They can help you work through your design dilemmas before you hire a landscaper for the construction stage.
It’s easy to find all the pros in your local area through online resource Houzz.
Speak to several experts about your project and get ballpark quotes.
Ask lots of questions, and let them show you references and examples of their work.
As well as considering design skills, fees and services provided, don’t underestimate the importance of personal rapport.
Step 3: Get serious
Take your newly hired pro through your wish list or rough design, have them see your available space, and be open to their professional opinions.
They might highlight considerations you hadn’t thought of, so get ready to cross a few things off that list.
For instance, drainage allowance is a classic oversight. When garden beds are placed too close to the house, constant watering without effective drainage can damage the house’s foundations.
Soil prep is another. You need soil that drains well in winter but holds moisture in summer, and every site has different requirements.
Insist on plenty of communication during the design phase and don’t be afraid to make suggestions.
For instance, it’s a good idea to plant some larger trees in your first phase to make up for the sparse peppering of seedlings and saplings over the next five years.
Step 4: Out with the old
Next comes the deconstruction: The straw that breaks the camel’s back for so many because it can be daunting to see your old garden destroyed.
Have faith in the process, so long as it doesn’t become blind faith: ask lots of questions and ensure your pro is accountable.
The mistakes you make now could have a huge impact on future maintenance and long-term expenses.
Step 5: Going forward
‘Low maintenance’ is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to gardening.
The conversation about upkeep should have started at the design phase – you need to be realistic about your capabilities and available time.
Your dream to include lots of non-native plants was hopefully scratched by the designer because their maintenance would consume your time and money (not to mention the environment).
If you hire a landscape gardener or horticulturalist, ask them to implement a management plan that you can adhere to going forward.
You may need to address issues of acclimatisation for anything you transplant, as well as the challenges of the establishment phase.
Consider not just how much you’re spending on the landscape but how much you’re willing to spend each year to maintain it.