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Five rules of garden design

Published Apr 24, 2015

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Johannesburg – Autumn is a glorious season to be in the garden.

The heat of summer has gone, days are comfortably warm and the evenings have a crisp nip in the air.

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How can you increase the value of your property this weekend? The key is to discover the five easy steps to successful design.

1. Go for simplicity

Avoid packing the garden with too many different plants and features. It will end up looking chaotic and unplanned. Avoid using too many contrasting hard landscaping materials.

In a small garden, a maximum of three or four is sufficient. There are a host of hard-landscaping materials in fashion, including flagstone pavers, wooden railway sleepers, gravel and rusty iron.

2. Link the house to the garden

Match the design of your garden to your home. If your house is modern, your garden design should reflect this in some way, perhaps in the choice of materials, the proportion of features or in the planting. If your home is a symmetrical Tuscan-style home, create a formal Italian-inspired garden. If it’s a ranch-style house, consider an informal, relaxed design for the garden filled with sweeping borders.

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3. Plan an outdoor living room

Gardens are places where you can relax. Develop a garden around the patio or consider creating a private spot where you can put a bench to meditate or just unwind from the events of the day.

If you plan to pave an area under the trees as a patio retreat, start by taking a newspaper and making life-sized cutouts of a dining table and chairs and to lay them on the ground. Is there enough space for all the family?

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Do you have room to pull back chairs easily?

Think about access. Also remember that gravel is a cheaper option, but you need a thick compacted sub-base to make it really stable.

4. Size matters

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If you have a small garden and want to make the space look bigger, consider these tips:

* Gardens feel bigger if the boundaries around it are blurred. If you have high boundary walls, blur the walls by covering them in climbers such as small-leafed ivy or star jasmine.

* Consider working with diagonal lines at 45 or 30 degrees to the house. It alters perspective and leads the eye across the space, stopping it from focusing abruptly on the back boundary. The whole layout doesn’t need to be at an angle; simply alter the orientation of the flooring.

* Create garden rooms. Divide long and thin gardens into separate areas, with plantings, hedging, or archways. Another method is to change the ground surface from one material to another. For example, have lawn in one area and paving slabs or gravel in another area.

* If you have a narrow alleyway, lay sleepers or slabs across it, perhaps interspersed with gravel. Or break it up with cobble circles along its length. The alley will seem shorter if you put large plants in the distance with smaller ones up close.

* Paint false doors or scenic murals (trompe l’oeil) on the boundary walls. These give the illusion that there’s more to your garden than there is.

* Install a large mirror on the wall of your garden, however, make sure that what they reflect isn’t the kitchen window or the drainpipes. Always aim to hide the edges with plants.

* In tiny enclosed spaces such as courtyards, avoid dark or bold colours and paint the walls in light neutral colours. Choose flooring that reflects light.

5. Create interest

Carefully position focal points (statues, water features, a colourful plant) to create areas of interest. Introduce an element of surprise. A kink in a path or a statue that invites further scrutiny draws you out into the space, with the anticipation of discovering more.

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