Written By Christina Levyna on Saturday, October 28, 2017 | 2:02 AM

Cottage was a late nineteenth-century ideal to return to the simple cottages of the country. They were planted with hardy bulbs, flowers, fruit bushes and herbs and vegetables. They were geometric, colours were harmonised and luxurious as plants grew well as they were heavily manured regularly.

Mediterranean is not limited to one particular area but are defined according to hot summers and low rainfall. They encompass entertaining areas, shade, good views and dramatic shadows. Hot colourful plants are used and lots of lush green foliage plants to create a cool atmosphere. Plants need to be drought tolerant. Evergreen plants are popular because they cast shade on hot days. Walls are white washed to reflect the sun, pergolas built to create shade and use terracotta pots. There is often a water feature and water provides cooling vibes.

Japanese gardens encompasses religion and Japan's cultural history. Japanese gardens are very symbolic often the symbols relate to nature. Plants are 'tamed' and there is an emphasis on evergreen trees and shrubs. They are very controlled and often minimalist. True Japanese gardens are contemplative a place of meditation and great calm.

Planning

If you feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start when designing your garden, I suggest you break it up into areas called rooms thus dividing one big space into several smaller spaces. For example: there is the front garden, the side garden and the back garden. Once you have decided where they begin and end you can then divide each of those areas up again. For example in the back garden you could have the entertaining area, the grass/children's area, the utilities area (includes the compost heap and shed), the pool area and the vegetable/orchard area. Once you have defined the areas/rooms you can tackle one at a time, thus making a huge project into several smaller projects.

The Three Planning Stages

To create an interesting and exciting garden there are 3 sets of plans (may be four if you need an engineer's structural plans) you need to devise:- Site Analysis Plan, Concept Plan and Planting Plan, usually all drawn to scale.

The First Steps

To design a garden that works there are several things you need to do before buying plants and planting them. If you follow these steps you are more likely to have a successful garden.

Site Analysis

It is important to make an inventory of the area you are designing. Things to include are:

Levels - steep/flat 
Aspect - North/south 
Sun/shade 
Sun Summer/Winter 
Shadows 
Existing trees and buildings 
Wind 
Views - good and bad 
Soil conditions 
Entrances - Front/back doors 
Power lines 
Underground cables and pipes 
Clothes line 
Fences 
Sheds and garages 
Paved and unpaved areas 
Patio/BBQ 
Lighting 
Drainage - runoff of storm watered

Once you have noted the above, it is time to draw up the space. You can draw it roughly (not to scale) but eventually you will have to draw it to scale. Start by measuring the area you are designing, draw it to scale ie. 1:100 and put all the above points onto your drawn plan. All these influences need to be drawn on paper, so that you can gauge any trends. For example there might be a paved path from the back door to the garage, but everyone takes a short cut across the lawn, creating a desire line. No - one uses the paved path. So perhaps pave the desire line and make it the official path.

The next step is the concept plan and this is the plan where you put down you ideas. It can be as wild and as adventurous as you like. Forget cost, enjoy your creativity. This is the stage where you put down your dreams of what you have always wanted. Later on, you hip pocket will decide for you whether you can have them. Anything is possible, so don't be shy, dream away. Again this can be roughly drawn or to scale, it is up to you.

The third and final plan is the planting plan and it is preferable that it is drawn to scale as this allows you to know exactly how many plants you will need. It incorporates all the ideas you have decided upon and shows you how the finished garden is going to look. It is the road map which will guide you to building your new garden.

There may be a fourth plan if your site is steep or you are having major elements built, as you may need the advice of an engineer.

Points to Consider

Think about your soil conditions, is it heavy clay or light and sandy? What plants will grow in these conditions? Are some areas boggy and some always dry?

Sun conditions

The sun is higher in the sky during spring and summer and shadows are shorter. Whereas in winter, the sun is lower in the sky and casts longer shadows. So a plant might be in full sun in summer and complete shade in winter. Can it tolerate this? Also think about the conditions the plants require. Are they full sun plants like roses or shade loving plants like azaleas?

Wind

You also need to think about wind direction. Which way does the prevailing wind come from? Screens and hedges are one way of managing this problem but what problems are they going to cause? Making the block feel narrow, casting shadows etc? It is important to know because some plants don't like wind and it is no good putting the BBQ/entertainment area in an uncomfortable spot.

Views

Views out your window or from your garden are very important. Some are intrusive while others are desired. If you wish to block out flats/neighbours etc. you may need to put in a higher fence or a hedging screen of some kind. Or you may want to design your garden to enhance the view of the mountain, ocean etc.

Utilities and Service Lines

You also need to be aware where your services and utilities are; things like clothesline, overhead power lines etc. If you damage the gas, telephone or electricity lines, you are liable to pay for their repair.

Principles of Garden Design

To create a well designed garden, it is important to put the right plant in the right position. This means considering the cultural requirements of the plant. For example putting a full sun plant such as rose into a shady position isn't going to work, because the rose won't be receiving the right amount of sunlight for it to grow. The idea of good garden design is to follow this philosophy, using the placement of plants to create mystery, tension and surprise by using tricks of the eye, colours and textures.

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