Practicalities and function are often the most neglected aspects of Landscape design. Too often the designer is focusing on making a monument to their creativity, at the expense of functionality

That is not to the say that the two cannot habit the same space. A garden can look amazing and still be usable. Where are the bins stored, how is the clothesline accessed and is the location for ideal for drying clothes

I’ve seen designers put the clothesline the southside in the shade of the house, no sun no wind making its location absolutely useless.

Not long ago we were engaged to pull apart and redesign a recently installed and awfully expensive garden, designed by one of Melbourne’s well-known celebrity Landscape designers.

As the new owner forcefully communicated to me “There’s a thousand miles of bloody Box hedge and nowhere to put a bloody table and chair.” His sentiments were correct. The garden, a stunning replica of a French palace garden with lines of Manchurian pears planted far too close to the house. The garden was devoid of practicality, nowhere to eat and nowhere for children to play. Rather what was provided was a never-ending task of maintenance devoid of humanity, all for the look.

This is not to say the garden has to be functional at the expense of the appearance. A well designed and implemented garden must look wonderful, be a reflection of the architecture so it adds value to the property and as importantly, adds value to the lives of the users and of course come within budget

Drainage
Drainage is one of the most critical things that is so often left out of garden construction. This can often be for two reason, either the contractor or designer has not the necessary knowledge on where, why and how to correctly install the drainage layout, or secondly it is cut out of a budget as deemed not critical.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In simple terms, when soil gets wet it expands. When it dries out the gaps in the expanded soil fill in with particles of dirt, which in turn expand when they get wet again.

This in effect, creates a form of a hydraulic ram, that unless the pressure of the expanding soil due to the increased moisture content is taken away from behind retainer walls, it can literally push them over.

The other side of poor drainage is that the plants suffer, particularly in clay soil. This is where the plant is planted in a clay hole that fills with water and the plant literally drowns. The placement of the agriculture drain is critical, so you do not take away too much water and the plant suffer from stress of too little water or the placement is not correct and too little water is taken away.

Water will bank up against hard surfaces. Too often I see garden beds surrounded by concrete or paving with nowhere for the excess water to escape, or at the low point of a garden, the water banking up against a path, paving or a driveway.

Either way do not underestimate the impact of well-designed drainage, an integral part of the total successful landscape

Ongoing maintenance
I like to go back some time later and visit the sites we have transformed from a weed ridden paddock to a landscape masterpiece, a landscape that is vibrant to look and used by the whole family. I know that if the garden has been taken care of will provide years of pleasure and usability. Like a well raised child, if nurtured and fed, tendered, and trained, the garden will grow into a space to be proud of. Some of these gardens have had quite modest budgets allocated to them while others literally hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on their creation.

A garden is not an inert creation. It grows and expands; some things die whereas other want to take over. The obvious items like lawns get mown because you rapidly see the growth, but other aspects of the gardens change can be more subtle because it takes time. Time can cause plants to grow into each other, changing the intended form, outgrowing their allocated positions, making it near impossible to have them corrected to the shape they were intended.

The old saying “A stich in time saves nine” relates perfectly to the maintenance of your landscape. A Bowling Green is mown daily to keep it as fine as possible, the rough on a golf course less frequently. But if both are only mown when they get out of hand, they will never fulfill on their intended outcome.

Having spent all that money creating the garden in the first place it is essential that a maintenance program is established at the outset. It is upsetting for both to others and the creators to visit a garden some years later, only to see it neglected and overgrown, misshapen and diseased. It happened so slowly that the owners were unaware of the level of neglect from what could have been. In fact, it can even appear that there was no thought at all given to the garden.

So, if you are considering landscaping your garden, no matter how small or large. Inure you have a plan to work with its growth, so you keep on the intended path, which wasn’t to return to a weed infested paddock

Permits
While sometimes we bemoan the rules and regulations of councils that oft times seemed designed solely to irritate the consumer, by and large they have a purpose. Namely to prevent structures falling down, impacting shared services like easements or overly encroaching on neighbours.

If there are not permit applications, then the old days of dodgy structures falling down would again be the norm. Services disrupted though breakage and neighbours being built out.

Admittedly sometimes the permit process can be infuriating and apparently non sensical, but it is critical to follow the prescribed permit conditions to avoid hefty fines and the high likelihood of what was constructed illegally, i.e., without a permit, having to be demolished.

Ideally you would engage the services of an expert in this field, your Landscape designer or an independent planning adviser who can steer you through the maze of bureaucratic red tape to avoid considerable upset later on

Contact Outdoor Creations on (03) 9439 0005 or email us design@outdoorcreations.com.au