Landscaping tips for the ideal alfresco entertaining space
Are you a big entertainer? Or more of a keen green thumb? Prioritise what you want and how you will use your outdoor space, and make a list in order of importance. This will help you decide what function each area will serve. Consider the fun stuff, but also necessities like the clothesline and shed.
“It’s always best to start with a plan that has considered all areas,” says landscape architect Sophie Greive of Think Outside Gardens. “Measure up the garden to scale (including the property boundaries, house footprint and existing trees) with a measuring tape, draw it up at 1:50 with a scale ruler, and start designing with this in mind.” At this point, give careful thought to the privacy, views and aspect of the space.
If your yard is on the smaller side, narrow down your wish list. Keep to a maximum of three to four different areas – think barbecue, vegie garden and lawn – as opposed to the five or six you’d fit in a large area. “Any structural divisions between those spaces you’d keep really low – for example, a low hedge, a low screen,” says Katrina Gatt, Bunnings fence, screens and gates buyer. “Or simply use a pathway to break up spaces. You want to be able to look straight through a small yard so it creates the illusion of openness.”
Make sure you have enough lighting installed to make the most of your outdoor oasis. Layering your sources is the key. Katrina recommends planning your lighting early, but installing towards the end of the project so you know first hand exactly where you’ll need it most. Floodlights and wall lights are great solutions for larger areas, which will require more task lighting, while fairy lights and spotlights can help to highlight design features. For safety, consider outdoor strip lighting on steps and stairways. Always check your garden lighting choices are rated for outdoor use, and have any hardwired features installed by a qualified electrician.
Big-ticket features such as patios, paving and pathways should go in first. For foundations, choose between paving and decking, or a mixture of both to define zones. As decking is an elevated structure it’s ideal for uneven ground, but this can often require building permits. Pavers are wonderfully versatile, used for patios, or to draw you into the garden along pathways or even through the lawn.
A path can serve many purposes, from a design enhancer leading the eye towards statement pieces, to delineating zones. “The easiest materials you can use are small pebbles and stepping stones,” says Katrina. Timber sleepers, bricks and small pavers can border the path and help keep loose stones in place. “Low-growing plants along the edges of pathways will then help separate the hard surface from the surrounding garden or lawn,” adds Katrina.
“You don’t necessarily have to go off the style of your house for your backyard design. It’s not difficult to tie it together with a few contrasting items; look for inspiration with different garden designs and colour palettes,” says Katrina.
“Different styles of plants can also create a different feel in a garden space,” adds Angie Thomas, horticultural consultant at Yates. “A warm, protected part of the garden could be filled with tropical plants, or for a completely different look, an exposed sunny location could become a home for succulents or Mediterranean-style plants.”
“Look at the amount of sunlight and space you have,” says Angie Thomas. “Different plants are suited to different levels of light and take up different amounts of space, so observe your backyard to see how much light it gets across the day and then choose plants to suit.”
Plants are functional as well as beautiful; they can help to provide shade, privacy and living fences. When choosing, consider the colours, style and materials of your house and hardscaping, and match those to the colours and types of the plants. “Earthy materials, such as rusted steel and timber, work well with different green foliage, and grey fencing, walls and structures create a beautiful backdrop for flowers,” says Angie. Plants with different types of foliage sizes and textures can add another dimension to garden designs.
For growing families, an outdoor play space is the perfect antidote to screen time. Cubby houses and sandpits will keep them entertained, but they’ll also dominate the landscape, so look for corner real estate for the building site. Also, a very important consideration is sun protection. If the area you have chosen isn’t shady, protect your little ones from UV rays by putting up a shade sail. “Play areas also need to be able to withstand children and their toys – consider this before you plant certain delicate plants or if you want an immaculate lawn,” adds Sophie.
Check out our landscape any size backyard for tips.
Photo Credit: Sue Stubbs, Gap Photos and Hazel Bondoc/The Style Société
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