Potted Gardens

Posted by | Container Plants, Courtyard Garden, Garden Advice, Garden Design, Landscape Advice, Potted Plants | No Comments


Creating a potted garden is just like arranging flowers; you build up layers of texture, colour and form in an arrangement to fill, highlight or lift the space…and when you are ready for a change, you just rearrange. Another reason for choosing to pot plants is that soil conditions and plant selection are not always compatible; if you have alkaline soil but love camellias a container plant may be your best option. Similarly, climate conditions are a factor; some of our favorite plants are too sensitive to be permanently positioned in the garden so container planting is a great solution allowing you to reposition the plant during the searing heat of summer or the frosty winter.

Here are some great tips for choosing and maintaining your container plants…

  1. The first considerations will be the practical; how much space, light, heat and water is available? How much time do you have for maintenance? Do you want to water regularly? When you have identified your needs you will be able to refine your plant selection.
  2. In temperate conditions you will be able to maintain ferns and succulents in the same space, otherwise keep to plants that will thrive in the conditions available. This will minimize maintenance and avoid disappointment.
  3. Choose plants for their foliage as well as their flowers. The foliage will be with you all year round but you will only have the flowers for their seasonal appearance. If you are after colour all year, there are many perfect container plants with colorful foliage such as aglaonema, coleus, caladium, begonia, hosta and bromeliad name a few.
  4. Use contrast in the colour palette; soft grey foliage really pops against burgundy’s and deep greens.
  5. Choose the right container. Drainage is essential so make sure there are adequate drainage holes in the base of the pot. Before you add potting mix, place some stones or chunks of broken brick or paving in the base to add another layer for free drainage. The three main types of pots available are plastic, terracotta and glazed ceramic pots. If the pots are going to be exposed to the summer heat, choose one of the glazed ceramic variety as plastic pots heat up quickly and soil temperatures can top 70°c which will destroy the root system of most plants. Terracotta pots are porous so are great for plants like lavender and geraniums which require excellent drainage but for most other plants will mean you must water daily. Choose a pot size that will allow the root system to develop.
  6. Use a good quality potting mix. Potting mix was developed for use in pots and unlike soil, which can set like concrete, fail to drain or even produce weeds, potting mix is free draining, sterile and compatible with plants. A well-composted mix has the right balance of particle sizes to hold air and water and has nutrients to feed the plants that are grown in it. There are special mixes developed for particular plants like orchids, camellias etc.
  7. Water wisely! Indoor plants are often over-watered, especially in winter; a sign that you are over doing it is yellowing foliage as the water-clogged soil is drowning the roots so that the plant cannot access oxygen. Plant saucers holding water prevent soil drainage so must be kept empty to avoid root rot. Conversely, outdoor pots need consistent and regular watering especially through the heat of our summer to prevent heat damage to the roots. As mentioned, container selection and knowing your plants requirements will help strike the right balance. Use a finger to measure the moisture in the soil.
  8. Ideally, pot plants are repotted every year or two in early spring; a chance to increase pot size and rejuvenate the soil and root system.
  9. Fertilisers formulated for potted plants are available and the liquid varieties are the best option to avoid over doing it. Fertilise when the plants are actively growing and will use the help. Avoid fertilising in the heat.


Courtyard Gardens

Posted by | Courtyard Garden, Garden Design, Succulents, Vertical Garden | No Comments


In a small courtyard style garden, bringing together the functional properties without cluttering the limited space can be a challenge. Here are a few design considerations that may help maintain the important sense of spaciousness, ambiance and calm that can make your small garden a relaxing haven from the business of everyday life.

Using the vertical planes for planting is a great move in a limited, walled space. It maintains the ‘space’ while providing you with the essential ‘green effect’ – for relaxation and rejuvenation. You can install simple espalier frames of Boston Ivy or go all out with a complex vertical wall of succulents, herbs or a rainforest wall of lush lilies, begonias, ferns and bromeliads. Green walls have the added ‘green benefit’ of absorbing reflected heat and cooling us down in the summer season.

Vertical planting also provides the element of texture and colour as the construction elements of the small courtyard garden should be kept simple and clean – large pavers add a sense of space, large wall mounted mirrors also contribute to the sense of space and serve the dual purpose of directing light and brightening shady spaces.

When considering the hard landscaping elements – the bones of the garden – delineate the functional spaces within your courtyard with internal walls, benches and planting etc. that are long and low on the vertical plane; allowing you to layout the area in a practical way without fragmenting and cluttering the overall space.

Choose your materials carefully; smooth textures and a consistent colour palette will create an uninterrupted visual flow that can make a small space appear more generous; match the existing building, pavers, retaining walls, timber and gravel.

The ‘borrowed landscape’ is an opportunity often over looked in small gardens; beyond your borders, neighboring views, trees etc. can become an essential element of your own garden adding ambiance and greenery. Consider the heights & material density of walls and fences, use screening plants and external windows, all without compromising your sense of privacy.

Japanese Garden Design

Posted by | Garden Design, Japanese Garden, Landscape Advice | No Comments

Japanese Garden 2smJapanese Gardens are part of the great tradition of landscape design. Did you know there are five basic styles of Japanese Gardens? Each highly stylized, they all have a specific theme and purpose and use plants and objects as symbols.

Chisen-shoy?-teien or pond gardens

Influenced by Chinese garden design, the ponds represent the seas and the hills symbolize the islands. Traditionally Chisen-shoy?-teien are large gardens but can be recreated on a smaller scale. Typically the garden features artificial hills contoured around a pond, a waterfall, and an island while carefully placed rocks also play a leading role. Other architectural elements of the garden are wooden bridges, stone lanterns, a viewing pavilion, the torii or gateway, and a shrine

Roji or tea gardens

Tea gardens were created as part of the traditional tea ceremony which features in traditional Japanese culture. The gardens were designed to be an intimate space for meditation and preparation before participating in the tea ceremony. They included architectural elements such as a water basin for cleansing and benches for resting. In a modern setting, they can be a secluded garden space attached to the home that is entered via a leafy pathway, nestled in dense greenery that provides quiet relief from busy lives.

Kaiy?-shiki-teien or promenade gardens

Promenade gardens were built to play on the existing natural elements of a larger landscape including mountains, forests, watercourses, lakes and oceans. The gardens were formed around a network of walkways; playful but highly controlled they concealed and revealed the views and highlights to visitors at precise points for maximum impact, to delight and surprise.

Tsubo-niwa or courtyard gardens

As they name suggests, courtyard gardens are tiny walled gardens located within or adjacent to a residence or building. Originally intended to be viewed rather than inhabited, the little gardens were ornamented with lanterns, basins, stepping-stones and plants. Modern Japanese courtyard gardens offer the all the pleasure and relaxation of a small garden within a home; they are meant to be used and enjoyed.

Japanese Garden 1sm

 Karesansui, Zen or dry rock gardens

Simple, modern and architectural, originally used to define sacred spaces, modern Karesansui or Zen gardens are familiar to all. Using fine pebbles, stones and sand they are garden for quiet contemplation and reflection. Perfect for small spaces, they can encompass a whole site or be a feature within. The pebbles, stones and sand are raked ritually into shapes that represent nature; water, hills and mountains and are interspersed with carefully positioned rocks and stepping-stones.

Which of the five styles appeals to you? Talk to Simon about your garden or courtyard and see how any of the elements from the five styles could be married in a beautiful, relaxing, peaceful Japanese inspired retreat.


Now’s the time for planting bare rooted trees…

Posted by | Landscape Advice, Winter | No Comments


Bare rooted trees…

Winter is a fantastic time for planning your garden and planting now will give your new plants the best chance to establish before the heat of the summer season. It is also the time of year when all the best of the classic and new varieties of bare rooted plants become available. Read More

Gardening in Winter?

Posted by | Landscape Advice, Winter | No Comments

Gardening in winter

Not too cold for some…

Winter in Melbourne can be cold and gloomy and we are all happiest snug inside our warm homes…the last thing we are thinking about is our gardens and outdoor areas…however, there are a few reasons why winter is a fantastic time to consider revamping your outdoor spaces… Read More

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