Sim­ple and stylish

Alice SpenserHiggs re­vises her opin­ion of low main­te­nance gar­dens

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

AS A gar­dener I tend to be­lieve that low main­te­nance gar­dens are bland, unimag­i­na­tive and static. I stand cor­rected, hav­ing seen a gar­den con­sist­ing al­most ex­clu­sively of fo­liage plants yet is full of colour, tex­ture, and move­ment that, most im­por­tant of all, makes me wish that I owned it.

Talk­ing to the de­signer, Craig de Necker, of The Friendly Plant, I re­alised that the suc­cess of a low main­te­nance gar­den de­pends on mar­ry­ing strong de­sign with the cor­rect choice of plants. While this is true of gar­den de­sign in gen­eral, know­ing the char­ac­ter­is­tics and growth habit of plants is par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal for a gar­den that pretty much needs to look af­ter it­self.

As de Necker ex­plains, ”Many clients who want a low main­te­nance gar­den will ask for lol­ly­pops (clipped stan­dards) or for plants like Du­ranta or Syzy­gium pan­ic­u­la­tum that need to be rig­or­ously trimmed and trained be­cause by na­ture they are trees.

“The kind of plants that one needs are those that keep their struc­ture and form with­out need­ing to be trimmed reg­u­larly and yet still look lush and ap­peal­ing, es­pe­cially if they are be­ing used as a sub­sti­tute for lawn.”

The other mis­con­cep­tion about low main­te­nance gar­dens is that paving is the eas­i­est way to get rid of lawn with its has­sle of weekly mow­ing and lawn mower main­te­nance.

That was the op­tion that de Necker’s client was con­sid­er­ing, be­ing at a loss for what to do with the long, nar­row space at the back of his home.

“I per­suaded him that paving would be vis­ually hard on the eyes and cre­ate an enor­mous amount of heat. I did not be­lieve that paving would add value to his home in the same way that a planted gar­den would.”

What the client wanted was a con­tem­po­rary look with a min­i­mal­ist feel and year-round colour with­out hav­ing the high main­te­nance that an­nu­als would de­mand.

De­scrib­ing this as one of his more dif­fi­cult as­sign­ments be­cause of the small, nar­row space at his dis­posal, de Necker started by de­cid­ing what el­e­ments he wanted to in­clude and then ex­per­i­mented with dif­fer­ent op­tions so that the de­sign de­vel­oped al­most or­gan­i­cally.

In all his gar­dens he likes to in­clude fea­tures us­ing wa­ter or fire be­cause of the life that they bring into the gar­den, adding to its sen­sory rich­ness.

In this gar­den, a stone edged pond with small fountain bal­ances a small pool and open air seat­ing area at the other end of the elon­gated space. A curv­ing path­way of flag­stones links the two ar­eas, so that there is a sense of des­ti­na­tion, which de Necker be­lieves is im­por­tant in ev­ery gar­den plan.

“Hav­ing a place to go in the gar­den gives one a feel­ing of own­er­ship and there is a pur­pose for go­ing into the gar­den and by walk­ing through it one also ex­pe­ri­ences the gar­den, rather than just ob­serv­ing it,” he says.

The most ap­peal­ing as­pects of the gar­den are the move­ment and tex­ture of the swathes of or­na­men­tal grasses that echo the sin­u­ous curve of the path­way as well as from the grass it­self sway­ing in the breeze.

Tall grow­ing Mondo grass borders the path­way, while dwarf Mondo grass is planted in-be­tween the step­ping stones.

A tip from de Necker is to re­mem­ber that Mondo grass is not uni­form, but varies in height. When us­ing it be­tween step­ping stones al­ways opt for the dwarf Mondo that does not grow higher than 10cm to 15cm.

In con­trast to the dark green Mondo grass, de Necker has planted the yel­low-lime green Acorus “Golden edge” en masse. For fur­ther con­trast, and height, he has grouped three stat­uesque, deep­pur­ple cordy­lines within the Acorus. Spiky leafed Jun­cus is used for ad­di­tional tex­ture and height.

The same deep pur­ple of the cordy­lines is re­peated by New Zealand flax (Phormium) that is densely planted in a raised bed that runs the en­tire length of the boundary wall.

The par­tic­u­lar va­ri­ety was cho­sen be­cause it re­mains com­pact. A line of Co­cus palms rises out of the phormi­ums to add fur­ther height to the gar­den and com­plete the grassy, airy ef­fect.

The only flower in the gar­den is the small, shrubby Feli­cia, an in­dige­nous, blue daisy that sur­rounds the nat­u­ral pond. Its rounded leaves stand out in stark con­trast to the spiky leaves of the grasses and phormi­ums.

The point that de Necker makes with this gar­den is that fo­liage can be just as colour­ful as flow­ers and, un­like flow­ers; it re­tains its colour year round.

The de­sign is also flex­i­ble enough for an­nu­als to be in­cor­po­rated should the client change his mind.

The fi­nal re­sult is a gar­den that re­quires al­most no main­te­nance, apart from wa­ter­ing (via an au­to­matic ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem) weed­ing and an oc­ca­sional cut and thin­ning out. Only the Feli­cia may need to be re­placed ev­ery two or three years if they are not cut down an­nu­ally to pre­vent them from be­com­ing woody.

For more in­for­ma­tion email info@the­friend­ly­ or con­tact 082 805 0910.

The curv­ing path­way around the wa­ter fea­ture leads the eye and gives the gar­den its won­der­ful sense of move­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.