Find your gar­den style

First of all you’ll need to find a gar­den style you like - whether that be a large ex­panse of wild­flow­ers that can be left to their own de­vices or a for­mal gar­den within neat bound­aries.

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - Practical gardening -

Whether you pre­fer a mod­ern de­sign with crisp, clean lines or a quin­tes­sen­tial English style with peren­nial bor­ders and a mass of colour, the mood of a gar­den is set by its theme. A cot­tage gar­den with its froth­ing flower bor­ders is some­what ro­man­tic; a con­tem­po­rary gar­den fur­nished for liv­abil­ity may feel like an ex­ten­sion of the home. Gar­dens are of­ten a re­flec­tion of the ar­chi­tec­ture of the house to which they be­long. Strong ge­om­e­try of­ten typ­i­fies the mod­ern de­sign, with an ab­sence of clut­ter. In cot­tage gar­dens, any­thing goes.

Con­crete pavers, for ex­am­ple, may mimic con­crete walls and in­te­rior floors. This style suits a lot of new homes… though there is al­ways room for adding even more flow­ers into a con­tem­po­rary theme if de­sired!

For­mal gar­dens have bal­anced de­sign sym­me­try, and of­ten use ev­er­green shrubs and trees to en­close and de­lin­eate ar­eas of plant­ing. Neatly clipped hedges and top­i­ary fre­quently ap­pear in this style. Sym­met­ri­cal plant­ing bor­der­ing a path that leads to a fo­cal point such as a statue is the epit­ome of for­mal gar­den style.

Rock gar­dens can bring a nat­u­ral, rugged beauty to any back­yard, and Mediter­ranean-themed gar­dens can make us feel as though we are liv­ing in hot­ter climes. For the lat­ter, drought-tol­er­ant plants such as laven­der, rose­mary, Rus­sian sage and vines of­ten bor­der gravel walk­ways.

Ur­ban gar­dens may see more pot­ted plants, es­pe­cially where there is more con­crete than lawn. Dif­fer­ent lev­els of plant­ing can liven up a small space and make the area seem big­ger. Tall plants also help block out neigh­bours.


While for­mal gar­dens thrive on or­der and well-de­fined spa­ces, cot­tage gar­dens look al­most di­shev­elled in com­par­i­son, with a hotch­potch of flow­ers spilling over paths and climb­ing up arches and fences. Trees are not an in­te­gral part of the cot­tage gar­den, but struc­tures, like ar­bours, per­go­las, trel­lis fenc­ing and benches, are typ­i­cally used to di­vide larger ar­eas into rooms or to act as fo­cal points. The cot­tage gar­den is pre­dom­i­nantly in­for­mal, with old-fash­ioned flow­ers that will climb, ram­ble, creep or crawl over any­thing in their way. While a cot­tage gar­den may look easy-care, a good deal of main­te­nance is re­quired or it will quickly be­come an un­ruly mess.


Dig­ging your soil is only re­ally nec­es­sary when you want to in­cor­po­rate soil im­provers, or you feel it has be­come com­pacted. The main soil im­prover is hu­mus or fully bro­ken down or­ganic mat­ter. As well as con­tain­ing nu­tri­ents and feed­ing ben­e­fi­cial soil micro­organ­isms, or­ganic mat­ter al­lows air into heavy soils and re­tains mois­ture in light soils. Home­made com­post is best; add half a bar­row per square me­tre.

Lime im­proves clay soils by bind­ing the par­ti­cles into larger crumbs. On acidic soils, add nor­mal forms of lime (see be­low); if non-acidic, dig in 100-200g of gyp­sum per square me­tre. This should only be done ev­ery few years; gyp­sum is a salt and too much will poi­son the soil.

Hy­drated lime (cal­cium hy­drox­ide) and quick­lime (cal­cium ox­ide) will raise the soil ph. Dolomite lime (cal­cium mag­ne­sium car­bon­ate) is gen­tler and con­tains mag­ne­sium too). Dig in lime on a still, dry day, sev­eral weeks to a month be­fore plant­ing. Ap­ply be­tween 150-250g per square me­tre, de­pend­ing on your soil's ph. Only lime ev­ery two or three years and don't mix lime with an­i­mal ma­nure. It will re­act with the ni­tro­gen, re­leas­ing am­mo­nia, which can scorch plants.

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