With new architectural trends reaching towards contemporary monotones and a drive in the landscape spheres calling for indigenous, waterwise planting, landscapers have been given the opportunity to create exciting garden spaces that unite living space with outdoor space almost seamlessly. The soft greys and open plan architecture in modern estates work as a backdrop to showcase planting with pops of colour, cascading plant groupings and silver-grey foliage.
We would like to showcase some of our favourite planting palettes that create interest within small to medium sized gardens and share some simple tricks that create much sought after low-maintenance garden spaces that contribute ecologically and environmentally through encouraging beneficial insect and birdlife activities.
One of our main priorities when looking at refurbishing established gardens in established estates as well as new projects is to create level spaces which are functional and make sense. This can be done in a number of creative ways from using retaining blocks, to constructing face brick walls or finishing with plaster. One of our favourites is to retain using shale rock, neatly finished and grouted with cement to create a modern transition from face brick boundary walls and buildings to modern wooden and steel finishes. These retaining walls create a lovely planting opportunity for lively cascades to soften the wall edges and create added interest to the levels. Convovulous sabatius cascades well and has a delicate lavender-blue flower that catches the eye. Asparagus Mazeppa is a beautiful indigenous option that brings a bright green colour and texture to contrast other cascading growers, it is also a great winner in hanging baskets when mixed with string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus). Crassula spathulata creates lovely interest with small white star shaped flowers and heart shaped leaves when used for a cascading pot border. When maintaining your plant cascades be careful not to trim them in straight lines but rather use a feathered approach, trimming the runners at different lengths to create a natural feel, while keeping the bulk of the cascade off of lawns and walkways. For tall pots maintain the cascade at about a third of the total pot height and for retaining walls about two thirds of the total height of the wall.
When selecting shrubs to create the bulk of garden planting areas, careful consideration should be given to texture, size and colour. Using textured leaves with a striking contrast to the normal green planting pallet such as Helichrysum petiolare, a silver-grey shrub with soft fluffy leaves, immediately draws the eye to pockets of silvery interest and allows for repetition of both silver colour and soft texture when alternated with a ground cover like (Lambs Ear) Stachys byzantine. The striking purple flowers of Salvia farinacea tie in well with silvers and greys and form a dense flowery backbone within garden beds. Companion plant Guara lindheimerii and Statice flowers Limonium perezii in large swathes to complete a colourfully textured spectacle. Use robust creepers like Petrea volubilis to frame archways or soften bare walls with their rough leaves and spectacular wisteria like white or purple flowers. Petrea can also be used to great effect in pots when paired with one of the cascading groundcovers.
No garden can be complete without trees and large shrubs, attract a variety of birds and beneficial insects by using (Tree fuschia) Halleria lucida to fill large walls and as a feature in corners or Rhamnus prinoides near a bird bath and bird feeder to attract fruit eaters. Both shrubs create irresistible unique fruit that should have fruit eating birds queuing for a bite. To complement our shrubs we use trees like (Lavender tree) Heteropyxis natalensis a densely shaped tree with lavender scented leaves, generally they have a non-invasive root system and are a good choice to break unsightly boundary walls. A quick growing tree that screens effectively between erfs is the (False Olive) Buddleja saligna, while it can get quite scruffy and is not recommended for persons suffering with allergies it is easily pruned to shape and grows quickly to cover where needed.
Throughout the landscaping project and its maintenance, it is advisable to promote healthy soils by using organic fertilisers, pelletised chicken manure or kelp- based fertilisers to add to planting holes or spread regularly over established gardens. It can never be said enough how much the regular addition of good quality compost and organic fertilisers work with your soil, improving moisture retention, soil structure and contributing to soil microbes which in turn leads to healthy root development and plant growth bringing about long-term sustainability. We have found that the combination of good quality compost, organic fertilisers and a soil covering of bark mulch or wood chippings 50-80mm thick after planting yields incredible results. It is important to understand the need for soil covering and the importance of moving away from past practices of turning the soil in the garden beds. Continual forking and digging over of planting beds damages delicate plant roots, disturbs microbial activity and disrupts the natural process of breaking down organic matter. Mulching your garden bed contributes toward moisture retention and aids with erosion control by slowing water movement and encouraging soil drainage. It creates a micro-climate for the soil surface that acts like our skin, protecting it from direct heat, slowing evaporation and amazingly keeping weeds at bay.
Bruce de Smidt
Over The Garden Wall