Landscaping: where to spend and where to save
In a perfect world, landscaping would be planned and budgeted for as part of any renovation or new build project.
But all too often our plan on what to do outside comes at the end of everything else, when funds are low.
There are no hard and fast rules on how to spend your money with landscaping, because each situation is different. Do you like to stop and smell the flowers in your serene oasis or is your lawn one big cricket pitch for the family?
Henry Blakely of Henry Blakely Landscapes in Christchurch works at the top end of the market and says it's difficult to say where money should be spent and where it should be saved with landscaping, because "it depends on clients' expectations".
The key, though, is what you are using your garden for. Is it useable space and useful for how you want to enjoy your garden?
If you want to keep costs down, Blakely suggests sowing a lawn and having minimal planting, perhaps a border of griselinia. At an approximate cost of $80 a square metre, a sown lawn is less costly than decking or paving.
"You end up with a nice, green space that's something simple from a budgetary point of view, but which is aesthetically pleasing," Blakely said.
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Blakely says large trees immediately give a sense of scale, something smaller trees and underplanting can't provide straight away. Group plants in odd numbers to give a sense of mass – arrange in groups of three, five, seven and nine.
As for garden styles and costs, Blakely says a cottage garden can be less costly and easier to maintain than a clean-lined, contemporary garden. "A minimal look is harder to achieve," Blakely said.
If you're using fewer plants in your crisp, contemporary garden, you need to invest in quality specimens. Just like an architecturally designed house, something that appears simple and clean-lined is often more expensive to create.
If you are keen on a deck, you can't cut corners with the quality of materials. "It has to be built to spec," Blakely said. "You need ground-treated timber, proper fixings and finishing timber."
Imported hardwood pine is the cheapest option for decking.
"When it's stained, it can look pretty sharp at the end of it."
For paving, cobblestones or concrete paving slabs laid on compacted base course and crusher dust, with sand in between them, can be the cheapest way to pave. But it's not without its drawbacks.
"You will have weeds coming up in between," Blakely said. Also, in Canterbury and other earthquake-prone areas, pavers are best laid in 100mm of concrete to avoid movement.
High-end pavers include bluestone, basalt and imported Turkish limestone, which can cost between $250 to $500 a square metre, laid.
When it comes to lighting, Blakely says "less is more".
"Peripheral lighting is good as it's not so in your face," he said.
Remember too, that with garden feature lighting you need to have something to light. You're better off spending your money on fewer lights that illuminate some well-chosen and well-planted parts of your garden. Having too many lights can look messy and disorganised.
Blakely says if there is no electrical system in place, it's possible to use solar lights, although he doesn't encourage it.