Perfect planning

The run up to Christmas is perhaps the busiest time of the year for people and the landscaping industry is no exception.

Many of my designs are being installed so that gardens are ready for the Christmas holidays. This is a fun but hectic time of year for me and there is a poignant message I can pass on to my readers.

People come to me because they need some help with beautifying their grounds. My job as a designer is the creation of unique outdoor spaces that improve the lifestyle. This may start with a plan but it is the result we are all - client, contractor and designer - looking for. So let's work backwards from the completed garden.

So you're entertaining your best friends and closest relatives on a warm summery Saturday evening. There's great food on the barbecue, the chilly bin is full and there's plenty of conversation and laughter from around the beautiful garden. How did this garden materialise?

Ongoing maintenance is essential for keeping gardens in prime condition. Gardens are living, growing entities that, like crops, need ongoing care. Imagine you work hard all winter and spring in your garden so that you can harvest the joy from it.

Before maintenance comes the finishing touches. These are the little things that make quite a difference. The fertilising, the mulching, the painting of exposed edges, the orientation of lights for best effect and the placement of furniture. These small, often overlooked, details are crucial to creating the right ambience or mood in your garden.

The planting. If you have a planting plan from which to work then the placement is simple enough as I would have accounted for the eventualities. If you do not then this is perhaps the singularly most essential part of the garden installation. Not only do you have to place each plant in relation to its neighbours, but you have to consider its mature size, when it flowers, what water, light, nutrient requirements it has and if these are the same as its neighbours.

You have to plant correctly, staking if necessary. You don't just dig a hole and stick the plants in. You need to check the condition of your soil and improve it before planting if required. The good news is you only need to do it in the vicinity of each plant.

You need to plant to the correct depth and fertilise with a slow release multipurpose fertiliser, water well and mulch so that this water does not evaporate. If planting in spring or summer be sure to choose a cool time of the day. The larger the specimen the more care you need as they take longer to establish.

Before the planting comes the hard landscaping. This is all the technical construction work in the garden. Ideally you need construction drawings. You can find many ideas online and some construction drawings are royalty free so you can use these to build garden structures.

Before the hard landscaping comes the site clearance and preparation. This can be done quickly and tidily with machinery. Often there is not much space for machinery but the men at Multi-Dig (Jim and Nick) are very skilled at getting their machines in places one would not expect to see them. If you have 1000mm wide gaps for access then they can get in and out quickly, having cleared the unwanted parts and even started foundations or holes for posts.

Pre-empting all the physical work is the mental work. The actual design and planning. This is crucial to the success of the project. Do not wing it or you will end up with the same mess you had before - just a bit different. It won't be a good investment and in the long run it will not be any cheaper except in looks.

The creation of concept plans, structural drawings and planting plans and plant schedules, by an experienced and qualified professional is the key to long-term success and getting it done right the first time.

But the first and simplest thing to do, if you are wishing to transform your garden and lifestyle, is pick up the phone.

Tip of the week:

Always use quality fittings and fixtures.

The reason the Chinese economy is continuing to grow at 8 or so per cent is that the Western world has to keep buying the same thing over and over again, as it is of poor quality and "not made like they used to be".

Look for the New Zealand-made logo (or possibly Australian), on all your gardening tools and products!

The Marlborough Express