Malcolm Griffiths

Different factors will affect layout

  • Bermuda grass may require over-seeding in cool winters

The flowering garden is what is normally seen on most properties.

It is a mix of trees, shrubs, ground covers, herbaceous, vines, grasses, cacti and succulents making up the flower beds, usually surrounding a lawn of specific or mixed grasses.

The design layout is normally, or should be, dictated by size of garden space allocated, taking into account any proposed hard landscaped areas.

Choice is a personal thing, so selection should be made based on knowledge of various factors which impact the garden — location, wind direction, salt spray, shade, sun, rock hardness, the depth of soil and activity level. This is especially true on a lawn. If a new build, consider the ease of access to the garden area. On many occasions it is better to start preparatory work during the build, contingent on availability of space and distance from the work area.

Also, keep in mind who will maintain the garden. Whether it’s yourself or a company, consider what you really would like to see from a long-term viewpoint; start by considering the ratio of lawn to plant beds. With plant beds, the important point to remember is plants grow. Therefore, they will need room to achieve maturity. Planting with the concept of “pruning hard back” to keep in bounds is a futile exercise and a waste of time and money. Why not simply design a layout. Search the web for the size of plants on your desired list then — starting with the larger plants, then shrubs followed by ground covers — lay out the design on graph paper with the following scale: one eighth of an inch equals one foot. Use coloured pens and various size circles on the paper to a scale showing approximate mid-growth size of plants. By reviewing flowering times of plants, you can create a list which will give an interesting palette of colour throughout most of the year.

If the site has no particular views of interest, plant beds can be created around the three sides of the garden.

If there are views, simply plant on two sides thus using these beds — and plants — to frame the view. With potential plant size in mind, locate larger plants to the rear of beds, working to the front with ground covers, herbaceous, etc. I like to use serpentine designs, which accent the garden and make easier mowing. Also, the gentle curves of the bed allow ease of movement.

Bare soil is an invitation for weeds, which have a habit of growing and reproducing rapidly. To control this activity I like to use ground covers which not only spread, but can also have a long flowering season if dead flowers are removed regularly.

The lawn has a visual impact in relation to the garden in general. Flowering plants may abound but, if the lawn is messy with mixed grass types and weedy, the visual interest is lost. As to the “right” type of grass for the garden, this should be based on several factors: sun/shade, whether there will be heavy or light foot traffic and depth of soil. For a manicured lawn consider Zoysia, which can be cut low but is best mown with a reel mower to create a striped appearance. Floratem St Augustine creates a thick carpet effect and should be cut to a height of three inches to achieve the best appearance; cutting it lower will create problems with weeds. This is not a recommended grass for heavy foot/ traffic areas. Bermuda grass, both common and hybrid forms, is good for general use but may require over-seeding in cool winters.

During the planning process consideration should also be given to hard landscaped areas such as patios, BBQ pads, swimming pools etc.

With hurricanes a constant threat, check for heavy growth and, where required, thin out to allow strong winds to filter through branches thus reducing damage. If left, heavy growth will be damaged with resulting problems to new growth being a possibility.