Good Garden Design

Good Garden Design

John Patrick

JOHN PATRICK: People often ask me how do you go about designing a home garden. Well, what seems as if it might be quite complex is actually relatively simple, as long as you follow some basic principles of garden design.


Now the garden in here is really quite compact and it’s newly built. It means that you can really see the bones of the garden and that makes it a really good example in which to study the good basic principles of garden design.

I’m with designer Kate Seddon in Glen Iris in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and this garden is one of her recent creations. It’s on an L-shaped block and the results are very striking – reflecting the owners quite specific requirements.

KATE SEDDON: Here we’ve got two professionals who are approaching retirement age. They’ve decided to move out of the leafy outer suburbs where they had a really quite expansive bushland garden. They wanted to replicate some of that bushland, so the garden was very much designed around that basis.

JOHN PATRICK: The order in which you do things is quite important and the first step to consider in the design process is the site.

I don’t know about you Kate, but I always find it really useful to photograph a site because it’s amazing how much you don’t notice, but you can also, by using photographs, just draw over the top of them to get an idea of how you’ll garden might look as you build it.

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KATE SEDDON: Yeah and I find that very useful as well and the photos always – that first impression that you get – are so key in terms of looking around you, looking in the site itself, looking at what’s beyond over the boundaries, looking in the street and what other people are doing and to sort of balance the elements of what you want to achieve within the garden with the broader landscape.

JOHN PATRICK: I suppose locating discreet uses in different parts of the garden was part of the planning process for you?

KATE SEDDON: Yeah. Even in a small space, we’ve got lots of different areas to be utilised. So we’ve got a deck up there which faces east which you can have breakfast at. We’ve got this lovely shaded bench where you can look back up the garden, look at the water feature and over there we’ve got the upper deck which faces to the north where they do a bit of entertaining which is quite well enclosed with this screen.

JOHN PATRICK: And looking back of course from here, you’re borrowing the landscape next door as a sort of focus to your view from here, so that’s pretty satisfying too.

KATE SEDDON: Yeah. Well with the lower fence, you know, you really need to take into account that there is a landscape beyond and that allows you to feel that the space is much bigger than actually the confines of the site.

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JOHN PATRICK: The next step is choosing the right materials. These build on and enhance a garden’s overall character.

I’m impressed by the fact that you’ve used a low diversity of paving materials.

KATE SEDDON: Well particularly with the stone, we wanted it to look as natural as possible, so we’ve chosen the Castlemaine slate in a block form that you can then use as a flat paver set into the pebbles and these colour tones are also reflected in tile work that we see on the outside of the house.

JOHN PATRICK: Plants are the final step in the design process.

I notice Kate, that at this end of the garden, you’ve used Woolly Bush (Adenanthos sericeus) and sun-loving plants – the santolinas for example, whereas down there, where it’s more shady, you’ve used correas and native violets (Viola hederacea), suggesting to me that you’ve worked hard at trying to establish plants in the right ecological conditions for them.

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KATE SEDDON: And we want to have plant success, so we want to choose the right plant for the right place.

JOHN PATRICK: And do you plant in any particularly numbers. I mean, I’ve sometimes noticed that if you put plants in twos they look a bit contrived. I’ve heard threes and fives and sevens are the way to go.

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KATE SEDDON: I do tend to plant in odd numbers. Once you get past about 9, you don’t notice it anymore, but I also try to plant in non-grid fashion, so as it would fall in nature.

JOHN PATRICK: You can see and feel the fundamental staples of good design throughout this garden and it shows that by using a few basic principles, it can be a fairly straightforward process to achieve a functional and beautiful garden.

COSTA GEORGIADIS: Now this windmill is actually a working replica and people can go inside and mill some grain as a way of getting a bit more of an understanding of just how much wheat needs to be grown to produce a loaf of bread.

This here is spelt wheat (Triticumsp.). I planted it about 7 weeks ago from this very seed and its purpose is to illustrate just what’s involved with growing our bread, so I would need at least 10 square metres to produce 4 loaves of bread, over a period of 9 months, so our farmers are exposed to the elements for all this time in order to support us city consumers.

Now speaking of the elements, let’s see what Jane’s up to, cause she’s looking at ways that we can keep a lit bit of colour in our lives now that winter’s well and truly set in.