10 ideas for a garden revamp

Winter is the ideal time to reassess your garden design, when it is, as it were, stripped down to the bare bones. It is also the best time to carry out renovations without disturbing the garden’s summer beauty. Here are some suggestions.   

1. Do away with tatty lawn

Are there areas of lawn that are extremely shabby through overuse, or because of shade? Constructing a non-plant surface with paving, sleepers, gravel, pebbles or bark chips or other materials will give the garden floor a facelift and also provide textural contrast within the garden.

2. Sort out steep slopes

A lawn on a steep slope makes mowing very difficult. Rather create a rockery on the slope, or plant it up with a selection of soil-retaining plants. If you want to create more level space in the garden, construct a retaining wall – straight or curved – and a set of steps to create different levels in the garden. Besides being practical, different levels also add interest to a garden. To go a step further you can install a pond or canal at the base of the wall with spouts of water set into the wall itself.

Liriope_spicata_Silver_Ribbon_small3. Neaten edges

Are the boundaries between lawn and garden beds lacking in definition? Neaten them up by planting one species of a low growing evergreen plant such as mondo grass, liriope, or gazania at the front of the border. Alternatively, install an edging of brick, small flagstones or terracotta edging tiles. While you’re about it, do away with any small squiggles in the border edge – sustained gentle curves are more pleasing to the eye. 

4. Make boundary walls disappear

Do the garden walls dominate the garden? Their impact can be reduced by painting them charcoal grey; or you can plant climbers against them. These plants are back in fashion as they provide eco-habitats and, when planted against house walls, keep the interior warmer in winter and cooler in summer. In a formal garden, a series of trellised panels against the walls can contribute to the overall design.

Image on right: Liriope spicata


5. Create garden rooms

Instead of being able to see the whole garden at the same time – which is rather boring – create interest by dividing it into separate areas that have to be entered in order to be fully seen. In a large garden this can be achieved with a bed of screening plants with an open section allowing access to the hidden gardens. In smaller gardens use narrow conifers or wattle screening and an archway. A corner of the garden is a good place for a secret nook, no matter what the size of the main garden. If you have large, deep borders, install one or more pathways in the border that lead to hidden retreats within the border.

6. Provide interest

Is there anything to draw the eye in the winter garden? If not, create a focal point in those areas of your garden to which the eye is naturally drawn, for instance at the end of a path or vista. Make sure the focal point is in proportion to the garden. For example, in a large garden you can install a gazebo, a pond and waterfall, a large statue or a strikingly shaped evergreen tree such as a palm tree. In a small garden choose an urn, large container, micro water feature or a bench.

7. Sort out paving

Look out for signs of wear and tear and apply the right treatment. If pathways, paved areas and the driveway are full of weeds, give them a blitz by applying a non selective weed killer at repeated intervals as per instructions. If stains of some sort or another are spoiling the look of the driveway or patio, remove them. To find out how to remove stains on bricks, contact the Clay Brick Association on 011-805-4206 or email: claybrick@icon.co.za. Repair any loose bricks, tiles or flagstones in paved areas, both for aesthetic and safety reasons.

8. Get painting

Is the paint work on benches, gazebos, trellises, and other garden structures rather scruffy? A new coat of paint will work wonders. You can also revamp dated garden containers to achieve a fashionable stone-like finish, a rusted iron effect or a verdigris weathered copper effect with one of the many Earthcote products.

9. Prune back trees

Winter is the best time to remove dead and low growing branches from the trees in your garden. This allows more light into the garden, enabling plants beneath trees to grow better. Perhaps you have a tree that is so large that it is impairing your garden’s growth and beauty. If it is a declared alien invader, you may as well have it professionally removed. It may not be necessary to remove a non-invasive exotic tree – judicious pruning may solve the problem. A trained tree specialist will be able to give you professional advice. To find your nearest arborist, contact the South African Landscapers Institute on 011-806-3855/3156 (Johannesburg), 021-558-4989 (Cape Town), 031-708-1130 (Durban), email: val@sali.co.za website: www.sali.co.za

renovating_1010. Modernise the swimming pool

Is the swimming pool surround down-at-heel and in need of replacement? A surround of flagstones will instantly give a contemporary look while rustic sleepers complement a natural garden style. While you’re about it, you may wish to extend the surround on one side to provide an entertainment area. If the interior of your swimming pool needs of a facelift, contact the National Spa and Swimming Pool Institute on 011-791-1177 for advice on appropriate treatment or paint, or for names of contractors.

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