Designing landscapes

Landscape designer Keith Edwards explains how he designs

This Ficus walk creates a strong axis and visually breaks the view

Designing landscapes

My landscape designs are strongly influenced by two ladies who I believe to be two of the most brilliant minds in this field and also the most influential of their time: Gertrude Jekyll and Edna Walling.

All designers approach projects differently. I believe the most important part of the design is uncovering what the client really wants from their garden.

The brief

Designing a garden for someone else starts with procuring a brief, and this is more than just a few simple yes/no questions. Before we meet, I ask them to spend some time gathering information about what they want, this is often in the form of a written and pictorial scrapbook of thoughts, encompassing everything they want or have seen from other gardens, magazines or books.

This is a wonderful exercise to do if you are planning on renovating your own garden too, because it helps to solidify the direction of the design and the overall feeling of the landscape.

These collections of ideas will often show a progression of ideas and a maturity to the theme that makes it easier to create the garden of their dreams.

Creating rooms

Garden rooms are not a new concept, in fact, in my initial design consultations I will sometimes share a quote from Edna Walling where she said, "A garden you can see all at once is not much of a garden at all". It’s important to ask yourself the question: Why would I venture out into the garden when I can see it in its entirety from where I am?

Creating intrigue is something both Walling and Jekyll did well. They created rooms that provided peaceful retreats and emotional pleasure, a feeling of romance, and gardens for intellectual enjoyment and intelligent design.

This is at the forefront in my mind when creating a design — how can I best use the principles of both these exceptional designers to bring the client the garden they want?

Getting the structure right

Providing visual strength, regardless of the gardens maturity or seasonality, is vital and this is achieved through structure.

Structure is the framework for the garden, and it can come in many forms. Hedging, walls, trees, pathways, terraces, mass plantings of single plant varieties and healthy lawns all provide much-needed structure to a garden — and this is achieved effortlessly with good, but uncomplicated design and carefully considered plantings.

Structure and space go hand in hand, and this is how garden rooms are created. Adding another dimension is the element of surprise, revealed only as you explore the garden. And yes, this is achievable even in a small garden.

Adding levels also creates interest, so a sloping block should be viewed as an opportunity, rather than a constraint. Retaining walls easily terrace a garden and create tiers for showcasing a wide variety of plants. Garden steps link the levels allowing visitors to embark on a journey of exploration, slowly revealing the garden's untold story.

The plants

The planting scheme itself should include a selection of plants and long-flowering perennials that complement each other. These can be selected using a ‘Colour Wheel’. They should always be planted in groups, never singularly, to allow the eye to move seamlessly across the garden and create a feeling of harmony. Selecting plants with differing forms, flower colours, foliage shapes as well as colours is also important. Transition areas help to link different flower colours and combinations, helping to blend elements of the garden from one room to the other.

Trees should be selected to provide a canopy, a vista, a cool shady area for a hot summer's day and, if applicable, for their ever-changing foliage through the seasons.

The use of screening trees and shrubs helps to bring depth to the garden, as well as providing privacy.

Trees and shrubs are also an important part of the home food forest, yielding a return on their investment to earn their place in the garden. Vegetables can be an ornamental feature, an edible necessity as well as bedding plants within the landscape, providing unusual seasonal colour and form, such as Five Colour silverbeet, Red Drumhead cabbage, giant red mustard, Bronze fennel and Romanesco broccoli.

The garden

Each garden is unique, just like its owners, and unearthing the right brief is critical to the success of the design and the landscape. I use the client's brief as my final destination, and the principles of Walling and Jekyll as the map to direct the design.

Many of today's gardens are dated by the influences of the time. With the demise of the local nursery that was stocked with a range of plants selected by nurserymen, we now see gardens full of Manchurian pears, magnolias, flax, yuccas, cycads, bedding plants and ornamental grasses, producing the xeriscape gardens of today.

I was fortunate to have been an early member of The Diggers Club, and it was the unusual and carefully selected garden-worthy plant varieties in the early catalogues that helped form the ‘plant palette’ I drew from in my early days as a garden designer — plants I still call upon today. They are timeless in their qualities and merits, just as any garden should be.

Below is one of Keith's designs. For more information about landscape design click here

More

“I want to get people out into the garden”

Georgina Reid visits Michael Bates’ striking Sydney garden

“This garden solves all its problems with plants”

Georgina Reid visits Ian McMaugh’s jungle courtyard in the urban subtropics

A brief reflection

Stephen Forbes (a Diggers Director) shares his experience as the former Director of the Botanic Gardens of South Australia

All in a day’s work

The Heronswood kitchen garden produces an enormous 3,000kg of organic produce each year. How do we know? Because everything is meticulously weighed and measured.

An oasis of green in the bush

Clive Blazey introduces this secluded getaway, not far from Daylesford and Ballarat

Beautiful Vegetable Gardens

Biddulph Grange: one of the wonders of the Victorian age

Heronswood gardener and Botanica tour leader, Julie Willis, visits a masterpiece rescued by the National Trust UK

Botanica Spring Garden (Japan)

Clive Blazey visits Japan for the Botanica Spring Garden tour

Botanical Ark (Daintree, Australia)

Clive Blazey visits Alan and Susan Carle's beautiful garden in the Queensland rainforest

Castel Ruggero (Chianti, Italy)

Margaux's family create perfect harmony, “A living personification of my mother and father”

Choosing perennial flowers for the

wilder parts of the garden

Cloudehill (Olinda, Australia)

Owner and garden creator Jeremy Francis takes us through the four seasons at Cloudehill

Collecting Amazon Lilies in the wild

Andrew Carrick tells the story of re-establishing lilies in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Create a summer flowering perennial border

Julie Willis creates Heronswood’s summer perennial border and explains its subtleties.

Cruden Farm (Langwarrin, Australia)

John Christie tells us why trees are an integral part of the gardens at Cruden Farm

Gardening can change the world

Georgina Reid wonders why we don’t value the natural world

Gardening is about progression

“Gardening is a progression beyond the innocent cultivation of obvious plants” clive blazey

Gardening is for the birds

Creating a safe space for bird life in your garden.

Gardening with Biologicals

Stephen Forbes explains the importance of what we can’t see in our gardens

Gardens By The Bay (Singapore)

Clive Blazey introduces the wonders of Singapore's Gardens by the Bay

Growing 200 fruit trees in your backyard

Marcelle Swanson visits inner-city fruit grower and author Louis Glowinski

Heronswood (Australia)

Is Heronswood one of the world's finest gardens?

Illuminating shade gardening

Canopies offer gardeners both respite and an opportunity to embrace gardening in the shade.

Meet Australia's citrus gurus - The Tolleys from Renmark

Clive Blazey discovers a garden where citrus, dates, mangoes, peaches and apples thrive

Moira’s Garden (Gaza)

Andrew Laidlaw describes how the first Global Garden of Peace is taking shape in Gaza

Ninfa (Lazio, Italy)

Clive Blazey visits the 'world's most romantic garden', the inspirational Ninfa in Italy

Playing with Perennials

Q&A with Heronswood's Gardeners

Get to know Heronswood's talented gardeners

Seed Savers Garden coming to Heronswood

Sharing the passion and skills needed to protect the future of heirlooms at our new garden.

Sissinghurst gardens is given the kiss of life

Tommy Garnett, our finest garden writer, describes the redemption of Sissinghurst

Szálás (Subotica, Serbia)

Ines Balint shares a special garden connection and love of food with her family in Serbia

The colour wheel at Heronswood

A new garden development that highlights why ‘it isn’t easy being blue’ in the flower garden.

The garden at Broughton Hall

A dramatic landscape garden that marries horticultural skill with an artist’s eye.

The grandfather of citriculture

Marcelle Swanson talks to world-renowned citrus expert Ian Tolley about his life's opus ‘Commonsense Citrus’

Three up and coming gardeners

Tony Fawcett explains why an outstanding gardener should be on every farmer’s list of go-to gurus

Tim Entwisle's Top 10 Favourite Plants

The Director of Melbourne's Botanic Gardens shares his botany of desire!

Two hundred years of hard gardening experience

Clive Blazey talks with Will Ashburner and Frank Broersen

Vegie gardening from Alaska to the Sunshine Coast

Kevin Redd doesn’t follow the rules, choosing to experiment with the vegies he loves, no matter what his climate.

Warrior for environmental change

Marcelle Swanson asks Joost Bakker about his philosophies for a sustainable future

Waste is a human Invention... there is no waste in nature

Clive explains how our waste is a symptom of an unsustainable lifestyle

Why garden?

Exploring new research into the wellbeing benefits of gardening.

Wildflower Meadow

One of our biggest aims at Diggers is to ensure that gardeners succeed.

Winter Solstice

Wisley (Surrey, UK)

Lisa Remato visits the inspiring RHS garden at Wisley

Related Magazine

Spring Flower Garden 2017

Where to find rare plants, summer perennials, heirloom tomatoes and gardening in the shade
Back To Top
Member Exclusives
DIGGERS KNEES
DIGGERS KNEES
HARDWARE: HDKN
Keep your knees dry, clean and comfortable with these wearable knee pads. Made from memory foam and water resistant neoprene, these cushioned knee pads feature a comfortable and durable straps to help hold them in place. Not only will they stop your knees getting damp while kneeling they also offer extra support by relieving direct pressure on y...
Member $35.00
Checking stock, please wait..
A YEAR OF VEGIES - SEED BOX
A YEAR OF VEGIES - SEED BOX
SEEDS: S921
18 SEED PACKETS: The gift that keeps on giving for a year. This collection will guarantee 12 months of heirloom veges. The recipient will receive seeds for each season ensuring a supply of heirloom vegetables. The pack contains a total of 18 packets of vegetables seeds (Beetroot, Bean, Broccoli, Carrot, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Onion, Pea, Silverbe...
Member $59.95
Checking stock, please wait..
2 year membership + Garden Calendar and 2 Seed Packets
2 year membership + Garden Calendar and 2 Seed Packets
Membership: MNE2CA2
Join the club and receive an exclusive gift, valued at $30. A stunning calendar featuring key dates, a guide to which seeds to sow each month and plenty of space to add your own events. Plus two free packets of some popular seeds – Tomato 'Black Cherry' and Lettuce Heirloom Mix.
Member $79.00
Non-Member $79.00
Checking stock, please wait..