DIY backyard landscaping: five landscaping ideas to create lush outdoor spaces
Makeover shows on television present landscaping as a huge project involving heavy equipment, a blank canvas, a team of workers and some big bucks. But it doesn't have to be like this - giving your landscape a lift can happen on a much smaller scale, if you turn your landscaping idea into a series of fun projects. Here are some simple landscape ideas to create a lush outdoor space at your place.
Landscape idea 1: Cover the fence
Make the boundary fence disappear into a mass of greenery with a lick of paint and some climbers. Painting a fence one uniform, deep colour such as a dark grey, green or blue makes it recede visually and gives a backdrop so plants stand out. To reduce maintenance, create a support for the climbers using horizontal wires stretched across the fence or lattice. For year-round greenery, select evergreen climbers and get planting. To see it at night, add low-voltage or solar outdoor lights.
Landscape idea 2: Make a meadow
You can help the environment and create a lush landscape by planting a meadow of flowering annuals, perennials and ornamental grasses in part of the garden. As well as adding a lush note, meadow plantings feature flowers that attract beneficial insects and butterflies. A meadow can be a small bed, a narrow, unproductive space, a disused play space or part of the lawn. To get started, remove weeds and competing lawn grass. Lightly dig over the area, incorporate plenty of compost, water, then scatter an annual meadow seed mix, which includes either native or exotic flowers such as daisies, cornflowers and cosmos. Make sure the seeds come in good contact with the soil to aid germination. Also include perennials such as ornamental grasses, and flowering perennials such as salvia and gaura which can be planted as small potted plants for instant effect. Also include flowering bulbs. Remove unwanted weeds as they appear, and water well until plants are established. When flowering finishes, cut down spent plants so their seeds scatter to regrow next season. Cut back perennials in autumn or winter.
Landscape idea 3: Create a mini jungle
Massed foliage plants give any outdoor space an instant lush, cool feel. Select a corner in a courtyard, beside a fence or under a branching tree such as a frangipani to keep the plants out of direct sun, which may burn lush leaves. If the soil in the selected planting area is dry, dig in compost and water over with a soil-wetting agent. Remove all weeds. For interest, select a range of plants with contrasting leaf shapes and sizes. Include one or two variegated leaves for colour, and have a mix of low, medium and tall plants. Some suitable plants may already be growing indoors, such as palms, ferns or a peace lily. Where planting is impossible due to root competition or paving, buy several large containers of different heights, cluster them together (click here for some tips!) and plant. To make the space even more interesting, add a small pond and fountain, or install a mirror, plaque or wall fountain alongside some outdoor seating.
Landscape idea 4: Turn lawn or path into groundcover
A worn lawn area or path can be given a facelift with stepping stones and ground cover plants. Remove the existing lawn using a spade or a turf cutter. Alternatively, use a herbicide spray and wait for the grass to die off. Once the grass is gone, lay out stepping stones (such as large pavers, flat stones, bricks or small pavers arranged in a basket weave pattern, or even timber rounds), adjusting them to form a path that’s easy to walk along. Excavate to set each stepping stone so its top is just above the soil surface, in order to be level with the groundcover planting. Allow extra depth to lay a 50mm footing. Firm the base of the excavation, lay a 50mm mortar mix and then position the paver. Use a spirit level to check that each paver is level. Use a rubber mallet to firm it into position. Continue to set out the remaining pavers. For a lush look, plant around each paver with one or a mix of ground cover plants such as baby’s tears (Soleirolia soleirolii), Australian native violet (Viola hederacea) or kidney weed (Dichondra repens), or mini mondo grass in a moist or shaded spot. You can even use low-growing herbs such as thyme or oregano for a sunny spot. Plant closely for an instant effect, or use mulch between the plants to deter weeds.
Landscape idea 5: Create a garden feature around a found object or sculpture
Show off your creativity by making a garden feature around an interesting rock, piece of drift wood, a log or a garden sculpture made from recycled finds. Clear an area to position the sculpture or artwork. Make sure it is firmly anchored so it can’t fall over. It may be necessary to excavate and lay a cement footing to set it firmly into the soil. Plant the area with interesting plants such as succulents, perennials or ornamental grasses. Finish with a layer of mulch such as gravel to unify the area and deter weeds.