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A relaxing garden

Is it time to make your garden work for you? Has the round of weeding, planting and pruning trapped you in a never ending spiral of garden tasks?

A garden should be what you want it to be, a place to relax, somewhere to watch wildlife or insects, enjoy flowers, a place to entertain or showcase rare or difficult plants, or propagate new ones. Whatever your preferences, sometimes we all need to step back and think about what we would like the garden to do.

Firstly have a look at the garden. What pleases you, what works, and what doesn't? Perhaps make a list, and compare it to what you would like to be doing in your garden.

1. Entertaining

Do you have a BBQ area with seating and shade? Is it convenient to the house? Is it inviting? There are lots of ideas in magazines on how to jazz up an outdoor eating area. Maybe combine it with an area of pots for your delicate plants or the ones that flower best.

2. Special interests

Do you propagate or grow from seeds or grow bonsai? Having a bench or shed space that has all your tools and pots to hand would make the job much easier. Setting aside a small area that you see every day so you can easily check on cuttings is also worth considering.

3. Wildlife watching

Like to watch birds or insects? Set up a bird feeder outside a window, provide water and some large shrubs or trees for them to escape cats, and you can watch birds from the comfort of inside all year round. A long flowering grevillea against a window will also provide nectar for insects, and attract butterflies. A small wild undisturbed patch is ideal for insects such as native bees, hoverflies and praying mantis, with plenty of mulch, shrubs, grasses and a few weeds.

4. Like to read, snooze, listen to the cricket?

Set up a small corner with a chair, footrest and table for a retreat to read or snooze a few hours away.

5. Light the way

Put in a few lights such as solar lights along pathways or near bins or woodpiles for convenience. A solar light near a pond looks good, and will attract insects for any frogs.

6. Make it sustainable

There are many ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Some include making a compost heap, a storm water reuse pond, and not using chemicals. A worm farm is also a fine addition to a backyard. Read up on permaculture for an in depth discussion on the relationship between a house and garden.

7. Grow some edibles

Trial a few fruit trees, a small vegetable patch or a tub of strawberries or lettuce. Ponder what you enjoy eating, and plant that. Try a few herbs in pots. Cover a fence with a passionfruit vine, or a patch of raspberries. The front garden can also be used for edibles. Some native fruit trees include the macadamia, lily pilly and the finger lime.

8. Make it easy

Have a look at what does grow well in the garden. Does it behave itself and not take over the place, not need too much watering or looking after?  If you like it, plant some more. Many garden designers recommend the planting of only a few types of plants for dramatic effect.

9. Reduce the work load

Have a think about where you spend time, and not the good time. To reduce time spent weeding try a few dense ground covers and thick mulch, or thicker shrub planting. Endless pruning? Assess the trees and perhaps replace them with something easier to manage. Do you plant annuals for colour? Try a few that self-seed such as daisies or bulbinella.

10. Engage the senses

Does your garden sooth your senses? Do you like the sound of wind rushing through grasses, or the tinkle of a wind chime, or a gently splashing fountain in a pond? If you come home late, try a patch of silver leafed plants near the door, with a lit statue or a night scented plant. Or a patch of your favourite cut flowers so you can bring the garden inside.

11. Recreate a holiday

Where do you go on holiday? Perhaps plan an area and put in a few more densely leafed plants for a tropical effect, some coloured pots or a souvenir. Maybe in your reading spot or BBQ area. Another idea is a miniature garden in a wide pot with a theme, such as succulents for a desert theme, or conifers for an alpine look.

12. Colour

Hot colours such as reds and oranges uplift but are also stimulating. If you want a calmer effect, try some blues, violets or pinks and creams. For interest all year round, look for foliage plants with different leaves, variegated or with reddish new growth, or trees with interesting bark.

Your garden should work for you, and we all need to consider how much we can manage in terms of energy, time and physical strength. A well thought out garden brings pleasure to everyone.

This column and others are also on the Wilson Park website. Some of the latest topics have included Natives as Christmas presents and bird attracting gardens.  Pop along and subscribe and you will get each new Tales from the Potting Bench emailed to you. If you have any questions, queries or something you would like to see in a column, feel free to email me.

Until next time –

Happy gardening,

The Potting Bench

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