Dare To Be Different

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Updated: April 2, 2019

Garden Features – something unusual in the garden or something that’s used in an unusual way. Right?

Unfortunately, the average weekend warrior doesn’t get it, dashing to the nearest big-box hardware store to grab a ‘feature’ from their limited offerings. The ‘burbs are jammed full of the same fountains, statues and pots – the same things used in the same ways! Landscapers know that just a bit of extra effort brings reward. Taking the time to source unusual, quality products all contribute to creating that stunning garden feature within a beautiful feature garden.

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Pots and Statues

Home gardeners often get the scale wrong when purchasing garden ornaments as features – too many small, predictable pots or statues either regimented into a corner of the yard or spilling out in all directions!

Motyaj (pronounced “Mot jay”) continue to be innovators of striking landscape ornaments for the Australian market. Large black Iridami bowls will make a simple statement as a bird bath placed on a well-constructed plinth, while the unglazed, ceramic Hidden Treasure range of urns give that timeless look.

The ‘Urban’ range features lightweight pots made from a fibreglass polymer and stone composite, making them suitable for apartment green-scaping.

They also have an extensive range of Buddha statues for that tropical/Balinese feel or, for something completely different, 1.5m Easter Island Heads in white and grey terrazzo!

Water Features

Water features constructed on site from solid materials like corten and rock look fantastic. Yet, sometimes a ready-made piece fitted during construction or added during a make-over, will also create a feature that exudes tranquility and calm.

Made from concrete and glass fibres, they’re easy to position as well as being robust and UV resistant. Many also have the added benefit of being provisioned for pumps and even lighting.

Whether it be large urns or cascade fountains (where water flows downward from one vessel to another) the quest remains to find something different. Wall fountain kits made from copper may just provide that required wow factor.

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Trees and Shrubs

Plants remain the heart and soul of good landscaping. Swathes of ‘indestructible’ grasses are certainly in vogue but what about the feature tree or shrub? For me, I’m looking for something that gives the customer bang-for-your-bucks appeal all year round and one way to achieve this is to use trees that have unusual form.

Plant selection and availability will change depending upon the climatic conditions of your site in this vast land, but, one of the great all-round performers is the Queensland bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris). Water is stored in its trunk making it bottle-like in five to eight years. Semi-deciduous, it will reach around 20m but is much smaller in cooler regions (surviving -8 to 50˚C!).

Dracaena draco or the ‘dragon tree’ is slow growing and expensive but its long blade-like leaves on a multi-trunked form make it a stunning feature, particularly in full sun near the coast.

Grafted, weeping forms (maples, cherries) have never lost their appeal. They too can be expensive, but, the client gets a feature tree at a guaranteed height with interesting form and little on-going maintenance. A lot of work has been done on grafting Australian natives as stunning, weeping standards particularly grevilleas but also other species including acacias – well worth sourcing for an Australian take on formal design.

Green Walls

As any remaining land in our cities continues to fall victim to development, green walls have almost become the magic bullet for the challenges of providing urban green space. A lot has been written questioning the sustainability of these systems. Yet, if developers can find the money, anytime we can add to the plant/life balance in our cities, it has to be a definite plus!

The demand for green wall installations continues to increase as restaurants, shops and even urban-dwellers are all being caught up in the craze. Again, it’s worth seeking out quality products that have been designed and built to meet Australian conditions.

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Green walls are either a series of planter pots attached onto a wall or a complete modular wall system. The Vicinity green wall vertical garden system utilises a series of hexagonal pots that clip onto vertical rails.

The finished honeycomb pattern minimises gaps between plants creating a dense, lush vertical garden. This system can be connected to a tap or to mains with fully computerised irrigation. The addition of a nearby vicinity tank will eliminate the need for drainage provisions, as water run-off is recycled.

Okay, over the years, landscapers have slowly (maybe even reluctantly) embraced artificial lawns, particularly in those shady, high-traffic areas where grass just struggles… but, what about artificial green walls?

As seen (usually used badly) on the building makeover TV shows, their advantage is that they can be used in places where natural plant growth or maintenance can’t be relied upon (i.e. holiday units, restaurants and shops). Evergreen Walls manufacture and supply artificial green walls for external facades, internal walls and even ceilings!

Artificial green walls never die. They cost about half of a real set-up and have no ongoing costs. However, I have noticed that the large ones in shopping centres could do with a little maintenance to clean the buildup of dust and grime, keeping the leaves glossy and vibrant. For landscapers, it may be an opportunity to value-add by bringing the vista of a newly built outdoor landscape inside into the hotel beer lounge or onto the restaurant balcony.

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Lighting

If you can’t access the landscape by night you’ve lost at least a third of its impact and usability. Outdoor lighting allows the landscaper to really show off a garden’s features, whether it is up-lighting of a feature tree (Dragon trees look particularly stunning when lit from below) or illuminating the flow of water within a fountain or waterfall.

The lighting itself can also become the feature. By utilising a wall, stenciled illuminators project wild or subdued patterns while low voltage LED strips can be used almost like old neon signage to light up words like ‘home’, ‘relax’ or ‘beach’).

There are far too many cheap solar lights haphazardly jammed into the soil at varying angles around our towns and suburbs.

Outdoor lighting requires quality fittings that give quality, fit-for-purpose light.

Hunza Lighting use copper, 316 stainless and machine grade alloys. Their manufacturing process involves CNC machining technology followed by hand assembly. Their LED Fern Lite emits light on a horizontal plane for illuminating low level foliage while Euro Spike Spots in copper or stainless are almost a feature in themselves!

Letterboxes

Yes, letterboxes! For those front yard renos or when bricking up for the apartment block service area, letterboxes don’t need to be a feature but, they do need to be seen!

Once again, in the ‘burbs, it’s the same letterboxes over and over again! Milkcan Outdoor Products design and engineer durable, premium letterboxes that can be integrated into a wall as well as freestanding and pillar models.

Creating impressive garden features in a play-it-safe, copycat world can be a burden. But it is that extra effort in sourcing unusual products and pursuing new construction techniques that will continue to raise the bar in the landscaping profession. Dare to be different!