Friday, 29 August 2008

Indigenous Beauties - Rhagoda (Salt Bush)

Rhagoda histata
Salt Bush

I have to say I'm a sucker for grey foliage. I love the beautiful contrasts that it creates with most colours. It's a lot like a bridesmaid at a wedding - it's function is to show the main colours around it, at their best.

Rhagoda is that kind of selfless plant. It's common name is Salt bush, because it grows so well in salty coastal conditions.
It's foliage looks so soft and velvety that it makes you want to take a nap amongst its leaves, but it releases an unpleasant fishy smell when you brush your hand over it.

It has been largely ignored by most people, but is quite a rewarding plant. It grows best in full sun and in well-draining soil. It is fast growing, and will reach about 1m high.
It can be trimmed into a slightly unkempt low hedge, and should be done regularly to keep it neat.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

How much does landscaping cost?

One of the most important elements in landscape design...is budget.


When I meet with clients in the initial stages of planning a garden to discuss their desires for the garden, they will often have a good idea of what plants they really don't like, what views they would like to improve on or hide, and what they hope to do with their new garden.
But very seldom do they seem to have a 'conscious' idea of what their budget for their dream garden would be.

I've used the word conscious, because I believe most people really do have a pretty good idea of what they can spend on the project.
But very often people only realise what their budget is, after hours of planning and designing have gone into a concept that may or may not be achievable with the available funds. This means that it is probably necessary to go back to the drawing board, quite literally in order to come up with a new design that suits the financial constraints.


When I ask for a budget, the answer is usually: "I have no idea how much landscaping costs, how much should I spend?" As a rough guide, for new houses and gardens, you should be setting aside 5-10% of your building costs for landscaping. This seems like a lot of money at first, but when you consider that when a garden is appropriate, and beautiful, it can add about 20% to the value of your home.

On the other side of the coin, what most people don't realise is that designing and building gardens can be one of the most variable costing exercises in any profession. That's not to say that you can't be exact. Its just that you can have a beautiful garden on almost any budget.
I know that sometimes, people are also reluctant to let on how much they can spend in case they are over-charged, but when you consider that designing is a time-based exercise, its best to give good clear guidelines (budgetary, aesthetic and practical) to keep the time and therefore costs down.

Obviously, when you reduce the budget there will always be some trade-offs though. The aspects of a garden that generally-speaking either cost more or have less room for negotiation are things like:
  1. Instant gardens - the more mature a plant is, the more it costs.
  2. Hard materials like paving, and edging have fixed costs that can't be negotiated unless buying in quantity.
  3. Features, such as walls, structures, fountains, statues etc. often have fairly standard associated costs.
  4. Specialist advice or consultation can be quite costly too.
A good design hinges on good information. In order to plan, and estimate correctly, you need to have as much information as possible. Try to collect pictures from books or magazines of gardens or designs that you enjoy. Look for gardens around your neighbourhood that you appreciate. All of this information will help to speed up the design process, and prevent mis-communication.

The truth is though, that most often, you'll find that any designer or landscaper with a good reputation sees what they do as an expression of art. They are often less concerned about money than they are about creating something that can be both enjoyed and admired.

More of my thoughts on budgets here...

Friday, 1 August 2008

The Corner Cafe Hearts Street Trees

This tree gets a new heart despite its decayed heartwood

Durban is quite well known for its abundant well established street trees. The Flamboyant (By name and description) creates an incredible display in Summer with its masses of red flowers. Its flowers take over from where the more serene purple blooms of the Jacaranda end. At the moment the Tabebuia are blooming in splashes of pink and yellow that seem to fall to the floor around the trees like a matching carpet. Other trees that stand out are Tibouchina and Spathodea, while the ever green Trichelia (Essenwoods/Natal Mahogany) and the canopy-forming Albizia (Flatcrown) are some of the few indigenous trees used to line our streets.

Unfortunately, some of these trees that were planted about half a century ago, are starting to reach the end of their lives. There have been a few cases lately of cars being flattened by their huge branches, as the heartwood has rotted away, or white ants have taken what strength is left in their limbs.

So it warmed my cockles to see a tree that had been recently felled because its core had decayed, being given new life by The Corner Cafe. A huge big heart was sculpted out of one of its now well shortened branches by the members of the Tree Amigos - a tree felling company from Durban.
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