Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Almost Successful Minimalist Front Garden

I'd been waiting in anticipation when I saw the bones of this landscape being formed. I was looking forward to how it would turn out, because it looked like it would be something different to the usual front verge on Essenwood road.

As it turned out, it was different. But to tell you the truth, I was disappointed. Where it had great potential was in its basic structure, but it was let down from that point on.

Everybody has their own opinion on what makes a beautiful design, but there are some basic fundamental things that make a good concept into a good design. And only a good design can be beautiful.

To play with an old saying by St Augustine - In all things sensible compulsory, in all things aesthetic freedom, but in all things passion.

I appreciate the minimalist simplicity of the design, and it probably looked good on paper. Breaking the bank up using terraces was a good practical idea, and the curve gave it something fresh. The huge rocks emboldened the design. The use of Aloes gives a different feel, they're low maintenance, and when they flower, will look amazing.

But the positives can only carry it so far. The first and biggest flaw, is using grass that has to be constantly cut, more than a metre off the ground. Why not use a simple ground-cover, even something as over-used in South African gardens as Mondo grass would have been better from a maintenance point of view. Who wants to lug a lawnmower up onto a terrace?

Why do people over-use white pebbles? Gardeners that use them remind me of magpies that are just attracted to shiny and sparkly things, thinking that the garden will somehow be improved by them. As a general rule, use white pebbles sparingly. They seldom stay white anyway.

You should always be careful using contrast in a garden. There is a very fine line between contrast and kitsch. I believe the design would have been better if the pebbles used had picked up on another colour in the design - whether the rock that they are spread around, the plants used or even the colour of the walls.

In a situation like this, where the rocks themselves are the focus of the design, they should be chosen and positioned deliberately. Japanese garden design has very precise ancient guidelines for using rocks, and while this is not an oriental garden - those guidelines are built around good aesthetics, and should be followed more often than not if you want rock to work well in a design. But that's probably a post for another day. In this case, the third rock looked completely out of place - it was flat and didn't have the presence that the other rocks had.

Another basic mistake made, was not hiding the water valve (it was at least hidden in the standard municipal cover). The design could have been easily adjusted to obscure the box, while still giving access to the meter. It was painted the same colour as the wall, which helps to make it less noticeable.

The choice of Pachpodium as the main feature plant (although it is small it will get a nice size in a few years) for the back of the planting looks slightly out of place - but that's probably just my personal preference rather than any design flaw.

Some of these mistakes are basic, and some might seem nit-picky, but I think this little garden could have been very successful had the person who designed it paid that extra attention to detail, instead I think its been left a little short-changed.
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