More Than a Pretty Garden

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This is our first blog from Jamie McIlwain, a Landscape Designer who leads a team of Gardeners and Landscapers in the Adelaide Hills. Jamie is also a member of the OGSA Committee.

As a Landscape Gardener, I get inspiration for designing my gardens in many different forms. I see it in the media, in the multitude of gardening books I have amassed over the years, in nature and of course in other people’s gardens. What I’m really looking for are clever ways to utilize and combine different aspects of a garden and not just the simple use of a pretty plant or pot. It really is how one part of a garden compliments and enhances another and also how the use of the right materials and plants can make the difference between a good garden and a great one.

 I love seeing unique combinations of plants and how they relate and harmonise. Seeing drifts of silver and red foliage, the calmness of simple green and white gardens, how strappy plants move in the wind and soften the plants around them with their vertical form. Even the way plants can be manipulated by pruning is endless, from small hedges that may delineate a border to the multitude of plants that can be clipped into spheres and even ingenious ways of pleaching trees to create a natural screen.

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Keeping an eye out for plants successfully growing in difficult spots is supremely important. I’m always looking for plants that seem to thrive in deep shade, or having to deal with lots of root competition and plants that flourish in dry or wet aspects.  Finding plants that will survive growing against a steel fence in the blistering afternoon sun or perhaps plants forming a function such as stabilizing a bank, acting as a living mulch or covering an ugly stump or shed.

 It’s always intriguing seeing the ingenious use of materials in the landscape. The different products both natural and man-made used to create steps or pathways, arbours and screens. Artwork and garden features can also punctuate and personalise an area of the garden. Having that structural element in the garden improves it by layering, and should enhance the garden and plants that surround it. Even the simple use of a lawn or paving area to create a void seems to give the surrounding garden breathing space.

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So the next time you’re looking through a gardening book, going for a walk in a national park, or wandering through one of the many gardens in our Open Garden Program, don’t leave just thinking, ‘ that was a pretty garden’. Take time to really look what elements makes the garden great, and how you can apply or adapt an idea to your very own property.

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