Finishes: Landscaping

Undoubtedly the crowning glory of a new house. Nothing makes the inside of a house come alive more than a beautiful view out to the surrounding garden.

Tragically, the budget is often blown by the time you’re able to get to the outside.

Before anything

No matter how limited your budget, you need to be willing to spend on two things before you plant – good soil conditions and regular water supply (especially for the first few months).

Not only the building rubble, but any soil contaminated by cement mixing or solvent spillage must be removed. Loosen the compacted areas and then add top soil, compost or both depending on conditions. It’s best to have these delivered in truck loads as you’ll need a lot.

Budget garden

Work around the site and climate you have. If you’re building on the slopes of Table mountain, plant fynbos. If you’re in an estate in Johannesburg, plant grasses and trees. Even a sloped site can result in beautiful terraces and interesting areas.

Use the stone on site to provide structure, but you might have to do it early when the digger is on site.

Laying instant lawn is fantastic and a surprisingly cost effective way to create an instant green appeal and highly recommended if you need to keep sand and mud out of a newly finished house. Kikuyu is the best grower for sunny areas, but needs a lot of water to get established and stay green.

Evergreen is a well known alternative for sun/shade areas and also needs lots of watering, but not good if you have pets, as it will die where urinated on. It also does not regrow or send out runners and has to be replaced manually.

Grass pavers are a great option for driveways as they provide structure, but still have a green feel.

Use wooden chips, gravel or stone to create paths or limit thirsty lawn, but make sure to lay bidum cloth underneath to suppress weeds (plastic perishes quickly and is not very kind to organism’s underneath).

Instant lawn, and new plants (especially seedlings) need water once or twice (if very hot) a day for at least 2-4 weeks, before they get established roots.

Use cuttings from friends – especially succulents as they grow incredibly easily. Sour fig cuttings or ivy can be an easy pavement filler and require little water once established. Many (even large aloes) can be grown from branches. Love vertical gardens? One creeper can make a big impact on a wall or house and costs a fraction of the cost.

Even if you have a small budget, make sure to include some height in your garden with trees or shrubs (if you don’t have some already). Placement is naturally everything and consider:

  • eventual size
  • seasonal properties (evergreen or deciduous – don’t want too much shedding near a pool)
  • roots (species with invasive roots must not go near a house or any foundations)
  • environmental conditions (check sensitivity to frost in winter or windy conditions near the coast)

Big budget garden

Just as an architect brings flair and detailing to a house design, so a good landscaper can create a living sculpture and outdoor rooms around your home. Landscaping has evolved enormously and fantastic options are out there to create the final ‘wow’ factor. Gardens on roofs, vertical gardens, wild meadows and sculpture gardens can be integrated with water and eco pools (where plants naturally filtrate water).

Creating drama with hard landscaping

Hard landscaping can make all the difference with adding interesting levels, neat edges or dramatic features.

Designer gardens also require extra power and water points, so be sure to include them on your electrical and plumbing specifications. Irrigation systems are a fantastic addition if there is enough water going around.

Roof top gardens require careful engineering, drainage and waterproofing that need to be planned and implemented during building phase. Likely that you will also need to brick in future irrigation pipes as it will be hard to do once built and waterproofed.

Finally, nothing can complement a house as much as feature trees, especially if lit up at night. Mature trees can be obtained from specialist nurseries and craned in if your site is very bare and unprotected.

You might have to crane the tree in during building to allow access.

If there really is no space for trees (which is rare considering the different varieties out there), use creepers to green your walls and allow for a green outlook.

Boston creeper is quick growing, self-attaching and provides a spectacular autumn display. Ticky creeper is slower at first, but provides a year-round green show. (Note, it can become woody and will require heavy pruning, similar to ivy.)

South African climate

Naturally, no amount of funds can provide for endless water if restrictions are in place. Plant wisely, mulch and water less frequently, but deeply, to get the roots to grow deeper.

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