Backyard bliss

Provence: Rustic pots, iron tables and lavender set the Provence mood. (Pictures: iStock)

Carole Levy

As backyards become smaller, landscaping has, in some ways, become easier – but it has its challenges. The smaller the space, the more attention is needed in the planning stage, writes CAROLE LEVY – drawing from the experts.

One of the biggest mistakes DIY garden designers can make is overestimating what can be successfully squeezed in, while maintaining the feel you want to create. But once you’ve worked out the right scale of gardens and any structures you may want to add, it’s time to get creative with the details.

Small backyards can be made into wonderful courtyards, spaces to invite relaxation and entertainment, in surroundings that have a theme to set the mood.

Here are four garden motif ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

1. Spanish ole

The Spanish look suits our hot, dry climate and is all about tiered water fountains, symmetry, Moorish lanterns, urns and ceramic mosaics.

A water fountain may be a stretch in a small space, but an arbour constructed of chunky, rustic timber with a deciduous ornamental grapevine growing over it looks the part. Beneath the arbour, you can have large concrete tiles, or old bricks interspersed with geometrically-laid ceramic mosaics. Add a large terracotta pot or three, planted with hibiscus, lavender or plumbago, along with wrought-iron seating, and you’ll have the essential look. Succulents, yuccas, potted geraniums and oleanders all support this theme too. Plant in groups of three, five or seven to soften formality – but aim for symmetry at the same time.

2. Pictures of Provence

Think natural materials, such as wood, sandstone, old bricks and loose gravel. Rustic sleepers delineating beds of lavender, wooden crates holding potted vegies, large terracotta pots planted with citrus trees, and rustic or iron tables and chairs… these give the look of Provence.

Lay bricks in geometric shapes, for example a circle to rim vegie patches; let a honeysuckle or climbing rose cover an arbour or pergola constructed of natural timber.

3. Balinese beauty

Showy flowering plants, palm trees and bamboo, highlighted with feature lighting, start the look. Timber decking, large pots and dark-stone Buddha statues, fish ponds, stepping stones and lanterns are part of the Balinese style – along with thatch-covered, timber pergolas, or cabanas, featuring Asian-style carving in support posts. Add a hammock beneath, or a low-to-ground day bed with plush cushions.

4. In touch with Tuscany

A wisteria-laden pergola, with sandstone pavers underfoot, kicks off that Tuscan feel. Aim for a private courtyard feel by planting vines on fences or lining borders with pencil pines. Potted lemon trees, urns full of geraniums, topiary shrubs and a pond of waterlilies are other elements to be considered.

Vertical wall gardens, with pastel-toned plants, are also a great match with the Tuscan look. And lavender, in pots or clumps amid gravel, also works.