A Guide to Landscaping

A Guide to Landscaping

A beautiful garden is good for the soul, as anyone who has ever had a picnic on a lawn or admired meticulously-kept flower beds would know.

All elements whether botanical or architectural are then brought together in a manner that is not only pleasing to the eye, but that also enables the purposes of the garden to be carried out in a sustainable manner.

If you have a space you would like to transform into a garden but are unsure of how exactly a landscaper can help you, we’re here to help.

This e-book is designed to lend some insight into the world of landscaping, and to educate you on the myriad ways in which a landscaper can make your dream garden a reality.

  • Construction;
  • Planting design; and
  • Thematic design;

However, it is important to note that there is a varied mix of landscaping activities under each banner. Before starting work on your garden, it is a great idea to familiarise yourself with the various ways a landscaper can help.


While visually stunning gardens reveal the artistic side of landscaping, it is at the same time a highly technical endeavour. A good landscaper must not only be able to design a beautiful garden, but also to have the expertise necessary to determine which materials are most suitable, undertake planting that will allow the vegetation to flourish, and construct all infrastructure and buildings.

Selection of materials

  • Construction cannot take place without the selection of appropriate materials. It is important that a landscaper choose materials that are the most suited to the climate and garden type.
  • The best materials for a particular garden are not always the most expensive ones. If you have budget concerns, it is best to discuss them with your landscapers from the outset. They can then advise on whether the cost of materials for a particular design would be appropriate for your budget, and make changes if necessary.
  • The climate of your area will have an impact on the materials used in your garden. Dry climates tend to favour the use of mud, for instance.
  • Aesthetic principals also come into play when selecting materials. For instance, landscapers often favour unbound gravel over concrete for several reasons. Not only is unbound gravel much cheaper than concrete and of higher quality, it also does not undergo the decay that concrete does, and thus retains its charm much better over time.
  • Grass is an essential material in almost all gardens, helps to soften the appearance of the landscape and makes it more relaxing to look at. However, it is essential to note that grass is more inexpensive in humid climates than in dry climates where water is more difficult to come by.
  • How you want your garden to age is also a consideration in the selection of materials. In recent times certain modern materials previously unused have become more popular in gardens, such as laminated glass and stainless steel. It is a good idea to consider some of these newer materials, as they are often selected for their durability and longevity, especially if you are going for a modern look. For instance, unlike lead and stone, which show signs of aging, stainless steel and glass do not change in appearance over time.
  • On the other hand, gardens with a more classic appearance may employ the use of materials such as lead and copper, which take on a fetching patina with age and give the garden a vintage look.

Engineering and architectural work

  • Landscapers play the role not only of designer but also of architect and engineer. Garden construction involves the building and installation of all facets of a garden, from walls and pathways to arbours and seating.
  • Engineering and architectural work can be divided into the categories of wet and dry. Wet work involves areas where plants grow, is highly technical and requires detailed knowledge of plants and how they grow.
  • Architectural construction involves building structures in areas where plants do not grow, in areas that are meant to be kept dry. While such areas should be kept as dry as possible, they must also be able to tolerate water, exist in harmony with the plants and be tolerant to the difficulties presented by the climate, such as extreme cold, drought or frequent rains.
  • A good landscaper is also sensitive to the fact that gardens evolve over time. All construction and design has to be flexible enough to accommodate the growth and changes plants will go through as the garden matures.
  • To cite an example of the various concerns a landscaper must take into account, let us consider garden brickwork. In areas with cold winters, a landscaper must select bricks that continue to perform well in frost, and that are sufficiently resistant to water expansion and pressure when water freezes.
  • The choice of mortar is also very important. Many landscapers favour lime mortar over portland cement mortar as it tends to coexist better with plants and also enables the brickwork to be reused should the garden be redesigned. On the other hand, if bricks are being used for pathways, a weaker mortar can be used. An additional consideration pertains to the quality of the bricks. Second-hand bricks of high quality are often preferred to newer bricks of low quality, especially since gardens are largely created for pleasure and aesthetics.

Planting design


No garden is complete without plants, yet it is the flora of a garden that often poses the biggest problems. A good landscaper needs to be familiar not only with the climate of your area and the plants that are most suitable in that particular environment, but also able to design the garden to give the plants the best chance of survival and keep them free from diseases and pests. In addition, the landscaper must have the technical skill to source for high quality plant varieties and undertake the actual planting.

Designing with plants

  • Planning for planting begins at the design and planning stage. A landscaper will probably use abstract design principles as a starting point when fleshing out the appearance of your garden. Many of the ancient design principles landscapers look to today have been in use for centuries, and take into account factors like the sun, climate, soil, local plants and cultural factors.
  • A great landscaper isn’t just a builder but also an artist. He needs to not only have a good understanding of how visual elements can produce harmonious and aesthetically pleasing effects, but should also understand how to create balanced and proportionate garden designs.
  • Finally, landscapers have extensive knowledge of garden design both contemporary and classic, and are well-versed in how historical styles have evolved. This knowledge enables them to come up with design themes to suit all preferences.

Choice of plants

  • Once the landscaper has a general idea of how your garden is going to look, it’s time to select plant combinations. It is important to think of plant species collectively rather than individually, in order to take into account the various possible combinations with respect to colour, form and texture.
  • If there are certain plants you would like to include, it’s important to discuss this with your landscaper to see if the species will fit into the overall design, and whether the plants will be able to grow well in your local climate, as well as in combination with the other plants in the garden.
  • Your landscaper can identify plants that are suited to the local climate and able to produce the sort of visual effect you hope to achieve in your garden. They should also be able to source for them from good suppliers who can offer not only reasonable prices but also high quality plants in good health that are not overly vulnerable to diseases and pests.
  • As you can see, assembling combinations of plants requires not only sound knowledge of the various plant species but also an excellent sense of aesthetics and a solid background in design.

Thematic design

While a landscaper’s knowledge of plants and how to care for them is essential, the end product—the visual impact of the garden—is what many users tend to be most concerned about in the beginning. No matter how hardy plants are or how easy to care for a garden is, a landscaper has failed if the garden is not of a pleasing design and does not carry out its intended functions.

Design principles

  • The theme of a garden is rarely pulled out of thin air. Landscapers design gardens based on their knowledge of classic garden styles even as they try to adopt some of the advances in technology that many modern gardens employ.
  • Some of the most fundamental design principles for gardens date back to ancient Rome. The Genius Loci principle is one such design principle which pervades our aesthetic life even today, and its importance in garden design was cemented by Alexander Pope.
  • The genus loci principle dictates that the design of a garden should always be shaped by the local context. There is no point in constructing a garden with tropical vegetation like palm trees and hibiscus when you are in a cool temperature climate that experiences the four seasons.
  • The Genius Loci principle demands that attention be paid to not only the climate but the kind of soil being used, whether it be sandy, gravelly or chalky. The temperature and degree of wetness or dryness of the climate also determines the best kind of garden to plant.


  • While gardens are often thought of as decorative, it is a mistake to prioritise form over function. Landscapers must ensure that their designs enable the garden to carry out their intended functions in the best way possible.
  • For instance, gardens whose main purpose is conservation must be created with the goal of being environmentally-sustainable in mind. After all, the aim of the garden is to improve the environment, rather than damage it.
  • regular use of fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides or fungicides. In addition, the visual theme of the garden should also underscore the purpose for which it was created—for instance, instead of using expensive and high-maintenance technology like living green walls, a simple appearance might more effectively communicate the theme of mindful, sustainable living.
  • Intricate palace gardens were another type of garden used in the past to demonstrate power and to showcase beauty. These gardens were erected strictly for pleasure, in contrast with the domestic gardens whose main purpose was to yield food. The palace gardens of old have evolved into the luxurious pleasure gardens of wealthy homeowners today.
  • All of the above is taken into account in some way or other by professional landscapers. While most people think of landscaping as a fairly straightforward question of planting and building, in reality the job of a landscaper is incredibly varied and complex.

In closing

  • A landscaping project needs to succeed on many levels. A good landscaper isn’t just a builder or a designer but wears many hats.
  • First of all, the practical and technical aspects of a garden must be undertaken with all due care and skill. This includes the selection of appropriate materials and the carrying out of all engineering and architectural work in the garden.
  • Selecting and designing with plants is another crucial aspect of landscaping work. The right plants have to be chosen for the climate, and the combination of plants must not only produce the desired visual effects but also enable all species to coexist well.
  • Finally, great landscapers are able to skillfully manipulate design themes to fulfil the functional and aesthetic goals of their clients.
  • A great landscaper is able to transform a space into a garden that’s as functional as it is beautiful.

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