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6 Ways to create a finely tuned garden

From symmetrical arrangements of fruiting olive trees to living art in the form of clipped shrubs and manicured topiary

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By Heidi Bertish  | January 12, 2022 | Gardens

If the thought of a controlled palette of plants and materials conjures up a garden devoid of personality, think again. A restrained garden is the key to appreciating subtlety in every detail. We take inspiration and ideas from Red Daffodil Landscaping’s latest project

In the Clouds

Manicured topiary interplanted with a well-chosen handful of plant species makes for the perfect combination of sculptural drama vs. soft flamboyance. The reward is a green backbone to your garden that will keep it looking slick throughout the year. Here, cloud-pruned orange jasmine, Australian rosemary and Buxus spheres are set into frothy beds of Agapanthus ‘White Pixie’ – a wonderful thing that flowers from early spring to the last rays of summer – weeping Anthericum, liriope, cascading rosemary and the simplicity of a perfectly level lawn.

Photo by Karl Rogers

Living Art

Clipping shrubs or trees into architectural shapes is a form of gardening that will always be in vogue. Gardeners have been doing it at least since Roman times, and it reached its heyday in seventeenth-century Europe – seen in its most ornate form at Versailles. In South Africa, the two most common plants to be cut into different shapes are the grey-leafed Salt Bush (Rhagodia hastata), which is happiest in a sunny position and the Dune Crowberry (Searsia crenata), for sun or shade.

The characteristics of a good topiary plant are small, compact, evergreen leaves and a bushy growth habit. In terms of shape, let your imagination run away with you. From minimalist cubes to intricate patterning, there is a place for some topiary in every garden. The Japanese pruning method, known as niwaki, is at the forefront of a more contemporary topiary style sweeping the world. Traditional parterres, obelisks and lollipops are replaced by organic-looking mounds, undulating spheres and loosely clipped trees sculpted into shapes inspired by nature.

Photo by Karl Rogers

Stage Set

A symmetrical arrangement of fruiting olive trees is a fresh take on a traditional olive grove and sets a theatrical stage when lit at night. During the day, light and shadow movement on the lawn filtered by the trees brings exciting surface pattern, movement and atmosphere to the scheme – the play of light through planting is a crucial, often overlooked, consideration in any garden.

Photo by Karl Rogers

Forward Thinking

Crisply defined hedging heights and exacting repetition of shaped Buxus in simple concrete pots make for a beautifully elegant driveway solution. The result would not have been as bold were it not for the contrasts in planting texture and colour, precision clipping and a rigorous plant palette – namely, tall Leyland cypress, which does a great job of screening the neighbours, Viburnum as the mid-level hedge and Eugenia flanking the lower wall. If one has the space, a circular planter featuring a Pride of India tree is a luxury that off-sets architectural geometry.

Photo by Karl Rogers

Low Rise

A subtle change in level is all it takes to keep things interesting. A gentle shift in elevation between the main garden and pool creates just enough depth and definition to evoke a feeling of privacy in the pool area while retaining a seamless flow between the two. For a relaxed and comfortable transition, keep your stair tread wide and the drop between each one low – 11 centimetres is the golden standard.

Photo by Karl Rogers

Free Flow

Few elements bring as much magic to a garden as water. A water feature adds soft, rippling sound, muffles unwelcome noise, and so often evokes the feeling of calm and sanctuary. Design details and planting choices in the area surrounding your feature are crucial for setting the desired mood. Here, Red Daffodil Landscaping swaps surfacing from open lawn to a narrower, curved pathway, immediately setting a more intimate tone. Soft textural mounds of weeping Anthericum, the detail of mondo grass between granite pavers and positioning water beneath the tree canopies are all clever take-home ideas for creating space in your garden for restoration.

Photo by Karl Rogers

For more inspiration from Red Daffodil Landscaping visit