Our gardens provide a haven in which to relax and escape the rigours of daily life. Quite often, more time is spent maintaining them than being able to enjoy their pleasant surroundings.
This is usually a result of trying to grow plants unsuitable for the climate in which we live, or forever doing battle with insects to save home-grown vegetables.
Consider planting extra fruit and vegetables to allow for some natural loss, and when your favourite plant becomes ill, question its suitability to the location before rushing out to buy poisons to murder every insect in sight.
When growing native plants, you may have to face failures until you find plants that readily suit your land.
Trees have always been considered the mainstay of any garden, and should therefore be chosen for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Nothing looks more attractive in the garden than a lemon tree dripping with yellow fruit; its bounty will serve many practical purposes.
Wherever possible, consider planting trees for shade, windbreaks and privacy that will also provide edible fruits or nuts.
Other factors to consider when choosing the right tree are shade, shelter and privacy.
Shade trees with wide-spreading branches provide an ideal garden retreat to escape from summer heat. Trees with dense, bushy growth will provide a natural wind break.
Both shelter and food will be provided by planting a row of almond trees with a row of olive trees offset between them.
For privacy, plant two or three rows of small, dense trees or large shrubs. This will provide privacy from the street or neighbours as well as helping to create an attractive and practical environment.
And maximise on passive solar energy with deciduous trees planted on the north side of the house. They will allow the penetration of the sun in winter, yet provide valuable shading in summer.
Planting the right shrubs is also important. Large dense shrubs can be used as a hedge or windbreak, to provide privacy and to protect sensitive plants such as vegetables.
Herbs such as lavender, rosemary, wormwood, sage, hyssop, southernwood and thyme are all suitable for varying size hedges, from 30cm up to a metre in height. Herbs will provide colour, attract birds and bees, and act as natural insect repellents.
Only consider native plants that are ideally suited to your climate and soil conditions. The right choice will provide an attractive display of colour when in flower, require a minimum of maintenance once established, and if well-mulched, watering can almost be eliminated after the first few years.
Choose species to suit your particular needs, such as privacy and shelter. Many of the nectar-producing varieties will also attract birds into the garden, which helps to control insects that would otherwise become a problem.
When planting different natives, try to mix them together so they will be growing as they are found in nature.
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