Planning your outdoor spaces as early as possible during the new-build process will help you achieve the ultimate in indoor-outdoor flow
What to consider when planning your new-build garden
There’s a lot to think about – and do, of course – when you’re building a new house. Landscaping is all too often left to the end of the construction process, which can result in a garden that’s cobbled together rather than carefully planned. If you want your garden to perfectly complement your new house, it might be worth taking some time out while it’s being built to smell the roses, or check out some nursery plant lists at the very least. This guide for new gardens covers all the elements you’ll need to consider.
On the same page
Some of the best gardens come about from a co-operative dialogue between architect and garden designer. Even if you’re just building a kitset home, have a conversation early in the piece with your draughtsperson or builder (and garden designer, if you have one) about where the best outdoor living spaces will be, what kind of access will be needed to move around the garden, and what boundaries should be screened for privacy, wind protection etc.
Drains are best dug before any building starts. Visit your site as much as possible, particularly during winter, to assess where the water goes when it’s raining, what kind of stormwater drainage will be necessary, and where any cesspits should go. If they’re already in place, you might still find there’s not enough to cope with the level of rainfall or water run-off from neighbours.
Likewise with levels. Ideally, large-scale retaining should be built before, or in conjunction with, the main construction process. Knowing where you want that flat courtyard, flight of steps or potager garden in advance means you can get the necessary retaining walls built by the builder. It’s always easier to keep the builder on site for a week or two longer than finding one to come back to your property afterwards.
Nurseries won’t always have the plants you want in stock. The earlier you can organise a planting plan, the more likely it will be that your favourite plants will be delivered when the garden is ready to go in. Some plants, such as boundary screening trees, can even be planted during the build, meaning they’ll be a good size when you move into the house.
Diggers, trucks and other heavy vehicles can severely compact the ground around a new building. If you want your plants to do well you may need to rotary hoe the top 10-20cm and bring in some topsoil. Also, excavations often require the removal of topsoil and this will need to be replaced (unless your thoughtful builder has piled up the topsoil for you on site). Trying to plant in bare clay is a battle not worth fighting unless you have no other option.
Installing some of the major components for an outdoor lighting system such as conduits and circuit-breaker boxes is ideally done before you do any planting or sow lawns. Ditto with an irrigation system.
Your builder might also be happy to construct terraces, decks and paths before he packs up. Having these worked out in advance is a good idea.
Landscaping an entire site can be expensive and involve a lot of labour. If the budget is tight, rather than stress over finishing the whole garden, focus on key areas such as screening and outdoor living first. You can gradually develop the rest of the garden as time and funds allow.
Plants can take a while to establish in new gardens, making your brand-new house look a tad bare and uncomfortable. Consider buying some plants (trees particularly) in larger sizes to help the new building bed down into the landscape quickly. For that same reason, it’s also worth keeping some of the site’s existing trees even if they’re not your favourite species. They can always be replaced later when your new plants have matured.
New-build houses generally mean you’re working with an almost blank slate as far as the garden goes. Rather than see this as a fearsome challenge, celebrate the opportunity to create your dream garden. If you’re stuck for ideas, an hour’s consultation with a landscape designer will help realise the potential of your bare canvas.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Armelle Habib, Maree Homer, Martina Gemmola/bauersyndication.com.au.