A garden should not only be beautiful, but also fun!
What do you imagine, when you hear the word “garden“? Maybe some people mostly think of beds full of flowers and trees, while others think of sitting in the shade of a pergola or perhaps a football match with their children on the lawn… But our colleague, the landscape architect Ferdinand Leffler, imagines all of these things together. His brain goes at full blast and he constantly churns out great ideas, which would probably never occur to you. Be inspired!
A water feature in the form of a pond or a waterfall requires maintenance. If you are not able to look after it regularly, such a feature in your garden will be well represented by an “ordinary” pump.
When you say “garden architecture”, many people especially imagine trees, flower beds, shrubs… Nevertheless a good landscape architect should understand plant species, their needs and the options for mixing them up; in short, he should be able to choose and place plants so that the garden owner can enjoy the whole garden all year around, if possible. Garden architecture also includes some other elements and their proper design, spatial solution and contextualisation can provide a garden with a unique spirit or, as our colleague Ferdinand Leffler likes to say, “the overall story of the garden”. “Nowadays there are some problems in contemporary housing developments consisting of disrespect for the particular terrain.
This can be seen in projects where the designs for the garden and in particular the access path have been designed by a building architect. There are usually two possibilities: the architect either has not resolved the access path at all or has simply paved it without any thinking. The poor users then have to go home across some a kind of car park,“ complains Ferdinand Leffler. For him, any solution of the entrance to a house and garden has two aspects. “One very important quality involves a nice way home which I walk every day, while the other kind of quality is a parking area or maybe a place for small-scale car servicing,“ says the architect.
Garden lighting also consists of two aspects. The first of these is the work with the light itself allowing some accents of silhouettes; that is the element which evokes the surrounding atmosphere. The other aspect involves the very source of the light, its shape and its appearance – all that makes one of the main decorative elements in the garden possible. There is certainly plenty of choice and it is not necessary to search for precious design pieces from Italy. “Sometimes an old lamp bought in an antique shop or some sort of attractive candle lights or maybe torches (nowadays design variants are made of glass or stainless steel) do greater service. A flame is a source of vibration effects, which cannot be obtained from a conventional lamp,“ explains Ferdinand.
The fence and entrance
Many people, not only lay people, tend to underestimate elements such as fences, access paths or driveways. However, this is the first thing to be seen, it is what creates the impression and what welcomes you when you come home.
Ferdinand: “We live in a time when we are annoyed by the natural aging of raw materials. Wood grows older and shrinks, varnish flakes and sometimes we have to take care of it. Well, that is how it works. How can the feel of nice larch planks be compared with a piece of plastic? We do not make a display out of our garden … we live in it. Otherwise, we are deceiving ourselves. Or should we imagine that we will forget and that we will eventually believe plastic is some kind wood? Yes, the practical aspects of a proposed solution are absolutely crucial in architecture, but they should not slip into the realms of theatre or blatant trinkets.”
Garden structures such as gazebos, pergolas, garden sheds and outhouses complete the atmosphere in a garden. Gazebos, pergolas or other separate sitting areas especially make sense in medium-sized and large gardens which are located further away from the house. Such a sitting area allows homeowners to enjoy sitting amidst the greenery and to take in the view of their house or villa from a completely different angle than they have on the terrace. “In my opinion, you should prefer the original work of a craftsman over a building from a DIY store. Nevertheless, if you buy some such thing from a shop, you can always complete it yourself, give it a new dimension with some paint or varnish, a green roof, a bougainvillea – a wisteria on a wire,“ says Ferdinand.
Ferdinand recommends creative craftsmanship for garden structures. If your financial options force you to buy a mass produced product from a DIY shop, try to complete it by yourself, but with flair.
Ferdinand advises: “Do not underestimate the value of ordinary things.”
Path network in a garden
A path network in a garden consisting of various trails and paths completes the overall picture and emphasize the thoroughness of the concept. Gravel roads function as guides and invite visitors into uncharted corners and they connect different elements – all it takes is a few cleverly placed stones, some blurred transitions… “It is very important to estimate the right amount of gravel; too much gravel will cause your feet to sink into the surface, so that walking becomes unpleasant. Loamy sand grains are an excellent choice for these paths – it is not only economical, but it is also a useful solution. Such path can be adequately reinforced so that children can ride a scooter or a pushbike there,“ points out Ferdinand.
A path network in a garden consisting of various trails and paths completes the overall picture and emphasize the thoroughness of the concept.
Trims and transitions
The division between beds, lawn or hard surfaces is often slightly underestimated by owners. “Please, I really do not recommend any sort of plastic curbs! They will not survive their very first meeting with a mower. It is better to select a steel strip, for example, which solidifies the transition once and for all. It will admittedly rust over time, but that doesn’t matter,“ recommends Ferdinand. Stone cubes, like the granite left over from the construction of the pavement, can also be another interesting material. In short, it is good to work with material that has already appeared somewhere in the garden. Anyway, if you decide to keep the transitions just so, you will have to regularly maintain them.
“We all have some creativity, some kind of potential for innovative ideas. We just need to get rid of the limits which we have built up since childhood.“
Ferdinand: “There is nothing to add. Plastic ivy, that’s just sad. Fool! In my opinion, all imitations and fakes should be avoided. Let us be guided by nature. Plastic does not belong in a garden, especially never when it looks like something which it is not.“
OTHER FEATURES – HINTS AND TIPS
Water pump – a beautiful element which deserves to be seen. Give it a colour accent.
A composter – there is no reason to hide it, because it belongs in the garden. Oak beams definitely do better service than some plastic boxes.
Minor elements – drinking fountains, bird feeders, flower pots and containers on terraces – however, avoid plastic once again. Terracotta can be great – it can age, become enveloped with moss. It is better to wait and think it over… and buy things only slowly.
A kennel – select an original approach. Don’t buy a mass produced one. It is better to design it yourself or have it manufactured by a carpenter. Maybe with a green roof…
A rain barrel – iron is much better than plastic. Plastic quickly loses its look in the sun and, if it is especially hot, it then smells disagreeably.
Ferdinand says: “Plastic does not belong in a garden – unless we are not talking about a colourful design chair, which does not have any pretentions – so never plastic! Some offers have emerged recently with different composite materials, i.e. wood composites. People are afraid of maintenance, so they can be easily persuaded. However, these materials cost almost the same as wood, but the buyer has the feeling that it will last forever, although this is not true. I have personal experience that a patio made from a wood composite can be damaged just like a wooden one, but in such a case the repair is a far greater problem than in the case of classic wood.“
A COTTAGE GARDEN
You can maintain your garden almost every day, or at least every weekend, but the garden should not require you to become slave. It should mainly be used for your relaxation and entertainment. And what about the garden at the cottage or chalet where you go just once every 14 days or once a month? You should definitely eliminate all elements which require extensive and regular maintenance. “Lawns require the most maintenance – that is why you should avoid so-called ‘English lawns’ in your garden – a casual ‘daisy concept’ is often far more pleasing to the surroundings or the village environment.“
I would recommend sowing wildflowers in the kind of space which you don’t use intensively,“ says Ferdinand. According to him, you should also avoid excessive colouring, i.e. of wood (painting, varnishing, staining, etc.). Wood will age. You have to reckon with that, so be sure to choose a natural variant and paint wooden elements with oil once every two years – then you won’t have to be afraid of any flaking. It is best to drain a water feature and to monitor a pond or waterfall in case the water begins to deteriorate. Or you should choose one that does not need regular supervision: a water pump, a drinking fountain, etc.
A garden is fun
There could be a separate chapter on entertainment facilities in a garden. We should not conceive of our garden as merely a space that will be a feast for our eyes, but also as a place for some outdoor activities, especially for some joyful time of rest, playing and time spent together. A Garden should not only include playgrounds, swings and a great sandpit. There can easily be a climbing wall, an archery range or small soccer goals. You can also play darts, skittles or chess outside : in short , unleash your imagination and think about what you love to do, what you enjoy. “Each of us has a small child inside. It is possible to learn to think differently, if we can rid ourselves of the paradigms imposed us by the others. Just look around and see just what is not apparent at first glance in the things around you,“ says Ferdinand Leffler.
Ferdinand Leffler is a garden architect and designer and the founder of the Flera studio. He selects careful, reliable and creative architects for his team. He will help you to come up with a garden which is made to measure to meet your requirements and needs and so that you feel good in it: “We are advocates of the fact that the architecture of a property should express a story which has a beginning, gradation and a point… The garden should arise from the consistent interconnection of all the elements, functions and motifs which the client’s requirements bring to it and it should have a single author.
Source: Home Architect 07/2013
Text: Dominika Záveská in cooperation with Ferdinand Leffler
Photo: Atelier Flera, Thinkstock, www.gardenshit.cz