Natural gardens are informal in style and an attempt to recreate the appearance of a natural or bush area via a combination of plants that typically grow together in a specific geographic area. Our Certificate of Natural Garden Design is ideal for horticulturalists, landscapers, landscape designers or anyone keen to create a natural garden setting in their own backyard.
In this professional development course, you will explore the history and scope of natural gardens, and study how to construct and maintain natural, environmentally sustainable landscapes. You will also develop detail concept plans using the concepts of harmony, unity, form, texture, tone, proportion, contrast and colour by using a variety of plants, and garden features like paths, rockeries and water features.
Outcomes achieved by undertaking garden design courses include:
- Learning about the features of a natural garden
- Gaining an understanding of wild and bush gardens
- Exploring soil mixes, soil names and composition and how to improve soils
- Gaining insights into mulches, drainage and improving infiltration
- Understanding resources and plant review worksheets
- Learning about plant collection options and how to press a plant
- Exploring plant identification sheets
- Studying the history of natural, wild and bush gardens
- Gaining insights into the natural garden movement
- Understanding landscape architects and landscape and garden designers
- Learning about natural gardening approaches
- Exploring how to develop concept plans
- Studying the principles of landscapes
- Gaining insights into the quality of components
- Understanding pre-planning and how to create effects
- Learning about dimensions and other measurements
- Exploring council by-laws
- Studying graphic drawing plans and landscape plans and symbols
- Gaining insights into plant representation on landscape plans
- Understanding how to design a playground, home garden or park garden
- Learning about plants for natural gardens
- Exploring planting procedures, fertilisers, planting times and frost protection
- Studying old trees, pruning and how to build raised beds
- Gaining insights into mulching materials and plant nutrition
Main Types of Natural Gardens
As you’ll discover in natural garden design courses, when plants are combined in a way in which they occur naturally in nature, they will grow in wonderful harmony. And there are a range of natural gardens — from those that protect wildlife habitats and improve windbreaks, to those that conserve water and provide shade. Here are some of the main types of natural gardens.
Typical rainforest plants include tall, dense trees that are covered with profuse green shrubbery at their base. They can include tree ferns, palms and other plants that are heavy with foliage. The selection of trees will vary according to your priorities and goals, but include providing wildlife habitats and shelter, improving aesthetics, decreasing fire risk, and improving windbreaks and natural pest management.
The initial development and maintenance of these types of gardens involves weed control. This can be done with the establishment of a forest canopy, achieved by planting “shade” trees — the outer layer of the leaves creates a dense growth that blocks incoming light. The canopy created over their surrounding environment provides shade and privacy and attracts birdlife. Other advantages include allowing the soil to retain moisture and protecting less-hardy plants from wind, storms and frost damage. Fast growing varieties include the Blue Fig, Silky Oak, Yellow Cedar and Red Ash.
However, the ecosystem of a natural forest involves several layers of plant species. Once part-shade has been achieved with a canopy, understorey plantings can be introduced and you’ll begin to see the beautiful appeal of a layered and diverse rainforest.
These colourful, exquisite and seemingly “wild” gardens are usually associated with America or Europe, but can easily be created in your own backyard. The simplest version is an area of paddock-like tall grass that is complemented by regularly maintained edges, pathways or even shapes that prevent the lawn grass invading the adjoining “wild” areas. They achieve their aesthetic affect due to the contrast between the order of the mown areas and the “untidiness” of the meadow areas.
Grasses that work well in “meadow” areas include Common Tussock Grass, Kangaroo Grass, any of the Lomandra varieties, any of the Pennisetum varieties, as well as sedges like Tall Sedge and Knobby Club-rush. For the turf parts of your garden, choose a grass suited to mowing and one that grows well in your location’s climate —Buffalo Grass is a popular choice.
Woodland gardens are areas of larger shrubs or small deciduous trees with a combined canopy that simulates a dappled environment and allows understorey plants to thrive. Because they often change through the year, they also provide constant visual stimulation.
These types of gardens are typically created from the ground up. In nature, woodlands encompass years of accumulated leaf litter, so it’s important there is plenty of diverse organic material around your plants. They should be deciduous to let the winter sun in and small enough so their root systems don’t dry up the ground. Woodland plants to consider include the North American Trillium— their leaves and floral parts are in sets of three, hence the name. Barrenwort is also a beautiful addition with its unique bi-coloured flowers and heart-shaped leaves, as is the Trout Lily with its elegant pink or white flowers.
Another type of landscape you’ll discover when studying garden design courses are desert gardens. Palm Springs in California is renowned for these and because Australia’s natural environment is similar, they are the ideal garden renovation project. These garden spaces are grouped, sleek and focused on a balance between planted and empty spaces. They are often defined by the absence of grassy areas and instead include stones, pavers, gravel, rock beds or large feature rocks.
Colour schemes typically feature grey, greens and white. Red, orange and chocolate coloured foliage plants can also be added for visual interest. Rock layers reduce the need for watering, and plant choices should be hardy and ones that favour a more arid environment. Ideal options include cactus, agaves, Prickly Pears, geometric succulents, palm trees like the Ponytail Palm, vertical plants like Mother in Laws Tongue, shapely feature plants like the Joshua Tree, and the hardy Grass Tree.
Water in our landscape has many benefits and bodies of water significantly enhance the aesthetics of a landscape, as well as providing a habitat for native fauna and flora. Wetland plants help to clean ponds, dams, swamps and creeks and can provide shade and wind protection. Local sedges and rushes planted in shallow water will improve water quality, native grasses will add aesthetics and small flowering shrubs can attract insects for fish to feed on. A wetland garden can also provide a valuable habitat for waterfowl, yabbies, frogs and turtles.
Native tree species to consider include casuarinas, eucalyptus and melaleuca, shrubs like Swamp Banksia, Bottlebrush and Leptospermum, and grasses and sedges like Baumea and Carex. Aquatic plants like the Water Primrose, Marsh Flower and Rainbow Nardoo will complete the effect.
Xeriscaping is a Greek word derived from the term “xeros” which means dry. In terms of landscaping, it refers to any landscaping technique that results in a water-efficient environment. This can be done through various means including installing efficient drainage patterns and irrigation systems, using soils and gravels that store water, and planting slow-growing and drought-tolerant varieties of flora.
Ideal plants for a xeriscape garden include the Jade Plant, the African Milk Tree, African Milk Bush, Pencil Cactus, agaves like Queen Victoria and Swan’s Neck Agave , and flowering succulents like Kalanchoes and Senecios.
Discover how to design, construct and maintain sustainable natural gardens and environmentally friendly landscapes with garden design courses, such as our Certificate of Natural Garden Design.