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Where Garden & House Meet


How do you make a house look and feel appropriate within the garden that surrounds it? Some houses seem right for the garden whereas others just don’t.

What to do

*Houses need to be visually ‘tied’ into the garden.

By locating plants along the walls of a house to hide the base of those walls, the line which divides the building from the garden becomes blurred. As such, the building starts to seem more like it is just part of the garden.

This can be achieved by planting hedges, climbers or ground covers directly into the ground. Alternatively, install pots with plants on patios, decks, verandahs and up steps that lead to the house.

*Consider the colour of the house.

Do you want to create contrast or harmony? If plant colours blend with the building, you can further blur the distinction between building and garden. If colours contrast you can create more stimulating views which can hold the onlookers attention and make the distinction between house and garden less noticeable.


Similarly, by using plants that are of a similar texture to the building and adjoining areas you can once again mask the differences. The smooth silver textural bark of native gums will merge very well with smooth grey stone or concrete paving and walls. The flaky bark of silver birch will complement the flakiness of slate paving or roofing.

*Which style?

Certain garden styles are more suitable for certain properties. An ultra-modern architecturally designed house for instance, may clash with a garden that is full of traditional features such as classical sculpture. A cottage garden is more suited to a single-storey residence than set amongst skyscrapers.

Outdoor Living and Current Design

Contemporary house and garden design now considers the integration of both the built and natural environment. Pergolas, pools and water features were once considered separate structures to the house and often planned as a later addition to the residence. Currently the focus has changed as people request more useable outdoor living space from the designers engaged to deliver residential housing and surrounding landscape gardens.

The boundaries of house and garden are now further merged into more unified designs. It is common for many architects to incorporate often smaller scale pools and water features into residential buildings from the inception of a design. Areas of paving, decking and expanses of glass windows-doors are used to allow the house and garden to flow uninterrupted. Pathways are larger and more defined allowing greater access from the house to the garden.

Building design is now embracing the Australian climate with generally an open style that captures more of the garden. Courtyards have again become prominent as private and more protected spaces adjoining the house. These areas often link house access with water features and plantings to soften the area.

Practical Concerns


Planting too close to the house can shade a house making it feel cold in winter. It will, however make it feel cooler in summer.

*Tall Trees

These can cause a number of problems. Deciduous trees will drop leaves which can block drains and gutters resulting in extra maintenance. If they are planted too close to patios or houses, their roots can disrupt foundations and crack underground drains. They may also be prone to collapse in storm or cyclone conditions resulting in destruction to your property.


It is not just piles of logs or garden prunings that can attract termites. They also find railway sleepers, wooden pergolas and decks highly desirable. You will need to check for termites regularly if you are using timber of any description to blend your house and garden.

*Dense Vegetation

If you allow vegetation to grow too dense it may attract potential garden pests, such as sheltering possums or rats. Wasps and bees may build their nests there and end up inside your home.

*Damp and Rot

Structures that are built close to the house will need sufficient drainage to avoid complications with wet rot and rising damp. Adequate ventilation will also be necessary to reduce the risk of fungal diseases on plants and timber. Where drains are exposed they need to be covered to prevent them from turning into rat runs.

*Choice of Plants

Some plants such as Hibiscus attract scale or aphids which in turn attract ants. If the branches are too close to windows then the ants may invade the house. Some plants can invade and even cause damage to buildings (eg. Climbers such as Ivy and Wisteria have been known to get into small gaps in a building, then expand causing structural damage).

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