Once upon a time, aesthetics were a major consideration in architecture. In fact, architects of yonder have been accused of concentrating more on appeal and beauty over functionality. Just look at the painstaking and intricate details on the ancient buildings, renaissance architecture, it was called like the Duomo – Milan, Italy or the Palais Des Papes, Avignon – France which is stunning medieval stone palace. Locally, we have the likes of Koja mosque and the All Saints cathedral. It was beautiful architecture but whats more, the gardens around these ancient houses were done with equal attention to detail. Nowadays, however, convenience has overshadowed beauty with property owners out to maximize on the limited spaces. Outdoor areas have suffered the most as they are often the last to receive design attention, but should they? It is a fact that what surrounds your home is just as important as what’s in it. Whether it’s a manicured front lawn, stone paver pathway or intricate vegetable garden, these spaces should benefit from the same attention to detail as any bathroom or kitchen. A well-designed landscape can complement your home or office’s architecture and design, and the right plants, flowers and shrubbery can greatly enhance your curb appeal by adding color, texture and even fragrance to your yard.
“Your outdoor space is your first chance to inspire and make an impression on neighbors and guests, so sprucing it up can give your house a much-needed boost,”
Landscaping is expensive and what’s worse, it’s longterm. It gives your home an identity, and lot’s of people will ‘react’ to what they see first. So take your time. Do not rush into buying materials and decorations at once but think first and create a plan to make sure you will use what you will purchase. Sketch the fixed features in your house including the house itself, walkways, pools, and driveway. Also, include trees and other plants that are existing in your area that you intend to retain.
There is the perception that only owners of acres of lands in the Loreshos and Rundas of this country can landscape. Landscaping, so says the expert, does not always have to be done on large sites but smaller spaces as well. “When dealing with small spaces, consider plants that do not take much vertical or horizontal space with the crown, branch or roots. Creeping plants work well while dealing with small horizontal spaces. Potted plants and hanging baskets also can be considered,” advises Murage.
Atriums and courtyards can also be well utilized for landscaping especially in high-rise buildings. A big percentage of Nairobi population resides in apartments and highrise landscaping can be utilized in ‘greening the city’. Radical methods such as roof gardens can be also be utilized.
“Make use of empty plastic containers and hang them on windows creatively. Fill them with soil and plant plowers. You can even plant Kale (sukuma wiki) in these and get yourself functional beauty.”
Before planting however, always study the landscape to avoid future problems such as poor drainage or of dying of plants. The slopes could be challenging but at the same time offer great vantage points. Make sure the soils are ideal for the particular plant you are intending to plant.
“Always when planting make sure the soil is well aerated and manured. Red soil and compost manure are preferred and can be readily and locally available. The preferred ratio of mixing soil and manure is 1:3 or 1:4 (manure: soil). Where there is black cotton soil one may be prompted to export red soil to site. This might not always be the case as some plants do well in black cotton soil,” says Cecily.
Where water is a problem though, the expert advises that you consider hardy plants like sedums that can do well without much water.
“Any good garden design has a focal point or series of focal points, and it’s an easy principle to put in place in landscape design for beginners,” says Cecily. A focal point may be may be a sculpture, a stunning plant, a tree, or a series of shrubs, water body (fountain, cascade, pool, pond), a landscape structure (gazebo, trellis, pergola). Focal points can be in or out of the landscape to be developed. It could be a far off mountain or hill, or ridge that can be well framed by landscape features to enhance the view. The point should draw your eye and move it through the landscape.
Landscaping is an art and demands massive creativity. You cannot play it safe but have to go out and take some major risks. If your risks pay off, then you will be amazed by your work’s ability to not only enhance the beauty and aesthetics of your area but also intensify the strengths and potentials of the site while at the same time addressing and solving the problems associated with the landscape such as drainage.
“Soft landscapes -water, plants, sand and other natural elements, bring an attachment to nature. They not only provide an ecological balance but also play important functions as recreation opportunity while adding a therapeutic effect. Their sight brings a relief from hard landscapes like concrete buildings, glass or paving which can otherwise be an eyesore,” says Cecily.
Try go as natural as possible, so says the expert. Do not take down that live fence and replace it with concrete unless it is really a high risk area. Alternatively, place the concrete wall next to the live fence, then you can do beautification and a really fabulous fence. In areas that need screening, use good smelling plants while landscape elements such as stones, flowerbeds and water features can be arranged to create a sense of entrance, destination and boundary. Boundaries therefore do not have to be solid walls or hedges, advises Cecily pointing out that plants can be used to create psychological boundaries.
Exploration of different plants offer different forms, texture and colour. Depending on the taste or effect that one would want to achieve, one can play around these elements of design to come up with the desired end state. “For example, one may want to repeat some elements, whether it’s a certain plant, a common color, or even a shape, so there’s a sense of cohesion, but to kill monotony, one can add an occasional element that’s different from the landscape and will stand out.”
Finally, landscape lighting renders a landscape useful even during the night. “Up lighting, down lighting, level lighting and spot lighting can be used in a landscape to enhance the safety, security and beauty of a landscape at night.” Meanwhile, certain features like bark and leaf textures can be enhanced through strategic lighting. “The secret to a beautiful and clean landscape is maintenance,” says Murage, “Water your plants and lawns, trim the hedges and the topiary or shrubs often to avoid overgrowing. Do not forget to mow the lawn and weed the flowerbeds.”
Remember, as much as you may not need to hire a landscape architect or designer to develop your whole project or to design your garden to save cost perhaps, consultation is well worth the money if it saves you from costly mistakes later. Cheaper is not always better.