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Having Fun with Essential Oils
There has been a growing trend in the use of essential oils. The increasing variety of bath products in the health and beauty market gives us an idea of what customers are looking for. No longer are consumers satisfied with synthetic essences, but we are finding that more and more people are looking at the quality of the products they are purchasing.
You too can create your own unique blend of quality soaps, bath salts, massage oils, and creams with essential oils. Using quality base products (essential oils, carrier oils, beeswax, soaps, salts, and creams), create bath products just the way you like them. When you purchase ready made products, some may be too strong or too light. Some products may claim to have a certain level or purity or certification and still not be as effective as they claim to be. Remove the uncertainty by being able to create your own health and beauty products.
These products are not just for the women. Men too can enjoy the benefits that the essential oils provide. Create seductive blends that enhance masculinity and also provide the emotional balance. Experiment with different oils and carrier media to obtain the right blend for your special someone.
Once you’ve gained some experience learning to manufacture your own special blends of essential oil combinations, make some extra and use them as gifts for your family and loved ones. The oils can be given alone or by combining them with other useful products such as bath brushes, towels, diffusers, and anything that your gift recipient would appreciate. Learn about the medicinal effects of essential oils and combine them with other oils or bath products to create a “Cold buster” package or a “Relaxation” package. There are so many ideas and you are only limited by what you can create in your mind.
Related articles: Tips on starting your essential oils collection.
Creating the massage oils and bath products are easy to do. Keep in mind that safety precautions are a must when working with the essential oils. The oils are concentrated and may cause a physical reaction if not handled properly. The use of gloves purchased at a local drug store will be sufficient in most cases.
There is a difference between fragrance oils and essential oils. The fragrance oils do not carry the same therapeutic benefits as the essential oils do. The essential oils are derived from a plant (tree sap, leaf, bark, etc.) whereas the fragrance oils could be synthetically manufactured. The healing benefits are then lost if the original properties of the plant are not intact.
Have fun creating new blends and unleash the health benefits of essential oils at the same time. Enjoy placing different mixes of scents in various areas throughout your home. You will also be able to easily change the emotional climate of the room as easy as changing your home. Experience the maximum benefits of aromatherapy when you properly air the room between scent changes. There is no end to creating your own special environments. You will only be limited by the variety of essential oils you own!
Creating the Mood of Your Home with Essential Oils
Looking to add a new dimension to your home? Scents are powerful! They can stir up memories of our childhood as we remember mom’s home cooking. They remind us of a place of comfort as we remember special moments in our lives.
Make your home your haven by adding the dimension of scent. Using essential oils in various places throughout your home can bring a sense of peace, tranquility, and refreshing. It can also bring a newfound zesty appeal and at the same time, help bring emotional stability in our minds. You can change the mood of your home easily by changing the blend of oils you use.
Add a happy, peaceful tone in your home. A few essential oils that would help to create that mood are citrus oils like grapefruit, lemon, and orange. Each has a different tone of citrus and can be used in different areas of the home for variety. The lemon or orange essential oils can be used in the kitchen (so as not to conflict with household cleaners) to promote a feeling of freshness and crispness. Use the grapefruit essential oil in the living areas to spice up these rooms. The invigorating grapefruit essence also helps to combat feelings of fatigue and exhaustion as well. What a great atmosphere to relax in after a long hard days work!
Okay, maybe we don’t want or need a scent in every room, but we just want to add a simple touch to our home environment. To create a calming peace and tranquil atmosphere, try lavender or roman chamomile essential oils. The scents can be added in a variety of ways – through candles, spritz sprays, and reed diffusers. You can also try adding a drop of the oil on top of your heater or to a hot light bulb (do not use a halogen bulb with this). You can also blend oils to change up the climate of your home. A personal favorite is the lavender and cedar wood blend of essential oils. You can blend these oils yourself or purchase pre-made products at a local retailer.
What kind of mood do you want to create? The essential oils mentioned above are quite popular, but there are many more oils available. Take a trip to your local retailer and see what oils are available. If there are no oils available, see what the scent smells like and if it appeals to you. A trip to a bath products or lotions store will most likely be helpful in identifying what scents you like before starting your online price search.
Choose the essential oils that fit you. Does the scent depict your personality? Does the scent reflect the mood you want to create? What kind of scents work best for my home? The answer to these questions is that it is all up to you. You decide which essential oils work for you and your home. You decide the tone of the environment in your home. The best way is to jump in and find out what you like. Start with a bottle or two and try them in various locations of your home. Have fun creating different scents for different occasions!
How to Make Your Own Essential Oils
Essential oils are useful for a variety of purposes. They can be used for medicinal reasons or healing of the mind, for example. Most people buy their oils in small bottles ready to be used. However, you can sometimes make your own essential oils.
Sweet almond oil can be used as a base for essential oils. It is best if combined with vitamin E because this is a natural preservative. To make a small amount of essential oil, use one-half cup of the sweet almond oil with vitamin E.
Choose the type of essential oil you want to make. This will usually depend upon what plant materials you have at hand. If you have a rose garden, you might want to make rose oil. With an herb garden, you could make oil of thyme or oil of oregano. If you are making essential oils in winter, you could use citrus peels, such as lemon or grapefruit. To get started making essential oils, take your plant material and put it in a plastic bag. Start with a cup of tightly packed flowers. Or, use a quarter cup of packed herbs or chopped fruit peel. Close the bag.
Tap the bag with a hammer or a kitchen mallet to slightly bruise the material. Do this gently so as not to turn your plant matter into mush. You want the oils of the plant substance to be brought out ever so slightly. This is the basis for your essential oils.
Next, it’s time to put the contents of the bag in a wide mouthed jar with the sweet almond oil. Put a top on the jar and shake it gently until all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Make sure the plant matter is saturated. The essential oil will start to form. It takes some time for the essential oils to be extracted from the plant material in this manner. So, leave your jar in a warm place for the rest of the day. This will give the natural oils time to permeate the sweet almond oil.
On the second day, put some cheesecloth over the mouth of a second wide mouthed jar and pour the mixture from the first jar through it and into the second jar. At this point, you don’t need the first batch of plant matter you gathered. Throw it away along with the cheesecloth.
For the next three days, repeat the same procedure, using another cup of flowers or a quarter cup of fresh herbs or chopped fruit. Always strain the mixture from the previous day through cheesecloth into a clean jar. This will assure that your essential oils are pure.
When all these steps are completed, you have made your essential oil. You only need to bottle it and it will be good for six to twelve months whenever you need it. To bottle it, strain it through cheesecloth a final time. Then pour it through a funnel into small, dark bottles. Close the tops with stoppers.
If you do any flower or herb gardening at all, you might be surprised at how many different essential oils you can make. You can put them together from ingredients in your own back yard.
I hope you enjoyed these three ways of having fun with essential oils. Please pin this image for later.
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This post contains affiliate links.
What Are Essential Oils?
Maybe you have heard the term “essential oils” but didn’t know what was meant by it. Perhaps you had a vague idea that it was connected in some way with aromatherapy, but didn’t know how. Now is as good a time as any to learn what essential oils are. Essential oils are made from different parts of plants. They can be made from leaves, like peppermint oil. They can be made from petals, like rose oil. Some are made from bark or wood, like sandalwood.
Others are made from other parts of plants. If a so-called “essential oil” has any animal products in it, it is not truly an essential oil. Also, true essential oils do not contain synthetic ingredients.
Essential oils are usually made by distillation to make the natural oils in a plant substance very concentrated. It takes an enormous amount of plant material to make just a small amount of essential oils. For this reason, they are very expensive. It only takes a few drops of these essential oils to have a powerful effect. Most essential oils are not used directly on the skin. Most are either inhaled or applied in a carrier oil. Sometimes the oils are put into a bath.
You can buy individual essential oils or you can buy blends. If you buy blends, it’s up to the maker to decide what oils to mix together and in what proportions. You can save money this way, because you only have to buy one bottle of a blend rather than several bottles to mix yourself. If money is no object, you might like to have the choice.
Essential oils have been used for centuries to promote physical and mental well-being. There are many varieties of essential oils and there are different ones for almost every ailment out there. There are several choices of oils for many of the conditions. Essential oils enter the body through the sense of smell. This is why they are often inhaled in some way or another. However, they are also absorbed into the tissues of the skin and into the bloodstream. This is especially true when they are used in baths or massages.
When essential oils are inhaled, they reach the limbic system of the brain and go on to affect all the systems that it interfaces with. These include the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the endocrine system, and memory. In the bloodstream, they affect the organs as well. When you have had a massage treatment with essential oils, it is wise not to bathe or wash it off for a couple of hours. This is because the systems of the body take time to absorb the oils from the skin.
Both psychological and medical conditions have been treated with aromatherapy through the use of essential oils. Some can be very expensive, especially those that come from exotic plants. However, by using the few drops as recommended, a small bottle can last a long time. Essential oils are effective tools in controlling uncomfortable symptoms.
Methods of Using Essential Oils
You can have all kinds of recipes for mixtures of essential oils. You may know just what these blends are meant to do for you. Yet, if you don’t know the methods for using them, they won’t do you much good.
Possibly the most popular method of using essential oils in North America today is inhalation. This method is favored in parts of Europe and is called the German method. You can breathe in the aroma of the oils by putting a few drops of them on a tissue and inhaling. Or, you could just hold the bottle under your nose for awhile.
Breathing in the vapors of essential oils is very effective in most cases. It stimulates the olfactory system which has a great effect on the brain. This can help in cases of mood disturbances, for example. It can help with any ailment that is primarily associated with the brain.
Another method used is massage. The essential oils are dropped into a carrier oil and massaged onto various parts of the body. This is called the English method. It is especially helpful for muscle pain but can be useful for other ailments as well.
The French method of using essential oils is to ingest them. This should only be done with the purest, therapeutic grade essential oils that have been approved to be taken orally. A tiny amount of certain oils can be used to treat ailments like indigestion, for instance.
Sometimes, essential oils can be applied directly to the affected area. This is often the case with skin disorders. Usually, a single drop of an essential oil will do the trick. If you use essential oils this way on children, be very careful. Make sure essential oils are well diluted with oil or water before applying to the skin.
You can do a patch test to determine if you are allergic to a particular essential oil. Mix a drop of the oil with a drop of carrier oil such as vegetable oil. Put it on an inconspicuous area, like under the arm. Cover it with a bandage for twenty-four hours. If you have no reaction, you should be safe to use the essential oil on your skin.
Countless different problems can be aided by using essential oils in a bath water solution. Just add a few drops to your bath and soak for at least fifteen minutes. This will allow the essential oils to enter through your olfactory sense. It will also absorb into your skin, and finally into your bloodstream.
One way to use essential oils is to make a compress to put on an affected area. Put up to three drops of the essential oils on the affected area. Once the essential oils are in place, cover them with a hot, moist towel and then a dry towel. This increases the intensity of the vapors.
No matter how you use essential oils, you will find that they are very helpful for a variety of complaints. Of course, you still need to know exactly which oils to use. Once you know that, you can use the many methods of applying essential oils.
How to Use Essential Oils for Skin Care
People have been using essential oils to nourish and soothe their skin since the time of the ancient Egyptians, at least. For awhile, chemical products were coming on the market every day. People went almost completely away from using essential oils. In recent years, it seems that they’re back.
With the resurgence of the use of essential oils, people are finding ancient answers to common problems. Several different essential oils have been used for simple cleansing. Some of these are sweet basil, lemon, lemongrass, neroli, juniper, and peppermint. Any of these oils can be put in by a few drops in a mild soap. Acne is a distressing skin condition that is related to overproduction of sebum in the skin cells of the face. Essential oils have long been used to help the condition. Geranium, chamomile, tea tree, and lavender oils are among those employed.
These essential oils can be combined with a light carrier oil and applied directly to the skin. However, the extra oil of the carrier may seem to be too much. In this case, the essential oils can be dropped into fragrance-free lotion or cream and rubbed into the affected area. The biggest single factor causing skin to age is the fact that skin loses the ability to hang onto moisture. Thus, it dries out and becomes more fragile. Skin can also age because of exposure to sun or pollutants such as smoking.
Essential oils supply a variety of remedies for aged and wrinkled skin. Frankincense, neroli, or rose oils are excellent oils to use for this purpose. Put them in carrier oils or in fragrance-free lotions to rub on the face. Sandalwood oil, carrot root oil, and many others can be used.
Dandruff can be a bothersome ailment. There are all kinds of chemical remedies in your local stores to treat it. However, there are many essential oils that can help the condition in a more natural way. Cedarwood, geranium, lavender, lemongrass, or rosemary essential oils can be used. There are many other oils and combinations of essential oils that have been used successfully. Any of these can be dropped into hair oil, or added to a water and vinegar mixture to rinse the hair with.
Chamomile and lavender oils are the two best essential oils to use for sunburn. One method is to put a few drops into a cool bath and soak until the heat goes away. The other way to use them is to drop a few drops into a carrier oil and rub gently onto the burnt skin. For severe burns, see your doctor. It seems counterintuitive that essential oils can help to clear oily skin. However, people have been getting good results with these treatments for years upon end. Juniper berry, chamomile, cedarwood, and lavender oils, to name a few, have worked wonders. Add them to water to make a rinse for your face after you wash it.
Skin problems aren’t new to the world. Using essential oils to treat them isn’t new either. However, because these treatments were ignored for so long, they are new to many people now.
Household Uses for Essential Oils
Like it or not, homes can be full of bad smells, germs, and dirt. The first products people usually turn to are strong chemical solutions. These aren’t particularly healthy, and can have unpleasant odors of their own. Perhaps a better type of product to reach for is essential oils. Essential oils can be used for many different household problems. Tea tree and lavender oils are considered to be highly effective anti-bacterial essential oils. A few drops of either can be added to water to rinse any area you want to disinfect.
These can include sinks, countertops, and bathrooms. You can make an antiseptic spray by putting the water with essential oils in it into a spray bottle. Spray it around bathrooms, kitchens, and sickrooms.
Sometimes, you don’t mind so much using the chemical cleaners. You just want a fresher, more natural smell to linger when you finish. If this is the case, you can make a rinse to use following regular cleaning. To make the rinse, add four drops of any essential oils you like to a pint of water. Then, simply rinse the area with this after you have cleaned. You can use essential oils like pine, lavender, wintergreen, rosemary, orange, or any others you like.
If you want to make the air in your home smell fresh and sweet, simmer fruit peels or any essential oils in water on the stove. Keep it at a gentle heat. The scent will permeate the whole house.
You may have seen scented toilet paper rollers for sale in your local store. You can use the same idea only make it better with essential oils. Put a few drops of essential oils on the cardboard tube that holds the toilet paper. Every time it’s spun, a fresh aroma will be released.
You can easily make a homemade carpet cleaner if you have a few essential oils. You need rosewood oil, eucalyptus oil, and lavender oil. Or, if you like, use any other combination of essential oils. You mix this with baking soda or cornstarch. Sprinkle the mixture on the carpet and vacuum fifteen minutes later. Commercial floor cleaning product makers are aware that lemon and orange oils are excellent for cleaning. There are many products out there that use them. If you have essential oils of lemon and orange, you can mix them with some hot water and soap. You will have the same thing-minus any chemicals.
Dryer sheets all seem to have the same unnatural trying-to-be-fresh smell. You can make your own equivalent of dryer sheets using essential oils. Take a small towel and put a few drops of your favorite essential oils on it. Put it in the dryer with your clothes. Tea tree essential oil helps to get rid of mold in the household. Lemon oil can be used as a disinfectant. Eucalyptus oil can be added to the laundry when you are washing bedding. This will help to control dust mites.
Essential oils have a place in the household that is both practical and aesthetic. They can make your home clean on a molecular level and pleasant to your sense of smell. The more you use essential oils, the more they will become a part of your home life.
The Use of Essential Oils for Pets
When people have success using essential oils for healing and rejuvenation, they automatically assume they can use them on their pets as well. Sometimes this is indeed true. However, it takes special knowledge of animals to know when and how to use essential oils for pets. With many pets, you should avoid the use of essential oils altogether. Birds especially are susceptible to severe reactions to essential oils. You should not even diffuse these oils in the air near birds. They can have respiratory problems that can be deadly.
Cats are another subject. There is much controversy over whether you can use essential oils with cats. Many purveyors of these oils recommend frankincense for ear mites and peppermint for respiratory troubles. These are just a couple of the remedies suggested for the ailments of cats. Veterinarians, though, explain that essential oils do more harm than good to cats. Oils like peppermint are too “hot” for cats. Their sensitive skin will burn. Also, any essential oils that a cat takes in, whether it be through the air or through the skin, must be eliminated. This is done through the cat’s liver.
The problem is that a cat’s liver is more delicate than a human’s or that of other animals, as well. It takes some forty eight hours for the cat’s liver to process and expel the essential oils. This can lead to a build-up and finally to liver damage.
Dogs are more suited to the use of essential oils, but you should still never use them without diluting them. If you use a reasonable amount of caution, you can use essential oils to help dogs with many common problems. You can massage the essential oils mixed with carrier oils into the dog’s skin. Use an area of the skin that is the least hairy. You can also use a diffuser in a room twice a day and let your dog breathe the air from it. Since a dog’s liver is hardier, this will not damage it. You can use a mister to spray around the areas where the dog stays, too.
Many dogs will develop arthritis as they get older. Sometimes owners will even euthanize their dogs just so they won’t have to suffer with this ailment. However, there are essential oils that can help your dog live a more comfortable life. Some are juniper, pine, rosemary, and birch oils. When your dog becomes ill, it can mean damage to your flooring and furnishings. Besides that, you don’t like to see your dog suffering. For vomiting, you can use essential oils of lavender, tarragon, or peppermint. You can use a cinnamon oil massage for diarrhea.
Dogs often get what are known as “hot spots.” These are raw areas of skin where the fur has either been chewed or worn off. They can be very difficult to treat, and vets have several antidotes for them. If you want to try essential oils, try Melrose and lavender. They both clean the wound and reduce inflammation.
Care should be taken when using essential oils on or around animals. Some pets just can’t take it. Yet, for those pets that are able to tolerate them, they can be a great help. I am definitely not an expert so make sure you do your due diligence in researching essential oils and animals.
My personal favorite book on all things essential oils is called The complete book of essential oils and aromatherapy. With over 800 recipes, I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about essential oils and their uses.
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Designing Your Garden – What Makes a Good Garden?
Garden design is a very personal thing and is often an expression of your personality. What I like you, you may not and vise versa. Some people like neat and tidy gardens where there are no surprises, others love the thrill of windy paths, lots of different plant material and not knowing what is around the corner. There are three main styles of gardens formal, semi formal and informal. They can then be divided into many types of gardens and that depends on what you would like. Garden design can be intimately tidied to the style of your house as in example of the grand french chateaux where the geometric patterns of the garden mimic the geometric construction of the house or it can have no connection to your house at all.
Some people are lucky and have this innate gift of knowing how to design space, making it a pleasing place to be in. Others don’t have this gene and find it very difficult to visualise how the space will work. To create a good design it is important you understand that design is about managing space and people moving around it. The core of good garden design centres round patterns and the space within these patterns. By using geometrical shapes, circles, triangles, rectangles etc. you can achieve a unified feel to your garden. So you need to think about ground patterns and movement around your garden. Where would you like people to go? Ground patterns can be achieved with the use of bricks, paving and plant material such as cut grass etc.
Formal gardens are symmetrical and geometrical and are strict in terms of repeating patterns and plant materials on either side. It is very controlled, plants are clipped, shaped, manipulated regularly and today is often suitable for small gardens like court yards. Urns, balustrades, stone, gravel paths, parterres, formal pools and framed views are all part of the formal garden. There are no surprises, you know what to expect.
Informal designs are asymmetrical and not as regimented. Plant material is allowed to spill over the structural elements such as walls, steps and paths. Plant material is allowed to self-seed and wander around the garden. Informal garden design is softer, full of surprises thus you don’t know what to expect.
And semi formal is the combination of the above two. Usually, it is the built structures such as retaining walls, paths and steps that are formal and the informal element is the plant material which is allowed to spill over them, softening their hard outlines.
Within these three types, there are many different styles of gardens to choose from such as contemporary, Japanese, Mediterranean, cottage, courtyard, kitchen garden or secret garden.
Contemporary is a modern style that likes to reflect the surrounding but also use a wide range of plant material. Form and texture of foliage are as important as flowers. Hard landscaping is woven into geometrical shaped buildings; all of which flow into the wider landscape. Plants are used as focal points to highlight the architectural forms.
Cottage was a late nineteenth-century ideal to return to the simple cottages of the country. They were planted with hardy bulbs, flowers, fruit bushes and herbs and vegetables. They were geometric, colours were harmonized and luxurious as plants grew well as they were heavily manured regularly.
Mediterranean is not limited to one particular area but are defined according to hot summers and low rainfall. They encompass entertaining areas, shade, good views and dramatic shadows. Hot colourful plants are used and lots of lush green foliage plants to create a cool atmosphere. Plants need to be drought tolerant. Evergreen plants are popular because they cast shade on hot days. Walls are white washed to reflect the sun, pergolas built to create shade and use terracotta pots. There is often a water feature and water provides cooling vibes.
Japanese gardens encompasses religion and Japan’s cultural history. Japanese gardens are very symbolic often the symbols relate to nature. Plants are ‘tamed’ and there is an emphasis on evergreen trees and shrubs. They are very controlled and often minimalist. True Japanese gardens are contemplative a place of meditation and great calm.
If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start when designing your garden, I suggest you break it up into areas called rooms thus dividing one big space into several smaller spaces. For example: there is the front garden, the side garden and the back garden. Once you have decided where they begin and end you can then divide each of those areas up again. For example in the back garden you could have the entertaining area, the grass/children’s area, the utilities area (includes the compost heap and shed), the pool area and the vegetable/orchard area. Once you have defined the areas/rooms you can tackle one at a time, thus making a huge project into several smaller projects.
The Three Planning Stages
To create an interesting and exciting garden there are 3 sets of plans (may be four if you need an engineer’s structural plans) you need to devise:- Site Analysis Plan, Concept Plan and Planting Plan, usually all drawn to scale.
The First Steps
To design a garden that works there are several things you need to do before buying plants and planting them. If you follow these steps you are more likely to have a successful garden.
It is important to make an inventory of the area you are designing. Things to include are:
Levels – steep/flat
Aspect – North/south
Existing trees and buildings
Views – good and bad
Entrances – Front/back doors
Underground cables and pipes
Sheds and garages
Paved and unpaved areas
Drainage – runoff of storm watered
Once you have noted the above, it is time to draw up the space. You can draw it roughly (not to scale) but eventually you will have to draw it to scale. Start by measuring the area you are designing, draw it to scale ie. 1:100 and put all the above points onto your drawn plan. All these influences need to be drawn on paper, so that you can gauge any trends. For example there might be a paved path from the back door to the garage, but everyone takes a short cut across the lawn, creating a desire line. No – one uses the paved path. So perhaps pave the desire line and make it the official path.
The next step is the concept plan and this is the plan where you put down you ideas. It can be as wild and as adventurous as you like. Forget cost, enjoy your creativity. This is the stage where you put down your dreams of what you have always wanted. Later on, you hip pocket will decide for you whether you can have them. Anything is possible, so don’t be shy, dream away. Again this can be roughly drawn or to scale, it is up to you.
The third and final plan is the planting plan and it is preferable that it is drawn to scale as this allows you to know exactly how many plants you will need. It incorporates all the ideas you have decided upon and shows you how the finished garden is going to look. It is the road map which will guide you to building your new garden.
There may be a fourth plan if your site is steep or you are having major elements built, as you may need the advice of an engineer.
Points to Consider
Think about your soil conditions, is it heavy clay or light and sandy? What plants will grow in these conditions? Are some areas boggy and some always dry?
The sun is higher in the sky during spring and summer and shadows are shorter. Whereas in winter, the sun is lower in the sky and casts longer shadows. So a plant might be in full sun in summer and complete shade in winter. Can it tolerate this? Also think about the conditions the plants require. Are they full sun plants like roses or shade loving plants like azaleas?
You also need to think about wind direction. Which way does the prevailing wind come from? Screens and hedges are one way of managing this problem but what problems are they going to cause? Making the block feel narrow, casting shadows etc? It is important to know because some plants don’t like wind and it is no good putting the BBQ/entertainment area in an uncomfortable spot.
Views out your window or from your garden are very important. Some are intrusive while others are desired. If you wish to block out flats/neighbours etc. you may need to put in a higher fence or a hedging screen of some kind. Or you may want to design your garden to enhance the view of the mountain, ocean etc.
Utilities and Service Lines
You also need to be aware where your services and utilities are; things like clothesline, overhead power lines etc. If you damage the gas, telephone or electricity lines, you are liable to pay for their repair.
Principles of Garden Design
To create a well designed garden, it is important to put the right plant in the right position. This means considering the cultural requirements of the plant. For example putting a full sun plant such as rose into a shady position isn’t going to work, because the rose won’t be receiving the right amount of sunlight for it to grow. The idea of good garden design is to follow this philosophy, using the placement of plants to create mystery, tension and surprise by using tricks of the eye, colours and textures.
Tension, mystery and surprise make a garden interesting. One way to create these is to use hedges, low walls, screens, paths, steps to make individual ‘garden rooms’ with tension points that captures your attention on the way. For example a narrow oblong garden can be made more interesting if you can’t see the back fence – that there is a feature (plant or statue etc.) that obscures the fence. It also becomes more interesting if the path way is narrow then opens up into another room. A winding path adds mystery to the garden if you can’t see what is around the corner. Surprise comes when you go around the corner and discover a focal point.
A focal point is something like a seat/statue/water feature that leads your eye directly to it. For example – a pergola that has a statue at the end of it. The statue is the feature and is the reason why you look/walk to see it. Another example of a focal point is a pathway leading through a door that is open and shows a vista of the wider landscape.
The success of the focal point can depend on the how successfully the ground patterns lead you there. If the paving encourages you along this path thus creating some tension and mystery, you are more likely to follow the path to see what’s there because you have become inquisitive. Narrow paths encourage you to walk quickly and not to dilly dally along the way, where as wide paths say stroll, take you time, look at the surrounding vegetation. A gentle curve can be negotiated at speed, but a tight curve can’t be so people slow down as there is risk involved. Paving is used as a directional tool says don’t walk that way, but walk this way. Edging bricks say don’t step over this – this is a boundary. Paving can also be used to reflect the ground plane of the house or other shapes in the garden.
Long narrow gardens have a strong directional emphasis that needs to be broken up. Square plots are static. To solve these problems the space’s shape needs to be changed. A circular design distracts the eye from the straight lines of the boundary fence. You could also use a series of rectangles using the boundaries as part of the design.
Another method is to turn the garden onto a 45 degree angle. A long diagonal line will immediately create a feeling of space. The paving near the house could be done on an angle and high light the diagonal line of the entire garden.
Gardens with a dog-leg in them can utilise the bend by using tension, mystery and surprise to lead you around the corner to a focal point of some kind.
Unified space is created by controlling the movement around the garden. It is the way areas are linked together by paths, bridges, pergolas, steps and terraces that determine whether a garden is successful. Careless placing can ruin the flow of the garden. If you wish to direct someone’s attention to a particular point then there must be a clear reason in the design for following this pathway.
Ground levels are very important when designing a garden. If a slope is too steep to walk down safely, steps may be needed and if the entire block is on a slope, the whole area may need to be terraced. What material you use is also important. Steps should not be of slippery materials and gravel may wash away. The surfaces need to be flat otherwise they could be dangerous and people will not want to walk along them and instead they may create a desire lines.
Levels help to create interest and ‘rooms’ in a garden because you move from one place to another by steps/paths/etc. Allow your levels to gently flow into one another and keep them simple. Don’t over decorate them. A slope up from the house will appear foreshortened whereas a slope down from the house will appear larger.
Choosing Plant Materials
There are 3 types of gardens:- the plants man, the garden designer and the gardener’s (mix of the first two). The plants man gardens consist of lots of singular plantings, unconnected and often rare and difficult to source. The garden designer’s garden consists of plants that are tried and tested – they use plants that they know and how they perform. The gardener’s garden has learned that their favourite plants can be more effective if planted in a scheme.
When choosing plants you must consider what the conditions are of your garden. There is no point putting alkaline tolerant plants in acid soil or vise versa. It won’t work! You need to think about what your plants you have chosen require moist soils, dry soils, shade, sun, well drained, boggy soils. If you do your research correctly and place your plants in the right position, you are well on the way to a successful garden.
The height and spread of your plants also needs to be considered. Tall growing plants are placed at the back of the garden bed, graduating down to the low plants. Remember some plants send up flower spikes that may be much larger than the plant itself, so they need to be positioned according to their flower spike height. Some plants are bushy so don’t forget to leave sufficient room for them to spread. They may need annual pruning to keep them in check.
Another trick in the designing tool bag is using colour. Colour is the sensation of illumination which is light. The way colours inter-react with each other depends on their position in colour wheel. Manipulating colour is great fun and can create all sorts of illusions. Colours are divided into 2 groups primary red, yellow, blue and secondary green, violet, orange. Secondary colours are made of combining two primary such as mixing blue and yellow together to create green. You can make a space look cold or create distance by using pale and brown colours. You can also make a space looker bigger than it really is by using warm colours such as oranges, reds or yellows. If you want to make a space look closer to you, again use warm colours. As reds, oranges or yellow are very busy colours to the eye, it is a good idea to intersperse white flowers or grey foliage plants to calm the visual scene down. White and grey also intensify blue and pale colours.
One thing to remember about the Australia sun is that the best time to look at our gardens is in the late afternoon when the sunlight is not as strong. Our hot sun tends to fade our flowers colours and the glare at mid-day tends to wash the colour out.
If you are feeling overwhelmed about designing your garden, divide your space up and take it slowly, completing one section at a time. Don’t start another part until you have finished the section you are working on and very soon you will have a beautiful garden. Remember gardens are ephemeral, it is a process that is for ever evolving. You never really finish.
See my next article On Creating a Gorgeous Garden and Living with Pets
Sandra Pullman B.App.Sc. (Hort) Hons. Burnley-Uni Melb. Visit my website for “down to earth”, good quality, reliable and practical advice explained to you in layman’s terms. I also run gardening courses for beginners. Check out my website for upcoming class dates and locations. All your gardening solutions are one click away! [http://www.gardenpatch.com.au] Or check out my blog site: sandisgardenpatch.blogspot.com There you can ask me questions.
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