Landscape Designer, Matt Leacy of Landart Landscapes Sydney, shares his expertise in preparing your outdoor area for the silly season.
“Make it al fresco… whether it is a simple get-together with friends or a joyous banquet with the whole family, these smart and easy gardening ideas are designed to help your garden produce edible and decorative props to be enjoyed over the coming months,” says the expert.
Adding summer favourites of potted colours with fragrances such as gardenia or jasmine is a great way to start. Australian Christmas is usually celebrated outdoors, so investing in some summer colour is a must! Frangipani trees, bottlebrush and grevillea are some beautiful native options. They all have showy red, pink or yellow flowers that will enhance even the most mundane of gardens.
Don’t spend a fortune on store-bought, festive accessories – Christmas decorations can be sourced straight from the garden. Change things up, perhaps an outdoor Christmas tree? A tree that is in fruit such as lemon or orange will allow the fruit to act as natural decoration, try adding tea/garden lights for a simple yet classy touch.
For a more classical approach, topiary can be a good way to add a festive touch to the garden and would suit those with a more traditional garden.
Try placing simple sprigs of greenery into colourful vases to spread the festivity throughout the house. Need a centrepiece that makes a statement? Filling a large, glass vase with layers of lemons, limes and red holly berries, not only looks great but will last throughout the Christmas season.
Another option is creating native wreaths for the front door – pale green and silvery coloured gum leaves and the silver dollar eucalyptus leaf with flowers of a Corymbia ‘Summer beauty’ and painted gum nuts could look quite spectacular when put all together.
One of the hottest herbs right now, mint is the perfect addition to your summer spreads. This leaf packs a big, refreshing punch to your classic lemonades, ice teas, watermelon salads and the much-loved mojito.
Growing mint by seed can be painfully tricky, so head to your local nursery or market for inexpensive seedlings. With regular water and a little shade, your mint will grow vigorously, so pots are the best option – and will ensure that surrounding plants aren’t overtaken or destroyed.
Hosting Christmas lunch at your place… with the entire extended fam? Stay prepared and keep it fresh by planting seedlings of salad greens such as lettuce, rocket and spinach every couple of weeks.
Rocket, pear and parmesan salad anyone? Baby rocket, for example, is ideal to have on hand in your garden for summer salads, to add crunch to sandwiches and as a great side dish. “The advantage of growing rocket at home is that it grows extremely quickly, and is also easy to grow from seed,” says Leacy. “Simply sprinkle the seeds on soil, lightly cover with seed-raising mix, and water gently for a moist start to some healthy salad greens.”
Red and juicy tomatoes are always a crowd pleaser, particularly when it comes to fresh salads, pasta sauce or just a healthy summer snack. And homegrown tomatoes that have soaked up plenty of sunshine are always so much more full of flavour than store-bought tomatoes that have often been stored in cool rooms.
Matt encourages, “lots of direct sunlight and good soil preparation to help make tomatoes nice and stocky.”
Enjoy weekend brunches of bruschetta – using your diced red tomatoes, mixed with olive oil and placed on top of toasted crunchy bread, garnish with basil (also from your garden!) and even include the scrumptious leg ham leftovers…
After all the organising and fussing – sit back, relax and enjoy your holidays with the people you love most. Avoid being beaten inside by those summer rays by creating a shady haven in your garden. For those gardens without any naturally shaded areas or large trees, there are plenty of affordable man-made options that will ensure you and your guests can relax comfortably and stylishly away from the sun’s glare.
A large umbrella is a great addition to any patio and can transform a seating area into a cool oasis without losing the outside ambience of your garden. Umbrellas not only offer an instant escape from the sun, but they also are conveniently mobile and can be set up on the lawn or poolside, and angled to banish sun glare no matter what the time of day it is.
If your summer entertaining guest list is too big for an umbrella to cover, Matt suggests introducing a more substantial shaded area into your backyard.
Matt says, “There are a variety of options to cleverly integrate shade into your garden. From mobile, less permanent structures, which are also great for rental properties, to larger scale permanent structures such as cabanas and pergolas. We have a range of design solutions that will integrate a covered outdoor space into garden settings.”
Introducing a canopy can provide a cosy and versatile shaded area, which can be transformed to suit your guests. Whether you’re hosting a late lunch or need a cool area for the children to play in, a cabana provides a great way for everyone to enjoy your outdoor space.