Springtime in a bioclimatic privileged country like ours is an excellent time as any to rediscover the surroundings of our home or business. We take notice how much care is needed and what is the leeway for a refreshing change, whether radical or partial…
When we talk about “changing” or “refreshing” our garden, the uncovered area or even the smallest courtyard around us, the first thought is to redesign our space with new materials, hard and soft, using a layout and combinations that will set a new character and different usability.
Hard materials offered currently to enhance the aesthetics and functionality of a garden are numerous, of various shapes, colourful and quite affordable, such as stones, pebbles, slabs (natural and artificial), pebble mosaics, cobblestones, aged cobblestones in various ‘earthly’ shades and much more. Soft materials include a rich flora of ornamental plants with annual and perennial ground cover plants, shrubs, trees, forest trees, fruit trees, shape & beauty trees, succulents, etc.
The category of soft materials also includes a range of “soil” (natural, or “blends” of different mix) of suitable mechanical and chemical composition, which are called to serve as the quality surface substrate for the proper growth of plants and for the organic upgrading of a garden. Let’s not forget that over the years, every planted soil loses its nutrients, gets “exhausted” of growing always larger plants for longer times and sometimes does not fully meet the requirements of plants, despite periodically fertilising it and despite various cultivation practices. Enrichment and renewal of the soil substrate with new soil, with qualitative features that will help it to be better ventilated (e.g. sand soil), to drain better and allow more freedom in root development, is considered to be of primary importance, which shall affect the sustainability and aesthetics of our garden, while reducing its maintenance costs.
One thing we need to know about our country is the lack of familiarity with these materials and the lack of knowledge about their usability in our open space. Of the thousands of ornamental species currently used in Landscape Architecture practice, garden designing in our country uses a relatively limited scope of plant materials, up to 350-400 garden plant species, which makes the Greek garden a “recurring” environment, without surprises and distinctions, considering the huge botanical biodiversity that our country possesses…!! The same is true of hard materials, which in combination with the plant, are the most appropriate tools to dramatically change the look of our garden or of a corner, to make it more functional, attractive, but also more resistant to phenomena such as soil erosion, weed dispersal, helping us keeping it cleaner.
The “Greek” standard, monotonous and excessively green garden, comprising of a purely planted area dominated by “lawn”, with perimeter fences and entry and pathway plant frames, can be transformed into a “sustainable” and functional space with distinct corners and uses with the proper use of materials, something that is not very common in Greece and is rarely attempted…. The Garden and every open space at home, in the neighbourhood or in the city, remain as “opportunities” for our “living” contact with the natural environment, not just as a green visual enjoyment that surrounds us, but as human presence and an outlet, either for passive recreation (the “courtyard joy” as the old ones used to say) or for exercise..!! The layout of these uses can be spaced out and interconnected with corridors and paths in the space available, regardless of extent, with a renewed “design” thinking, offering opportunities such as a short or longer walk on hard floors, sitting areas, under tree shades or pergolas, but also in paved balconies as an extension of home, thanks to the possibilities offered by a more varied and smarter use of materials in harmonious combinations of soft and hard elements that compose an out of the ordinary, human “garden micro-landscape“.