Start with the basics when designing a garden

A Caribbean garden is a green
thumb’s dream, with all that colour, texture and lush foliage to play with.

Some of you might have had the
chance to visit a few inspiring gardens in the region, including Jamaica’s
Heritage Gardens at Cold Spring and the grounds at Strawberry Hill, and closer
to home, the Queen Elizabeth ll Botanic Park. Or smaller gardens like Camana
Way which leads visitors through a cross-section of Cayman’s flora, and Cricket
Square. But while many of us have a picture of our dream garden in our
imaginations, it’s a lot harder to make it a reality.

Your outdoor space is yours to do
with what you want, so it should be designed so that you will be able to use it
to its maximum, and make you feel happy to experience it.

With the right planning and tools,
and some patience, however,it’s entirely possible to achieve that magical

Landscape designer Kurl Knight of
Power Flower has developed a checklist for prospective clients that provides a
framework on which to develop their ideal garden.

The checklist asks things which
might seem obvious, like the client’s plant preferences, likes/dislikes,
allergies, and colour preferences and dislikes.

But it brings up all sorts of
elements a novice designer might not even think are important – often, until
it’s too late. It can be as simple as whether a client wants high or low
fragrance from their plants. Whether a plant likes sun or shade or about
placing the right plant in the right conditions.

Design also has a more concrete
aspect, which is the way you want the garden to look. That will not only
influence the types of plants that are used, but also the overall impression a
visitor to the garden comes away with. If your property is large, you can divide
the garden into different sections, but there is nothing wrong with just
leaving the garden more or less wild, if you don’t foresee using the grounds
for activities requiring large open areas.

Different strokes

A lush, wild-looking garden is only
one option. And be forewarned, achieving that look without ending up with a
tangled mess takes careful planning.

“For example, I love fruit, so most
of my garden is fruit trees, and we have hardly any ornamental plants,” says
Power Flower’s Heinrich Lindhart

Design styles can be matched to
both large and small gardens, though some styles will definitely require more
up-front planning.

“You can design around some
statement plants, which gives you a focus point to work from,” says Heinrich.

“Planting around them, you need to
consider where you will be viewing them from and therefore stack plant

Minimalists might go for straight
lines, and simple plants that tone down the visual activity, providing a zone
of serenity. That can be matched with hard landscaping aspects like geometric
water features and terraces.

A family that entertains might opt
for maximizing open space, be it paved, lawn or gravel, with ornamental plants
tucked safely along the borders.

Making use of containers allows you
to control plant size and location, and move them around much more easily.
Containers are useful in creating both highly structured landscapes (think
urban modernism) and improvisational cottagey looks.

Cayman basics

Designing a garden also involves
finding out some vital information about the property, for instance if there
are there any restrictions on the property such as zoning, government,
homeowner’s association guidelines or any other covenants regarding such things
as fence height and setbacks. Finding out where utility lines are located is
also critical.

Other factors like whether the
property is close to the canal or sea, and whether it is enclosed by fence,
wall or just hedge plants will definitely impact the design.

“Considering we have a hurricane
season, it is worth looking into high wind tolerant plants, and making sure
trees are pruned to withstand winds,” says Heinrich.

He says the key is pruning to allow
air flow through tree crowns, and eliminating unnecessary weight, for example
cutting off the dead fronds from palm trees that could cause a tree to snap or

And, he adds, a tree should never
be planted close enough to a building that if it fell over, it could cause

Cayman also has distinct wet and
dry seasons, so when planning for the garden you need to decide whether to
invest in an irrigation system for automatic watering.

No matter the your decision, you
will need to water the plants at some point, and consideration should be made
about costs incurred, in particular if you don’t have a cistern. If your
property has problem areas as a result of erosion, salt spray, dry, windy, wet
soil areas, these will also need to be considered in the overall design.