Instant Effects


Instant Effects


Leading garden designer Jim Fogarty says making your garden look better for the coming summer needn’t break the bank or take ages.


With a whole season of summer outdoor entertaining ahead of us, some gardeners might be looking at their backyards feeling embarrassed about inviting friends and family over. However there are many ways you can quickly and cheaply dress up your garden for summer without re-mortgaging your home.



Often in the lead-up to Christmas the garden can get a bit neglected. Pruning is the cheapest way you can tidy up your garden and visually it will make a huge impact. Rather than pruning heavily this is the time to prune lightly as you don’t want to strip your garden bare.

Look for leggy, overgrown large shrubs and prune them back to a tidier shape. If you have hedges or topiary balls, lightly trim them back to a crisp shape now. Focal plants are also important. Again rather than chopping them back to the ground, give them a light prune. Strappy foliage plants can look much better if you remove old and sick looking leaves rather than chopping the whole plant back. They key with pruning for summer is to tread lightly, and if you are unsure then leave it alone.



The benefit of mulching is that not only does it help retain moisture in garden beds for summer, importantly it helps create a nice backdrop to plants, making the whole garden look more attractive. Mulching helps to control weeds too and this will reduce some of the maintenance workload. The best mulches are of fine rather than large particle size and avoid chunky barks that will draw nitrogen from the soil. A dark-coloured mulch will provide the best colour contrast for foliage.



Gaps in garden beds can make a garden look bare and they can also open up views to more unsightly things, such as fences. You can of course fill gaps with shrubby plants, but for a vibrant look consider using potted colour for summer impact. There are many plants available that are ideal for this, including Australian wildflowers such as Scaevola, Brachyscome, Rhodanthe, and Bracteantha that come in a variety of colours including blue, mauve, yellow, orange and red for bright summer impact. Most summer-flowering bedding plants like these prefer a sunny, well-drained position for best results.

For difficult spots you can spread pockets of gravel or even ballast (larger grade of crushed rock up to 150mm) that will create a textural and material change in your garden. Sculpture can also be located to dress up a hole in a garden but choose wisely as a good piece will come at a price.


Be seated

Another idea for filling a gap is to put a garden seat there, to make your garden look more inviting and to provide some informal seating. A chair can be as complex as a designer outdoor lounge and ottoman or as simple as a canvas deck chair. Bright summer fabric colours will brighten up the effect.


Splash it on

Paints and stains are versatile and can be used for quick revamps and to provide seasonal colour. Think about highlight a feature wall or strip of fencing to provide a lift in the garden’s look. Fence palings can be painted in random stripes inspired by beach chairs. Be wary though as painting paling fences can be more work than it looks but is a great project for the family.

Tip: don’t paint all your fences, just pick one section that’s not too big, like your back fence. Keep it achievable. One person will lose interest quickly after painting 1m length of fence!


Quick pots

Pots are another great way of adding colour to outdoor areas at short notice. Old pots can be transformed with paint, or you can use coloured pots to further boost colour vibrancy.

The design trick is where to put your pots. So, identify key views from your house and areas most likely to be used by guests, and put your pots in those key spots. To achieve maximum impact, locate some pots strategically at the ends of key views so there is a connection of colour and material. By doing this you will dress up your entire garden and not just your barbecue area.



Bring a bit of the indoors outside and introduce some fabrics and furnishings for parties. Outdoor cushions can be custom-made or purchased off the shelf. Outdoor tables can be brought to life using table runners. Old timber chairs can be transformed using seat covers. Decorate tables with large bowls of summer fruits and vegetables for fun and colour. Styling is fluid and the end result can be modified depending on the mood you want to create.


Plan ahead

A great project for children is to plant an Aussie Christmas tree and let the kids decorate it. Plant your Christmas tree now and it will be the perfect size next year.

In a full sun, well-drained position, a woolly bush (Adenanthos sericea) makes an ideal native Christmas tree. Originating from the sandy soils of WA, the woolly bush is a medium to large shrub growing to around 2m tall. Small red flowers appear in the foliage in late summer. The big attraction is the brilliantly soft, wool-like foliage that children love to touch.



Today’s options with garden furniture offer the biggest range ever. The battle is working through the options to make your final choice. Cost can be prohibitive but when it comes to garden furniture it is worth investing in something that not only looks good, but is comfortable and will last to ensure the best investment. A tired looking garden can be given a new lease of life by the simple addition of a well-designed set of contemporary furniture.

Tip: for a budget option, look at revamping existing furniture by adding some extra timber braces for strength and painting everything in a modern colour. Look at some of the vibrant native flower colours for inspiration and pick up some colour swatches from your local paint shop to test before you paint.



Current options with garden lighting are transforming the way we use our gardens. LED is energy-efficient lighting that comes in an array of colour options. One of the best tips to transform your garden this summer is to consider changing your garden spotlights to ambient garden lights to create an enjoyable entertainment area in your garden that you can use 24 hours a day.