A list of frequently asked questions about our company, service, plants, and landscaping in general:
A design allows you to conceptualise what your garden will look like before installation and helps to ensure that the hard and soft (plant) landscaping materials have been calculated correctly. A design also provides us with an accurate template to work from, so we are all on the ‘same page’ when it comes to your garden.
Here are some benefits of designing your garden before installation:
No, not necessarily. It depends on how much work you want us to do. If you only want us to plug new plants into your garden, or move existing plants around, then we do not need to do a design. If however we will be changing an area entirely, or working on a new area of your garden, then it’s best to do a design so that we can structure the planting correctly, calculate the plant and material quantities accordingly, and provide you with a conceptual view of what your refurbished garden will look like.
Yes we can, but note that we specialise in indigenous gardens and try to include a variety of plant species that not only attract wildlife, but also increase the biodiversity of your area. Our preferred gardens therefore are those with a balance between lawn and locally indigenous plant species.
Yes. Lawn-free gardens are some of our favourite gardens to design and install, and homeowners with these gardens benefit from increased birdlife, butterflies and insects, as well as lower maintenance costs (no mowing) and lower watering costs. When we design a lawn-free garden we incorporate pathways and seating areas, and use lawn-replacement groundcovers, some of which you can walk on. We also carefully select the plant species – full-grown size and growth-habit – and their placement, so that your garden does not become unmanageable and overgrown in time. All of this means that you will have a beautiful garden without the high maintenance costs of managing a lawn. Arguably though the most worthwhile reason to go lawn-free is that you will immediately have more plants to appreciate in your garden, with each plant providing you with something new every week, month or year.
Yes. Along with lawn-free gardens shade gardens have become some of our most requested gardens. Johannesburg has many established trees, but because of this the areas where people once had a flourishing lawn – like on their verge – have now shaded over and become bare. To correct this homeowners have either tried to use shade lawn, or have resorted to cutting their trees back to let more light in. But you don’t have to cut back trees or live with a struggling lawn or bare soil. South Africa is home to a rich diversity of indigenous forest plants that work beautifully on the highveld. Contact us for a consultation, or visit plantbook.co.za to view some of these species.
Yes, helping to save water in people’s gardens is what we do. There are a number of design factors that help reduce water usage in a garden. These include using indigenous, waterwise plants, reducing the size of your lawn, and checking and/or making changes to your irrigation system to ensure it runs efficiently. Additionally we can install new irrigation technologies such as low-precipitation nozzles or rain/weather sensors. Most importantly though, installing a biome-themed garden such as a grassland will immediately reduce your watering requirements. Think of a your local nature reserve, which relies solely on rain water: replicating this habitat in your own home will help you save water.
No. If you want specific plants to remain in place we’ll incorporate them into your new design. It’s also worth keeping large trees and shrubs as these provide an already established structural element to the garden – provided they are not weeds, invader species, and are not damaging your property. Some perennials such as clivias and agapanthus can also be split and replanted if they are overgrown, so if you have such species we will do this for you.
Yes, provided they are of a quality that is enhancing your garden and not taking away from it. Pavers and pebbles can sometimes be used in a different part of the garden, and if we can incorporate them we’ll do so. Sometimes though, pavers can be so old and broken that changing them to a new and modern style will transform your garden.
Yes, you’re welcome to. And if you require assistance during the project you can call on us on a consultative basis.
Generally it’s best to let the other landscaper install the garden for you, as it is their creative design and they will therefore understand the garden and the spec you have provided to them. If you’d like us to quote for your garden then let us provide you with our own design and costing, and you can then compare the two. An exception to this is when you have used a designer or landscape architect who does not have an installation team, in which case we can evaluate the design and advise or quote accordingly.
Yes we can. To ensure a successful project we would make a trip prior to installation – for which we would charge a travel and consultation fee. Thereafter, for the installation, we would bring some of our team members or manage the project using local labour.
A wildlife-friendly garden is one which attracts the local wildlife, be it birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, or mammals. It is a healthy and thriving ecosystem, and some of our favourite wildlife gardens are those that mimic nearby nature reserves, specifically with regards to the plants that are found in those areas (locally indigenous). By creating a wildlife-friendly garden you are helping to extend the greenbelt of your area, and in a small way helping to protect the wonderful biodiversity of our country.
Yes we can, but it is usually better to let us design a new garden for everyone. Trying to incorporate the original ‘pet paths’ into a design forces us to change the plant selection and/or plant positioning that we would otherwise use. Instead of tying yourself – and your pets – down to their old pathways, rather let us design a new garden for everyone and your pets will soon create new pathways on their own.
No, not necessarily. Sometimes it’s better to let us design the garden without the restriction of a budget, as this allows us to create the most beautiful garden we can based on your existing space and our discussions with you. Once we have created the initial design you can request changes based on your budget and preferences, and we’ll then adjust the design and costing accordingly.
Yes, we can do your garden in phases. The design we have created then becomes the ‘blueprint’ for future phases of the project.
In most cases there will be pricing changes due to the availability of quality plants at the time of installation. In all cases however we endeavour to remain at or below the price quoted unless otherwise requested. An example of a price change might be: We quote for a 20 litre Duvernoia aconitiflora (shrub), but find during sourcing that the healthiest looking shrubs are either 40 litre or 10 litre specimens. We will then either consult with you or choose the 10 litre specimens and return the cost saving to you in the recon. Conversely, if you request additional elements during the project, or if we find something unforeseen that we feel should be corrected – like an old wall foundation that can be jackhammered out – then we’ll discuss these additional costs with you prior to going ahead with them.
Yes, we can reduce quotations by changing the size of the plants, e.g. 10 litre plants to 4 litre plants, or by changing the hardscaping materials, e.g. using gravel for a firepit floor instead of paving the area, which would reduce our labour charges. When quoting we initially choose what we feel are the most appropriate materials and plant sizes, and then adjust these as your budget allows.
You’re welcome to purchase the plants yourself, but for most projects we use a number of different nurseries to ensure that the quality of the plants is high. On occasions when clients have purchased their own plants or materials there have sometimes been delays to the start of the project, or the quality of the plants or materials is below what we would be happy with.
You’re welcome to manage some aspects of the project, such as purchasing planters or water features etc., but for quality reasons it’s best to let us manage most if not all other aspects. If you would like to manage staff or handle transport and deliveries then rather use us on a consultative basis.
Anytime, but in our view the best months are autumn and winter as this gives your plants time to establish themselves before the onset of spring. These months are also quiet times for the green industry, which means less of a waiting period to do your garden, and lower costs, since most suppliers increase their pricing in spring. We use hardy, indigenous plant material, so there is little chance of losing your plants to the cold.
Usually only one. We have a small team whom we dedicate to one project at a time. If we do have a secondary project it is usually a maintenance job.
This depends on the size and complexity of the project. Most gardens can be completed in 2-4 weeks, whilst very small gardens may take only a day or two. Larger projects, which require the use of earth moving equipment, may take 6 weeks or more.
We manage all aspects of your project, but this means we may be out at times selecting your plants or collecting materials. We also meet with new clients during the day. When not on site we have a team leader who leads the team under our instruction, otherwise we will be on site managing your project.
We are irrigation specialists and are equipped to repair your water mains, irrigation pipes and pool pipes if we hit these during the installation. Having said this, it is helpful if a client is able to mark these pipes out for us prior to installation, but in most cases, clients are not sure exactly where their underground pipes are, so we will repair them if we accidentally hit them. For electrical cables we use a qualified electrician, but for gas and fibre lines we recommend that your gas/fibre technicians be on standby, or that they come to mark these out for us prior to installation.
No. Tree felling is a specialised field so if you require tree-felling we will either sub-contract the work or recommend a reputable service provider.
It is helpful if clients are available at some points during the project, so that we can discuss progress and possible improvements, changes that perhaps were not evident at the start. If you are planning to go away for an extended period then it would be best to delay the start of the project until you are back.
Yes, there are a few things that make our lives easier, so if you’re able to assist us with these it would be appreciated:
If you are installing an indigenous garden, then the short answer is no, you do not need an irrigation system. Our whole ethos is to design and install beautiful, indigenous, waterwise gardens, so if we are going to create such a garden for you then we would recommend that you do not install irrigation. It's true that initial watering of the plants is important, usually for the first few months, but after 6-12 months your plants should have established themselves sufficiently to rely on rain water. We have many clients with indigenous gardens who water their plants manually as and when required, and for whom an irrigation system would now be redundant. See below for when an irrigation system is useful.
Irrigation systems are useful in the following scenarios:
Most irrigation companies are working hard to develop technologies that can help consumers save water. Drippers, dripper lines, and low-precipitation nozzles are all sprinkler technologies that allow for efficient use of the water you put down in your garden. Additionally, computer technologies - such as Hunter Hydrawise - allow you to monitor and manage your irrigation system from your phone, providing water-usage alerts or even shutting off the system if rain is imminent. These technologies, coupled with rain and/or soil sensors, help to ensure your irrigation system is efficient.
Yes, if it used when it is not needed. We sometimes find that there is a tendency to want to use an irrigation system (especially if it is fed from a borehole), even if the garden does not need it. Overwatering is one of the most common problems we see in gardens, and can result in an increased risk of fungal growth and disease, soggy lawns, or nutrients being leached from the soil. An irrigation system should be used as sparingly as possible, as and when the plants need it.
Our - rather unscientific - answer to this question is that the plants will tell you. It's important to be 'in touch' with your garden and your plants. Many plants show signs of stress if they are being over or underwatered, and you will only spot this if you spend time in your garden. If a large-leaved forest shrub droops during the day, for example, but comes 'back to life' in the evening, then chances are this plant is using an in-built mechanism to reduce water loss, and is perfectly fine. If, however, the leaves of a plant are starting to yellow, or the plant is showing signs of fungal growth, then this might be a sign that it is being overwatered. Homeowners who regularly check-in with their plants spot these signs before they become bigger problems. As much as irrigation technology can be useful, the best advice is to be involved in the life of your plants and the growth of your garden.
The short answer is that like anything in life, if you take shortcuts with an irrigation installation, then you may well have problems in future. Poor quality fittings and pipe, or poor design or installation, can all lead to maintenance problems. If you are going to install an irrigation system then it's worth investing in a professional design and installation, and quality materials.
One question we often get asked when the plants arrive is: ‘is this all the plants I get?’. When we plan your garden, we take into account the full-grown height and width of each plant, and budget your plant quantities accordingly. It’s tempting to overfill a new garden with lots of plants but this soon leads to an overgrown garden and is a waste of plant material. Planning your garden with its future growth in mind is very important, so although your garden may look sparse to begin with it will soon fill out as your plants grow.
No, we have a selection of preferred plant suppliers in Gauteng and further afield that we use for our projects, and in some cases may use up to 10 or more nurseries for a single project.
This will depend on their size and/or flowering time. We first select plants based on the design, before choosing specimens that may be budding or in flower. Some plants - especially shrubs and trees - may take a few years to establish themselves before they start flowering, whilst some grasses - such as melinis repens - might be in flower for most of the year.
This depends on your requirements, and the species and sizes we have chosen, but in most cases your plants will be small to begin with. Rather than focussing on size though we take care in choosing the appropriate species and their positions, so even though most of the plants will be small initially, they will soon fill out into their spaces as they grow.
This depends on the plant species, watering, and after-care given to them. Most groundcovers will fill out after two years, whilst some shrubs may take 2-5 years. Most trees spend the first few years of their life establishing their root systems before they show signs of growth above ground, so expect your trees to start growing significantly only after 2-3 years.
Yes. Trees form the backbone to the structure of the garden, so choosing a tree with the correct shape is important. Additionally, we also take care in positioning the tree during planting, so that its structure – such as the way it forks – is positioned appropriately.
Yes. Please note however that we cannot, by law, move cycads without the necessary permits. To obtain permits for your cycads please contact the Cycad Society:
Yes, but expect the costs to be significantly higher than normal. Installing an instant garden often requires purchasing the most established plants available, and/or overplanting them for effect. If they are overplanted then they may have to be thinned out at a later date, which is a waste of plant material. Instant gardens are possible but are best done on a small scale, such as a small show garden. Otherwise we recommend planting your garden with a long-term goal in mind.
Yes, we will take this into account and choose non-toxic plants.
That is fine, there are a few species (most notably some of the Acacias), that have a tendency to drop thorns. Keep in mind though that some species produce many thorns initially – as a protective barrier against browsing animals – but then lose some of their ‘thorniness’ as they mature.
Yes, we can choose species that have softer foliage. We do however try to create wildlife-friendly spaces, and some spiky-looking plants are much loved by insects and birds for their food, nesting sites, and perching opportunities. With every garden we try to find a happy medium for both you and the local wildlife. Additionally, our themed gardens are designed to mimic natural habitats, so apart from practical aspects to the design, some spiky plants may be beneficial for biodiversity.
Yes, we can. South Africa is home to a vast variety of indigenous plants that fit this colour scheme.
That is fine, we can choose species that do not have messy fruit. Additionally, depending on the species, we can choose male plants instead of females, which bear the fruit. Harpephyllum caffrum (Wild Plum) is an example of this.
Yes, we can, and we’ll go through the tree options with you. Keep in mind though that all trees lose their leaves, and some evergreen species are some of the messiest trees of all! Additionally, some semi-deciduous or even fully deciduous species still provide screening throughout the year, because whilst they may lose their leaves in winter, they may also be laden with seeds pods at this time – Acacia (=Vachellia) galpinii (Monkey Thorn) is a good example of this. We’ll go through the pros and cons of each species with you.
Most indigenous gardens require minimal care, as the plants are hardy and waterwise, and resistant to disease. Initially though you will need to ensure that your new garden is watered regularly (at least 2-4 weeks after installation), that weeds are removed, and that your trees are staked correctly. After installation we’ll provide you with instructions on how to maintain your garden, including weeding, pruning, and watering cycles, and for high-maintenance areas such as lawns, water features and ponds we’ll provide further details on how to maintain these. We also provide seasonal management to help ensure your garden remains healthy and is developing correctly.
Yes, it is always a pleasure to have gardeners who are willing to learn how to maintain our gardens. We can either get your gardener involved during the installation process, or train them on the last days of the project. There are also excellent external gardener training courses available. Contact us for further details.
Yes. Because we are creating new beds or altering old ones, and enriching your soil with compost, fertiliser, and mulch, you will find additional weed growth after your garden has been completed. This is especially common where we have removed lawn, as lawn seeds may remain in the soil and germinate after installation. Over time your ground covers will crowd out the weeds, but initially you will need to spend time weeding your garden.
No. We use mulch to cover the open surface areas of your new garden, and use groundcovers which will eventually cover the soil. Mulch protects the soil and keeps it moist, which helps the growth of micro-organisms. These in turn break down dead plant material, which helps to feed your plants. Turning the soil interferes with this process by exposing these micro-organisms to heat, which them and slowly degrades the quality of your soil.
We use indigenous plant material which attracts natural predators to keep pest numbers under control. In exceptional cases where intervention is required, we will recommend appropriate methods, with a preference for organic products which will not have a negative impact on the environment.
This depends on the plant zones and micro-climate(s) within your garden, which we’ll advise on after installation. Initially you will need to water your garden every day for 2-4 weeks, and thereafter we’ll provide a recommended watering schedule. If we have created a biome-themed garden for you then it is likely you will not need to water your garden after 6-12 months, as the garden should be able to rely on rainfall.