, a combination of fig trees (Ficus microcarpa var. hillii), clumping slender weaver’s bamboo (Bambusa textilis var. gracilis) and a low-growing ground cover looks effortlessly chic. To get a similar look, choose poolside plantings with interesting forms and foliage, saving colourful flowers for other areas of the garden. Ficus offers the advantage of having little leaf-drop and filling in quickly to provide dense coverage – useful for creating privacy around a pool or covering a fence with green. Like all bamboos, slender weaver’s does exhibit some leaf-drop, but the designer, DDB Design Development & Building, has cleverly set it back from the pool for easy sweep up.
Stepping stones and pavers are key features of a Zen garden. Not only do they create a stable surface on which to rest a bench or table setting, but they provide a wonderful textural contrast to the greenery in the garden. A solid concrete paver is a good choice. I’d suggest picking a style with a light texture; not only will it provide a slip-resistant surface for walking, but the exposed aggregate will pick up on the light tones in any pale stones used in the garden and create a cohesive look. Adbri’s Euro Stone paver is one of my favourites.
What are the key features of a Zen garden? Dark pavers Decorative stones over weed mat Potted plants with different-coloured greenery Minimalist lines Contrasting textures (such as smooth pebbles contrasting with lush, textured greenery) Plants in a Zen garden might include: zoysia liriope buxus balls
Devil’s Ivy Botanical name: Epipremnum aureum There’s nothing devilish about this graceful low-care climber, except its toxicity to animals and little kids and its invasiveness if planted outside. Its charm is in its arrowhead-shaped leaves, sometimes with delicate gold striations. Prefers: Partial all-year-round shade and an occasional water spritz. It really can’t be under-watered, so step away with the watering can unless it’s quite dry. Hates: Draughts, cold
ucky Bamboo Botanical name: Dracaena sanderiana An almost foolproof plant, this is not a bamboo but a dracaena that thrives indoors. It’s the Esther Williams of house plants, a water baby that doesn’t need soil to grow. Many come from China twisted into fantastic spirals. Prefers: Indirect average to low light. It’s sensitive to chemicals, so treat it to a few centimetres of filtered water in a tall glass container with a layer of pebbles in the base. Change water once a week and add a drop of liquid fertiliser once a month. Hates: Direct sunlight. Dirty water.
Peace Lily Botanical name: Spathiphyllum The peace lily is a survivor, producing much of its own food and sending forth creamy spoon-shaped candle-like flowers when it feels the urge. It’s lovely in the bedroom, where it is said to purify the air, and has a serenity that suits a quiet retreat. Prefers: A low-sunlight spot and a pot large enough for it to produce its abundant glossy foliage. Ensure soil stays moist but not soggy – investigate a self-watering device if you are going to be away for a while. Clip old leaves from the base to encourage growth. Hates: Extremes of temperature. Caution: Although it’s unlikely that a dog or person will chew on your peace lily, be aware the leaves are poisonous and the sap is an irritant.
Spider Plant Botanical name: Chlorophytum comosum This spidery beauty, with all-green or variegated green and white striped leaves, tolerates a wide range of conditions and doesn’t ask for much. When little spiderettes appear on the end of leaves, plant some in small pots, still attached to the main plant. As they take root, cut them loose from Mum – it’s for their own good. Prefers: Bright indirect light and well-drained soil. Allow soil to dry between waterings. Keep your spider on the cool side, perhaps moving it to a cooler spot during summer. Hates: Not much really – just don’t saturate soil.
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (a.k.a. Snake Plant) Botanical name: Sansevieria trifasciata Meet the Bear Grylls of the plant world; resilient, infallible and attractive. This boldly upright succulent is dramatic in a modern setting, forming a living sculpture. Its rich green lemon-striped vertical leaves emphasise room height, enhance timber tones and improve air quality. Prefers: Moderately bright light conditions, tending towards low light with occasional dappled sun. Dryish warm air, light peaty soil and an occasional wipe of its leaves to keep their pores clean. Err on the side of less water to avoid root rot. Hates: Being drowned and having water poured directly onto its leaf rosettes – water the soil only. Note: It’s better potted indoors than in the garden. It has a weedy reputation and can spread vigorously, crowding out other growth.
Aloe Vera Botanical name: Aloe barbadensis Aloe, aloe – welcome these spiky wonders into your home for more than one reason. They are living first aid kits – keep one in the kitchen to salve burns and scrapes. Simply snap off a small length of leaf and squeeze the pure gel onto the wound. You can also add the gel to healthy drinks. Prefers: Sandy soil. Allow soil to dry between deep waterings and repot only when roots appear from the bottom of the pot. Hates: Premature repotting. Harsh light, high humidity – like most succulents, they’d rather not live in the bathroom.
Jade Plant (a.k.a. Money Plant) Botanical name: Crassula ovata The jade plant has amazing longevity, sometimes outlasting its original owner. With its pretty, bright green glossy leaves, it really shines in a group of small potted plants with contrasting colours and leaf forms. Prefers: A well-ventilated spot. It’s tough enough to withstand either lots of natural sunlight or a darker spot, even artificial light, and is content to stay in the same pot and soil for years. Hates: Getting cold and unnecessary watering. Water only when thoroughly dry and keep barely moist in winter. Caution: Keep kids and animals away from this plant; the sap is poisonous if ingested.
Ponytail Palm Botanical name: Beaucarnea recurvata Not a palm, but a relative of the yucca, this plant has a dashing demeanour and graceful drooping habit. A mature specimen makes a dramatic focal point in a large space. Prefers: Bright light or full sun, and low humidity – it loves the dry air of heated homes. It rarely needs repotting, performs best when root-bound and can grow to two metres-plus high, although it can be bonsai-ed. Hates: This creature of the Mexican desert isn’t too keen on water, so only water when soil feels totally dry. Over-watering turns the leaf tips brown – just snip them off.
Moth Orchid Botanical name: Phalaenopsis This popular orchid with its butterfly-like winged petals is not as delicate as it appears. I’ve had three beautiful years out of a supermarket specimen, with little attention. Keep those gorgeous blooms coming by pruning when flowers drop and no more buds are visible. Snip stems, leaving two nodes below the cut, repot in orchid mix and feed with orchid food once a year. It should flower again – be patient. Prefers: Moderate light, but not direct sunlight; a light bathroom where it can enjoy a little steam bath when you shower, or an occasional spritz of water. Hates: Over-watering and wet feet. A small drink every 7-10 days is plenty. Place container on a bed of pebbles to drain off excess.