When you start designing a new garden in Sydney or redesigning an old one, it’s easy to get overwhelmed incredibly quickly. You need to know everything from soil type, to native plants, and even then you’ve got to get to grips with proper maintenance for Sydney gardens.
Sydney is an unusually kind part of Australia to grow in, with a milder climate than Northern Australia, and more reliable weather too, so it’s one of the easiest parts of the country to learn to garden.
If you’re not a fan of getting down in the dirt though, there are plenty of great garden designers in Sydney, as well as landscape and garden designers all over New South Wales that can help build your dreams for you.
Gardening in Sydney
When to Start Gardening in Sydney
Gardening starts in October in Sydney, so if you want to build a kitchen garden, make the most of that warm spring and plan for after Christmas.
You’ll be harvesting some of the best crops in summer, but they’ll need plenty of water, and even the Mediterranean crops need a little bit of shade from the summer heat when possible.
Any plant in Sydney needs to be able to cope with high temperatures, with the highest ever summer temperature here recorded at 45.8°C, so we’re talking tropicals, and planting for shade.
There are downsides to the Sydney heat though, such as limitations of the oriental trees we can grow, and more complex germination requirements of plants in a climate that very rarely freezes.
Popular Sydney Garden Styles
You should always try to use native plants where possible in Sydney because the climate is unpredictable, extremely warm, often dry, and when it rains it really, really, rains.
Native plants have evolved to cope with that, while the majority of plants sold in garden centres are formal northern hemisphere plants like rosemary and box hedging, which look great, but don’t perform well in hot dry climates.
Our favourite garden styles in Sydney are:
Try to stick to Chinese species rather than Japanese oriental plants, Chinese plants tend to be more adapted to high temperatures – particularly rockery species like Azalea, which grow great in gravel and rockery beds with added soil improver. They thrive in well-drained beds with added compost and add a really traditional oriental touch
The other benefit of Oriental gardening is the inclusion of garden structures, whether that’s Japanese tea houses, or Chinese arches and moon gates, which provide structure and shade in gardens.
By far the most important element of an oriental garden is water though, with symbolic uses across formal Chinese and Japanese gardens throughout history, and a useful function in Sydney gardening as it helps to humidity and cools the air no matter how big or small your water feature is.
Kitchen gardens can be very thirsty here in Sydney, with tomatoes needing daily watering to stop them from wilting during fruiting season, and soft Mediterranean herbs preferring hydroponics to the soil, even growing in shade in some gardens.
Choosing a kitchen or edible garden is a really cost-effective way to garden, and can save you money in the long run, but it doesn’t end to look like a messy allotment, Kitchen gardens can be beautiful spaces, and any garden designer in Sydney worth their price tag will help you design a properly irrigated veggie garden.
Modern Sydney Gardens
It’s hard to define a modern garden, but most modern gardens in Sydney use more formal Mediterranean planting styles, with crisp walls, and glass railings to help keep an uninterrupted flow to a garden.
Mediterranean style gardens, with their neat water features and swimming pools, can be a really practical use of space too, even if you choose a more unique forest green colour scheme for walls and floors to keep it looking cosy.
If you live in Western Australia, be sure to know your pool fencing regulations if you do decide to add one in your home.
While Sydney is more exposed than the tropics it’s easy to recreate a tropical paradise in any part of Sydney, making the most of the sun for your plants, and helping create an enclosed private space for you and your family.
Tropical gardens have been treated like quite clinical spaces until recently, with modern garden designers who understand tropical plants better now, more able to recreate their natural environment so a good tropical garden should have very limited open space.
Make planting pockets available under larger trees and shrubs so you get a green backdrop with layers of exquisite colour using plants that are difficult to grow anywhere else in the world.
Most gardeners in Sydney will offer a standard package for a functional garden, whether it’s to help you make the most of your space, give the kids somewhere safe to play, or add value to your house with a new outdoor kitchen.
But functional might mean something else to you, so find the best garden designer in Sydney using our guide below, and make sure you have got the best irrigation kit installed too. Any gardener looking for new homes wants a blank slate, so a functional garden is a great way to add value to your home.
How to Design a Garden in Sydney
Whatever gardening style you choose there are two rules for any garden in Sydney or New South Wales; increase humidity, and increase shade.
Your garden should be a haven and there are no set rules for garden design, so whether you’re working by yourself or with the best garden designer in Sydney, set your goals, and decide what you want to get out of it.
Including Water in Your Design
I can’t imagine any garden without water. If I was designing a garden in Venice, I’d still include water, so I’m biassed, but there is a practical side to it too.
Whether you include a single small fountain, a swimming pool, or dig up your entire garden and install a small lake (a genuine dream of mine), you’re doing the same thing: increasing humidity, and cooling the air.
Cool air helps plants photosynthesise with less strain. So by including the water you’re making greener, healthier plants, and the biggest bonus? Water is the single best way to add a sense of calm to a garden.
Add Some Shade in Your Garden
Shade comes in all forms, so when you’re designing a Sydney garden you need to know how you’re going to include shade. Tree? Pergolas? Screens? Parasols?
The sky is literally the limit, but whether you’re designing your own garden, or getting help from gardeners in Sydney, make sure you find someone who can get you what you want.
The best gardeners are the ones who aren’t limited by their experience and have the confidence to go above and beyond to get you the garden of your dreams rather than something off the shelf.
Common Native Plants for Sydney Gardens
Here is a list of some common Australian native plants that grow well in Sydney – including native trees, shrubs, grasses, under story plants and ground covers;
Things to Look for When Hiring a Gardener in Sydney
There are three main factors when choosing the best gardener in Sydney, and they are skills, knowledge and experience. The same as hiring for any job role really, but there are a few things to look for in any gardener that will help you separate the best gardeners from the worst.
You can easily measure a gardener's knowledge by their qualifications (check their online reviews or website), and their experience is much more subjective than in most other scenarios.
Essentially, if you like their work, they’re got the experience you need. The only real measure of a gardener’s skill is to see before and after pictures.
What did the garden look like before they got there? What did it look like when they had finished? And, most importantly, what did it look like after 5 years?
While there are degrees, apprenticeships and a whole host of formal qualifications that will show you when a gardener is serious, really it should always come down to their portfolio, their experience and their ability to show evidence of successful garden design projects in the past.
If you’re looking for serious professional garden designers in Sydney though, you need to look for at least a BTEC qualification in garden design, but horticultural degrees and postgraduate qualifications show you that a gardener is serious about their work.
Consider the job you’re hiring for too. Most gardeners in Sydney are specialists, so if you’re looking for tree care, find a qualified tree surgeon. Equally, for lawn care, find someone who knows what they’re doing.
Experience / Portfolio
When you’re looking through a gardener’s portfolio, make sure you actually like their work. Not liking their designs doesn’t make you rude, it’s just a matter of taste.
Some garden designers have very unique styles that don’t suit every gardener, so always have an open conversation about expectations before asking anyone to draw up plans.
When looking at past work too, it’s important to ask for any recent images of past projects so you know how their gardens age.
Some gardens look incredible when they’re first planted but the best gardeners in Sydney understand the conditions and will factor in care and maintenance in their designs.
Skills & Plant Knowledge
The big difference between garden design and interior design is that, while both require a flair for design, and a creative mind, garden design requires an in-depth knowledge of plants, their natural habitats and how to control, plant and care for them.
If you can find a qualified landscape architect to design your garden, it’s definitely more expensive, but they will have a vast knowledge of plants and their growing habits in practical settings.
But you can also save money by hiring a qualified horticulturist or botanist who will know just as much about each pant, but perhaps have a less expansive knowledge of their practical impact on the space around them.
Do you have a gardener? Are you looking to hire one? More and more people are choosing to hire a gardener to maintain their property instead of doing it themselves and it is imperative that you choose wisely.
What the wrong gardener can do in 10 minutes could take 10 months to rectify. One of my clients hired a gardener to trim her hedges. To her horror, when he finished she could barely tell she even had a hedge, the plants were trimmed back so much!
By the time she called me in it had been 8 months and the hedges still had not grown back to their desired shape.
What to Consider before giving a gardener the job
1. What is their appearance like?
Have they dressed relatively nicely for a tradesman or are they scruffy and unkempt? Remember, you are hiring them to care for your plants.
Do you want to hire someone who doesn’t care for their own appearance to care for the appearance of your garden?
2. Can they talk the talk?
By this I mean, do they seem to understand what you are asking them to do. Many good gardeners won’t know everything but they should at least be able to follow your conversation and perhaps even suggest idea’s as you go.
If they seem lost with what you are talking about, they are probably lost about what to do. This is no sure way to determine if they do know what to do, because it isn’t that hard to fake it, but if they can’t even fake it…do you want to trust your garden to them?
3. Do they mind you asking questions?
A good gardener will not just see you as a means to making money but will see your garden as something they want to partner with you to improve.
If they don’t seem to mind you asking questions they are probably going to be a better fit for you.
What to look at after giving a gardener the job
4. How did they leave the place?
Did they sweep up after themselves? Put everything back to its rightful place if they moved it? If they’ve taken care to leave your place well it is more likely they’ll have cared to do a good job.
If they leave it messy, that often means they are a person who takes shortcuts that may not be beneficial to your garden.
5. Check the most obscure part of your garden, has it been touched? Are their any hidy-holes around your place?
The best gardeners will take care of your property regardless of how visible it is. Sure, they might do a better job of the most prominent places because they will be seen the most, but even the unseen should be looked after.
Check underneath bushes to see if they have bothered to remove any weeds that may be hiding. If they have been thorough here then chances are they are thorough in every way.
6. Are they clear and above board about payment?
This might sound like a strange one but if your gardener is willing to turn a blind eye to things regarding payment, they may well have also turned a blind eye to other elements of plant care that could save them money.
No one likes paying taxes but a gardener that shows integrity and treats your job above board is far more likely, in my experience, to do the very best job.
Paying cash is fine but I myself would be wary of offering cash as an incentive to get it cheaper simply because it means that gardener is willing to cut corners. I will receive cash but it will always be above board.
Sydney Garden Design FAQs
What should I pay for garden design in Sydney?
Garden designers will usually charge between 10-20% of the overall cost of a garden renovation as their design fee. If that fee included management and landscaping, that fee will increase, but your overall costs will reduce by using one contractor for all jobs.
Is a garden designer a landscape architect?
A landscape architect can be a garden designer, but a garden designer can’t just call themselves a landscape architect. Landscape architecture is an intensive degree level qualification, with many architects choosing to specialise in garden design after graduation. The best garden designers have this qualification.
Is it worth paying for a garden designer?
Good garden design is always worth the money you pay. The more you pay, the more involved your designer will be, and the more bespoke your space will become.
For passionate gardeners, the impulse is to design and build your own space, but for most gardeners, it’s important to get the groundwork in place before you’re ready to do the maintenance.
How does a garden designer work?
A garden designer will begin by viewing your plot, and having an informal conversation (usually free of charge), then drawing up some preliminary designs (usually for a small fee to cover time). If the client is happy, they will agree on a budget with the garden designer, and the final designs are drawn and followed by installation.
I run Online Garden Design offering an Australia wide custom landscape design service and DIY guides online. We create unique garden design based on your wants and needs, and show you how to build your own garden with our complete do it yourself guidelines, or alternatively our design packages can be used for contractors to quote from and build off.
Hire Only the Best Gardeners in Sydney
We’re always looking for the best garden designers in Australia, and the best gardeners in Sydney so we can keep up to date with trends, and who’s doing what.
Gardening is an ever-changing game, with new fashions coming and going, but for us, at Aussie Green Thumb it’s all about one practical question; will my garden last?
The best garden designers in Sydney will always be able to show you examples of their past work, so you know exactly how it will hold up to the Sydney weather.
It’s their job to get the details right, but it’s your job to decide on the best style for your garden, and at the very least, find a list of plants you know and love.