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Microclimates and Perth Garden Design

Microclimates and Perth Garden Design
May 24, 2019 Luke Porter

Microclimates and Perth Garden Design

A good landscape design should work with the local conditions to make or build on a variety of microclimates. With an average of 600-800mm (up to 1200mm in the Perth Hills) and a temperature range of 41 to 14 from summer to winter, Perths’ overall climate is enviable. On a local garden by garden-scale though, these conditions can be much more variable. A microclimate is defined by a range of factors including sunlight, temperature, air circulation and depth of soil. One suburban block can have everything from full shade to full sun exposure, so it’s a good idea to understand how to incorporate this information into a practical and functional garden design and plant selection. As a first step in developing a garden, a landscape designer would map out and record these areas.

A simplified example of a Perth garden, would be something like this-

Arid zone:

Front garden area, bounded by concreted and paving and facing west. Can be used for offstreet parking, bin storage and all weather access, carport coverage.

Full -Partial Shade zone:

Along either side of the house, for example outside the laundry side of the block, often on the southern side of the block. Although, modern housing developments leave little room between fence and the house, there is still scope to maximise gardens in this space.

Temperate zone:

Rear garden area, partially shaded by mature trees and structures like a patio. Mostly protected from the heat of the afternoon sun and strong winds. This may be the largest and most commonly used zone for the whole family, used for every activity from backyard cricket to sit down entertainment space. This may also incorporate a pool or spa zone.

In each one of these microclimate zones, there will be a plant selection that performs best in those conditions. A Landscape design plan will list a range of plants, suited to these conditions in Perth gardens.

Arid zone plants

Like succulents, agaves, and some forms of cactus can make a great feature in these zones. With little need for constant care and maintenance this is one of the most waterwise styles of planting. One of the main considerations to take into account with these plants is making sure that drainage is good. If there are walkways or paths through these microclimates, take this into account when locating any cactus plantings

Cactus plant​ in garden, Arid Plants, Echinocactus
succulents

Full-Partial Shade zone plants

Can be ferns and bromeliads, palms, ornamental gingers, and other plants that like a protected position, with a good supply of water and less frost. If space is limited you can even consider using fences and house walls to setup a vertical garden. There is also the option in these zones to use plants in pots or narrow raised garden beds. Pots can be moved as the seasons change and raised garden beds can build the soil profile to ensure a cool root zone for some the shade loving plants

tropical banana palm leaves texture green background
Tropical palm leaves, floral pattern background

Temperate zone plants

The range of suitable plants for this zone is highly varied. A garden design can incorporate a vegetable patch, firepit, swimming pool, outdoor kitchen, ornamental garden, hedging and screening. The options are virtually limited only by the space available, all the more reason to design well for those conditions.

French lavender in scented gardens
Orange garden in sunlight with rape orange fruits on the sunny trees and fresh green leaves

Making the most of the Perth conditions, maximising the use of space, and landscaping a garden that flows neatly from one microclimate zone to another is something that makes for a great garden design.  With experience, some of the top tips for designing for microclimates can become a natural process.

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