Like any relationship, the first impression your garden makes can enhance or destroy your chances of success in this year’s Die Burger and PE Express PE Garden of the Year competition.

So says well-known local landscaper, Sonette Gouws, who is no stranger to titivating gardens to look their best for special functions such as weddings, barmitzvahs or, in this case, competitions.

“The best way to create a good first impression, is to have strategically placed focal points,” she says. “For instance, the view from access points such as driveways, patios, living areas or front entrances could be greatly enhanced with good use of focal points.

“Well-planned focal points will also entice visitors, or judges, to want to see more of the garden. It must draw them to other parts of the garden.”

Gouws says focal points need not only be plants. “Features like water scenes, rocks, sitting areas, trellis work, statues or beautiful containers can be used to create wonderful focal points.”

She advises gardeners with smaller gardens to make use of simple lines when planning their gardens. “Plants and trees that predominantly grow upright and take up very little lateral space, can work well in creating the illusion of space.

“Repetition of the same plants can help to create flow, continuity, order and simplicity. “Remember, the simpler your surroundings, the more the focal points will stand out.”

Lines that are more flowing work well in larger gardens, but it is important not to overdo it, says Gouws. “One can never go wrong with simple and soft lines.”

A neat corporate garden can enhance your business in many ways, she says. “Not only can a nice view from the offices create a pleasant working environment, it also tells visitors something about your business.”

When designing a corporate garden, she advises the use of low maintenance plants. “One could also create interesting features like a smoking den or a meeting place,” she says.

Besides enhancing your home or business, remember that a garden is there to be enjoyed, says Gouws. “It can be designed to create a specific atmosphere – for instance a calming effect. The dripping of water from a water fall or abundant birdlife can transport you into a different world.”

The PE Garden of the Year competition is held in conjunction with Sherwood Garden Centre. Other sponsors are Re/Max Independent Walmer and Swabey Velthuysen Attorneys.

Categories include small, large, water wise and corporate gardens, with each winner receiving a R5 000 gift voucher. The overall winner will be selected from the four category winners. Small, large and water wise gardens can enter in the corporate category.

Judges will be looking at elements such as first impression, focal points and special features, but criteria such as passion, imagination, effort and uniqueness will also be taken into account.

Winning gardens will be featured in the PE Express and the Leefstyl supplement of Die Burger.

To enter, fax the entry form that appears on this page to 041 581 1552 or drop it off at Remax House, 171 Main Road, Walmer, or Sherwood Garden Centre in Walker Drive. The deadline for entries is March 14.

An organiser will contact you to set up a meeting for preliminary judging.

For more information, contact Carmel Wolf at 041 398 4408.