Have you ever spent a few weekends cultivating a beautiful garden, only to find your flowers wilting and your vegetables overrun with pests, your dreams of a Pinterest-worthy garden now dashed?
Landscape designer Daniel Tyrrell says most of his clients draw inspiration from photographs they see in magazines or online, without realising that gardens of any size require regular upkeep.
"They pick out these gardens that look fantastic," he says. "But that kind of garden always has someone who loves it and wants to be a part of it, or someone who is paid to look after it."
A lush and healthy garden, even ones designed to be low maintenance, need consistent love and care.
"A garden is like a pet," says Tyrrell. "It's not just for Christmas."
But you don't have to be a green thumb or a plant-whisperer to have a gorgeous garden. We asked the experts for tips and tricks they use to keep their gardens looking great.
Carve out a little time each week to tend to your garden. Photo: OzCameraman
1. Break it down
We all lead busy lives, and for some people, gardening can feel like a chore akin to housekeeping. But carving out a little time each week to tend to your garden can make a huge difference to its success.
"Just try to be out there," says gardener, author and botanical artist Cheralyn Darcey. "Walk around every morning with your coffee to have a look at everything.
"Then you'll see problems before they become major things that you have to worry about."
Gardening expert and broadcaster Linda Ross says she splits her gardening work into smaller tasks that are easily accomplished.
"If you break it down into little jobs - maybe half an hour every weekend. It keeps everything under control," she says.
Companion plants like marigolds help attract pollinating bees and deter unwelcome insects. Photo: Schnuddel
2. Use the right tools
You should also stock your garden shed with the basics - anything you need to keep your garden fed, watered and pruned.
A "good garden hose" will go a long way, says Tyrrell, who recommends a hose with adjustable sprays. And consider ditching any older models you might have inherited from family or friends.
"As a hose gets older, it tends to become more brittle and twisted," he says. "That can put a dampener on the small amount of maintenance you need to do."
Jim's Mowing contractor and Honda ambassador George Labbad says home gardeners should have equipment they enjoy using.
"If you've got equipment that's easy to start and easy to use, you're more likely to get out there," he says. "Then your garden is going to look better and be easier to maintain."
The Honda VersaTool Power Head is a good investment, says Labbad, because it can be used with a range of attachments for any gardening need.
"It can have a hedgecutter in two different sizes, an extension pole, a pruner, brushcutter, blower, edger and a cultivator," he says. "It covers a lot of tools."
Regular mowing is essential for a healthy lawn. Photo: Supplied
Regular pruning keeps plants looking happy and healthy, but Labbad applies the same logic to lawn maintenance.
"If you want a beautiful looking lawn, mow it regularly," he says. "Think of a lawn as thousands of individual plants that need to be pruned."
The Honda HRU19M1 mower also comes with a mulch-and-catch plug, allowing you to redistribute nutrient-dense lawn clippings back into the soil.
3. Take control
Slow-release fertilisers will keep your plants looking healthy for months at a time, and may even help them fend off pests.
"Once plants get hungry, they get a little bit weak," Ross says. "Fertiliser keeps them strong to prevent pests or diseases."
Darcey uses companion plants, such as pansies, marigolds and pyrethrum daisies, in her vegetable plot to attract pollinating bees and deter unwelcome insects.
She says home gardeners should be more enthusiastic about trimming plants and deadheading flowers to encourage growth.
"Don't be scared of cutting flowers and taking them inside," she adds. "They'll thicken up and grow much better if you tidy things up."
4. The little touches
There is no use having a garden if you can't have fun with it. Functional spaces, such as outdoor seating and dining areas, can instantly make a garden feel more comfortable and inviting.
The structures inside a garden can change the way you approach the outdoors. Adding an ivy-covered archway, for example, can make you feel like you are walking into another room - or even a magical secret garden.
"I'm crazy about arches," says Darcey. "I love that feeling of walking from one space to another through an arch. It transports you."
And what's a secret garden without whimsical d??cor?
"I do have little fairies and things in my vegetables," she says. "It's for the children, but even the adults get a smile."
5. Ask for advice
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Neighbours can be a good source of information about local soil and plant varieties.
"My number one tip is walk down the street," says Darcey. "Find the nicest garden and ask them what grows there.
"Grow what people are already having success with in your area and you will get a lush, beautiful garden."
And when you are really stumped, there is always the internet.
"Google is the best tool," says Tyrrell. "I use it all the time."