A landscape designer’s guide to turf selection

Embarking on the journey to design a breathtaking landscape can be likened to curating nature’s own masterpiece. “For landscape architects, our canvas extends beyond the hardscapes and plantings to encompass the very ground beneath our client’s feet – their turf,” says Nathan Burkett, Director of NBLA.

Turf selection is a realm where aesthetics meet resilience, and every choice involves a weighted consideration of nature’s elements, client preferences and lifestyle, and of course aesthetics. Here, NBLA delves into the intricacies of turf selection, exploring the myriad factors at play when choosing the right lawn for its clients.

Climate Variations

Australia’s climatic diversity requires careful consideration of turf varieties that can thrive in different weather conditions. Warm-season grasses like Buffalo (Stenotaphrum secundatum), Couch (Cynodon dactylon), and Zoysia excel in hotter climates like Queensland and Northern Territory, while cool-season grasses such as RTF Fescue (Rhizomatous Tall Fescue) and Premium Kikuyu are better suited for the milder climates of southern regions like Victoria and Tasmania. Melbourne experiences a temperate climate marked by four distinct seasons. Our Landscape designers must account for both the hot, dry spells of summer and the cooler, wetter conditions in winter. For this reason, NBLA favours RTF Fescue and Sir Grange for its Melbourne projects.

Site Analysis

Site-specific factors such as soil composition, temperature variations, and rainfall patterns must also be carefully considered. This ensures that the chosen turf not only survives but thrives in its unique environment.

Melbourne’s soil diversity requires a thorough soil analysis before turf selection. From heavy clay soils in some areas to sandy soils in others, NBLA seek to match turf varieties to specific soil conditions. Buffalo grass, known for its adaptability, can thrive in various soil types, making it a popular choice. Additionally, fine fescue varieties are suitable for well-drained soils.

Shade tolerance can be equally as important depending on the site. In urban environments or areas with mature trees, the shade tolerance of turf becomes a significant factor. Fescue varieties are well-suited for partially shaded areas, ensuring that the lawn remains healthy and lush even where there is less exposure to sunlight.

A Client-Centric Approach

Understanding the client’s lifestyle and preferences is paramount in turf selection. NBLA work closely with clients to choose a turf variety that aligns with how they intend to use the space and their maintenance expectations.

Certain lawn species can withstand foot traffic better than others, so it’s important for NBLA to understand if the client anticipates heavy wear on the turf. Similarly, for clients with pets, consideration is given to the durability, recovery rate, and maintenance requirements of various lawn species. NBLA will also consult clients on texture preferences and allergy considerations where present.

NBLA architects strive to ensure that the maintenance expectations of the client align with the demands of the chosen turf, considering factors such as mowing frequency, irrigation needs, and susceptibility to pests and diseases. For clients seeking minimal upkeep, low-maintenance options like Sir Walter Buffalo or Sir Grange may be recommended. In cases where sustainability is top of mind, Sir Walter and warm-season grasses like Zoysia prove beneficial due to their drought resistance, enduring longer dry periods with less frequent watering. On the other hand, high-maintenance turf varieties such as Fescue may be more suitable for those who prioritise achieving a meticulously manicured appearance.

Aesthetic Appeal

The visual appeal of the turf is a key component in landscape design. The colour, texture, and density of the grass all contribute to the overall ambience of the outdoor space. Some homeowners may prefer a lush, green lawn, while others may lean towards a more natural, meadow-like appearance. Garden designers need to align the turf’s aesthetic qualities with client preferences and the overall design theme.

Specifying the best turf for a garden is not a flippant task, it takes consultation and careful consideration. “In some cases, there may not be a single lawn species that satisfies every criterion, but there will be one that is better suited than the rest,” concludes Nathan Burkett.