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How to: soften a driveway

Photo - Linda Ross

Driveways are a necessary practicality for most of us and all too often they are uninspiring. Clever plant choices can bring the area back to life, softening the look of all that concrete or brick and creating a space that really does welcome you home. 

Keep practicalities in mind - a row of trees may look great when they first go in, but grow to block your view and impede access. Choose plants that suit the style of the garden and house and avoid any that may scratch the car or, more importantly, the people getting in and out of it. Here are a few ideas to inspire.

A grand drive

If you have a large driveway a border of ornamental trees looks especially grand Avoid plants that prone to suckering or dropping branches. Trees with a slender shape work well, such as Pyrus calleryana 'Capital'. Prune off lower branches to keep a clean trunk.


A hedged drive

Soil close to concrete or paving is often poor, so choose hedging plants that are robust. Callistemon ‘Great Balls of Fire’ is a native that creates a great hedge. For a softer look, consider a double ‘hedge’ of purple fountain grass 'Rubrum Dwarf' backing the glossy green foliage of Lomandra 'Tanika'. Agapanthus (pictured above) makes an excellent evergreen border to paths and driveways in areas exposed to hot afternoon sun. Look for hybrids such as ‘Purple Cloud’, ’Black Panda’ and ‘Queen Mum’ for maximum effect.


Strips tease

The strips between and alongside the driveway can also be brought to fragrant life with ‘Doone Valley’ prostrate thyme. If the driveway is in shade, try Viola banksii. We also like rosette succulents like hen and chicks (Echeveria) for super-sunny places.


Wall dressing

Retaining walls that border a driveway can be softened with cascading plants such as Casuarina 'Cousin It' or scaevola, which comes in a variety of flower colours. Both are natives and highly suited to spilling over wall edges.  


Text: Shane Neil

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Author: Shane Neil