Balinese garden design - overview
The Balinese garden is in some ways like an outdoor living room (or rooms): well decorated with plants but with much more for the people who live there to use and to contemplate.
1. Outdoor living areas, including thatched pavillions and pergolas. These will not only look good but help you enjoy using you garden. Linked with enticing pathways, stairs, bridges and combined with paving and groundcovers, you may even be able to dispense with the lawn altogether.
2. Plants with tropical style - palms and cycads, clumping bamboos, lush and/or brightly colored foliage, flamboyant flowers. Modern interpretations of regional styles incorporate plants from all over the world if they have the "look".
3. Decorative ornaments: stone statues, doors, gates, wall panels, plaques, decorative containers, lanterns, temple flags, furniture, ceremonial umbrellas. One or two decorative pieces will transform a fairly ordinary collection of tropical plants into a "Balinese garden". (Or, by adding Polynesian artifacts, create a Pacific Island style)
4. Water features. Can range from a small urn to a formal pond to a spectacular rock waterfall.
5. Paths throughout the garden encourage exploration. Large paving squares separated by decorative gravel or miniature groundcovers (or used to create stepping stones across a pond) is a popular theme. Areas of ground can be covered in this way for decorative effect and occasional foot traffic.
6. Outdoor lighting will dramatically highlight garden features as well as faciliate night-time entertaining. It may be possible to have lighting installed in some decorative lanterns.
7. A wide verandah or covered patio given a Balinese makeover provides more space for indoor/outdoor living, and a transition between garden and house. Extend the theme further into the house with Balinese furniture and other decorator items.
Some of these aspects are discussed in more detail below.
(Looking for places to buy garden lanterns? Check the suppliers section)
A popular way to add a Balinese touch to a garden is with a traditional thatched wooden lantern. The black fibre thatching looks like hair drawn up into a ponytail. These may be sold as "hairy lanterns".
Alternatively, some lanterns may have a shingle "roof". Decorative lamps carved from stone or cast in stone-effect materials in a variety of designs can also suit a resort-style garden and may be more durable than timber.
If you're intending to have lights installed in your lanterns, be sure that they are actually suitable for that purpose and, of course, observe all the usual precautions with respect to electricity.
Flags and Umbrellas
(Looking for places to buy Balinese flags or umbrellas? Check the suppliers section)
Long tapering pennants, called umbul umbuls, are held upright on tall poles. You may have seen them decorating homes and businesses. They're another way of adding a Balinese touch to a tropical garden without making major changes.
They're also becoming popular for adding a splash of colour to any outdoor scene (with or without a corporate logo). In white, they can also be used to decorate the scene of an outdoor wedding
More information about umbul umbuls here: Balinese flags
Fabric covered temple umbrellas (tedung) like those used for ceremonial purposes in Bali can also be used to decorate outdoor areas including Balinese-style wedding ceremonies.
Statues, Carvings, Decorative Pots
(Looking for places to buy Asian style garden ornaments? Check the suppliers section)
Much traditional Balinese art has a religious basis. Religious practice in Bali is primarily a form of Hinduism, but influenced by Buddhism and other, more ancient, traditions. Hence the variety of symbolism seen expressed on garden statuary and other artifacts.
Plant and animal motifs, plus more modern, stylised creations are also produced by contemporary Balinese artisans and are available from many importers.
Such artwork can be added to your garden as free standing statues, wallmounted plaques, plant pots or as part of a water feature.
(Looking for places to buy Balinese-style water features? Check the suppliers section)
Water adds an extra dimension to any garden, and the Balinese-style garden is no exception.
Even small bowls can become evocative symbols of the East with a frangipani or two floated on the surface. Larger containers can be planted up as miniature water gardens. Compliment big ponds or pools with a water spout in the form of a fish, frog or deity.
To take your garden to the next level, create a piece of mountain rainforest with naturalistic streams, pools and waterfalls with real or artificial rocks. For some, the ultimate water feature is a swimming pool with landscaped surrounds. (Large or small, ensure water features don't become hazards for children, or breeding spots for mosquitoes!)
(Looking for gazebo materials, kits or builders? Check the suppliers section)
Tropical-look outdoor structures fit for a resort are commercially available in Australia in a wide variety of styles, materials and sizes. Simple square or rectangular thatched pavillions modelled after the bale benongs or bales of Bali are very popular and enhance the garden both aesthetically and practically. Open on all sides or semi enclosed, they offer shelter from sunshine or rain while allowing air circulation and views of the garden.
Bali grass (alang alang) is a traditional straw, but brushwood or reed materials are also commercially available for a thatch roof. Besides the tropical look, one of the advantages of a thick thatching material is insulation against heat from the sun.
The shaggy style of thatching is generally the most suitable for a Balinese or Pacific theme, while the neatly trimmed tiered thatching sometimes seen on the market is more appropriate for an African style gazebo (which is usually round or oval as well). Either would add pizzazz and utility to a tropical garden, however.
A thatched umbrella is another way to add that "grass hut" look, especially if you have limited space or perhaps can't afford the price of a more substantial structure. Or, how about a garden seat or hammock with its own thatched roof?
While less tropical-looking than thatch, wooden shingles (sirap) or terracotta tiles are alternatives which are also used in Bali and Indonesia. Decorative teracotta roof ornamaments at the apex (crown motif) and corners will truly add and exotic Asian look to such a roofline.
Bales may also be found listed commercially as bali huts, gazebos or pavillions. Similar structures may be sold under a variety of other names, depending on the cultural influence. More about such structures (bures, fales, nipa huts, tiki huts, palapas, cabanas, salas) from Asia, Pacific Islands and other tropical cultures here: More on tropical structures.
Some companies offer thatch treated with fire retardants. If you want your own grass hut, ask your supplier about this and other issues such as insect and rot resistance, wind resistance and UV stability. This applies to synthetic substitutes as well as natural materials.
Many such materials are now on the market in Qld, even entire structures in DIY kit form. Or consider a custom-made structure. (check the suppliers section.) Before construction, be sure to check with local authorities to find out what permits or licences may be necessary.
Fences, Panels, Screening
(Looking for suppliers? Check the suppliers section)
Plants are one way to hide unattractive views or utilities that distract from the secluded resort-style ambience you may be trying to create. However, you may have to wait for them to grow, the coverage may not be adequate, or the spot may simply be unsuitable for planting. On the other hand, a fence constructed with bamboo, reed or similar material provides instant screening while adding to to the tropical theme, although it is likely to be more expensive. To makeover existing fences, walls or even the undersides of patio roofs with tropical flair, there are a range of screening products in panels or rolls. If you need to have a new fence constructed, take a look at options based on reed, bamboo or brushwood to compliment a tropical-look garden. (see discussion on thatching above for more about materials).
More about plants and planting here: Plants for Balinese style Gardens
Add a Balinese statue. Big enough to make a statement = instant effect.
Decorate stone figures with tropical flowers like hibiscus, frangipani or allamanda for special occasions. Place blossoms behind the ears or in their hands, as if they were alive. You can also "dress" them with cloth.
Pop a spiky accent plant into a large terracotta container or stone planter. Again, needs to be large and bold enough impact.
Create a small temporary water feature by filling a stone-effect or terracotta bowl or urn with water and floating a few frangipani on the top.
Here's a very brief (non-expert) guide to some unfamiliar words you may encounter when shopping for Balinese accessories :
air - water
alang alang - thatching grass
andong - cordyline
Bagong - a comical character of folklore
Barong - a lion-like character (fights the evil Rangda)
bale - a building
cempaka - Michelia champaca
cempaka putih - Michelia alba
Dewi Sri - goddess of rice (prosperity)
Ganesha - Hindu god with the head of an elephant
Hanuman - Hindu god with the form of a monkey
jepun - frangipani (Plumeria)
kepuh - Sterculia foetida
mimpi - dream
Rangda - evil witch or female demon character
rimba - forest
sari - essence
taman - garden or park
Create a sense of enclosure and entice the visitor to discover what lies deyond with an arch or decorative gates. Split temple gates are represented at above. An arch modelled after bale architecture below.|
Use bamboo, brush or reed screening to cover unattractive fences or walls, or to screen the compost bin, sheds, or utility areas.
Advanced trees and shrubs in large containers are an easy and non-permanent way to add more palms or frangipani to the scene, even where planting in the ground would not be possible. Disguise pots with groundcovers and other plants. Plain black plastic blends into the shadows as well as anything. Depending on how you look after these plants, you might get several years in a pot. Unless you isolate them from the ground, however, they could take root through drainage holes, or roots of nearby trees could invade from the ground up.