As lot sizes get smaller even with smaller building footprints the net effect is a green squeeze that challenges the innate need for the human relationship with plants.

In the good old days there was enough land around a dwelling to enable a decent area of lawn plus some perimeter planting to soften the straight lines of the structure, screen the neighbours and provide some food and shade.

Introduce small lots, zero lot garages, double car driveways, a mandatory water tank and pump, two garbage bins, gas bottles, wall mounted air conditioners and hot water, and a clothes line, and often on a sloping site requiring retaining and the pressure is on. Not even a cat can do a u-turn in some situations. 

Shading from the building often 1500mm from the 1800mm high fence would not be so bad in good soil but much sloping residential land is a poor soil type of little interest to most self respecting plants. 

Introduced garden loams are only suited to fibrous rooted shrubs and opportunistic weeds and are susceptible to leaching in a wet season and drought in the dry season, yet are the only way any plants can be introduced where serious site excavation has occurred. Blending of introduced and original soils is unusual but important.

Ornamental plants are as they say, ornamental. We select and manage the style, shape and position of these live ornaments to our benefit and satisfaction. Placing key small to medium trees strategically and then adding low growing complimentary contrasting foliage is one way to address the challenges posed by the green squeeze. It calls for judicious use of low maintenance, self shaping, long flowering, contrasting foliage placed where it can be seen from all points of observation within and outside the residence. 

Councils are generally keen to establish street trees and these should be seen as complimentary and worked into the overall property landscape concept. Many street trees have a clear trunk of 1800mm for safety and visibility but are mostly capable of maturing to a good height especially if the home owner helps them on with a little fertiliser and water in the early stages during prolonged dry seasons.

The green squeeze is here to stay. It calls for structural design considerations, respect for human needs and a heightened awareness of the importance of plants in all aspects of life on earth.