Growing all the time – new skills!

I have recently completed a Diploma of Arboriculture so I am taking on arboricultural consulting – with a focus on tree reports – as an adjunct to my landscape design work. Seemed to make sense to offer both services – I am now a one-stop shop! I can now proudly add Australian Qualification Framework 5 (AQF5)  to my qualifications, which is a general requirement with most local Councils for arboricultural reports.

How a Kangaroo Valley dam grew to be a beautiful water feature

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Ten years on and looking great – Palm Beach gardens


A Palm Beach development revisited ten years later

I recently had the opportunity to visit a large development of four houses on a steep site that I had worked on for several years, and was completed nearly ten years ago. My involvement with the project was from the beginning, from planning stages and Council approval, through to documentation, supervising construction and planting. I was so pleased to see that even with minimal maintenance the landscaping, which included extensive planting of local native trees and plants, has achieved the objectives of creating a series of private gardens for the individual houses, and the planting has successfully softened the high walls and road.

Knockout views from a terrace

Original rock shelves were kept and integrated with new stone walls

It was always going to be a challenge to soften the walls and driveway – but it is working.



No garden is “too small”….

No garden is “too small”……

One of the most frequently asked questions I have been receiving from potential new clients lately is whether their garden is “too small” a project for me to take on. Never! I love designing small gardens and courtyards, as they can be just as stimulating and challenging as larger spaces to work with, with quite different parameters to be considered. Here are some photos of a couple of Sydney gardens that have been recently completed, or nearly so. Including lovely stone work by Pettet Landscapes.

Front entry area with new driveway, steps, paving, walls, deck – all built and ready for planting. 

 Small backyard with terraced stone wall vegetable garden and non-invasive bamboo for screening neighbours out.


permeable driveways

Permeable  driveways

More and more residential clients are making driveways from permeable materials. Sometimes this is due to the limitations of having a small block and ‘pushing’ the amount of hard site coverage allowable by Councils. Some clients are also keen to have as much permeable land as possible, from an aesthetic and environmentally sustainable point of view. Storm water run-off is slowed dramatically with permeable ‘soft’ surfaces in comparison to hard surfaces.

Often permeable driveways are the only way that significant trees can be retained on a site if driveways are to be renovated or enlarged, so that roots can be retained and protected whilst still getting the air and water they need.

It is becoming decidedly trendy in big cities like New York to have green driveways. Grass can be planted within plastic or concrete cells that can withstand the weight of cars.

Crushed gravel is usually placed over a compacted sub-grade which is not super-permeable, but still better than concrete. Specially designed interlocking pavers with gaps in between, which are filled with sand, are another option.

Here is a very low-maintenance green driveway that I helped design, and specified planting for, a few years ago in Palm Beach. The Dichondra and Viola grow through a concrete grass cell paver system. The plants get crushed occasionally but are so tough and fast-growing that they spring back quickly.

Green driveway at Palm Beach, just built, before plants have grown...

...and a couple of years later...

I have also noticed some other successful ideas on my travels. This timber sleeper driveway isn’t one of my designs, but I admire it for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. The timber sleepers are embedded in soil and mulch – easy and cheap for a casual look.

The concrete pavers in the photo below (also not one of my projects) must have been laid on a strong foundation, and the gravel infill is permeable. The mondo grass is not looking too great where it is driven over but it looks great softening the sides.

someone else's great idea for a permeable driveway

I am looking forward to designing and installing more green driveways and softening up our urban environment.

Setting out plants in Vaucluse

This has to be one of the best things about my job, the day that all the plants arrive on the truck and I get to set them out exactly where I want them.

some lovely big Zamia furfuracea for the back yard

All the planning and hard work starts to come together in a very real way when the plants go in the ground.  The boys from Mahony Landscapes doing a great job – by the weekend this will look like a real garden with mulch and turf and lights and clean paving – and the clients move in next week!