A garden by the sea

This morning I headed down to Killcare to see a few old friends and their gardens and also to see two new sites. On the way, between stops I had a few moments so I called in at a garden I hadn’t seen since I delivered and placed plants there late last season.

I was asked for help last year by the new owner who was given my details by the previous people he purchased the home from. I enjoy seeing a garden’s progress – there are always a few things that need adjusting over the years, and it’s great to be given a second chance to make it better.

Andrew Noble’s `Cornerstone Landscaping’ team got the gig and have done a terrific job, bringing the old garden to a new level. They have worked with us to construct a new boundary fence of slender hardwood sticks to increase privacy and stop dogs wandering (this will weather to a soft grey colour) and we added to the existing plantings which were established five or six years ago I think, in addition they fertilised everything, pruned, snipped and trimmed and re-mulched.

In what seems to be a short time the place looks loved like it has never been loved before. Congratulations to the owners and the crew that have put in the hours.

With great views over Killcare, there are salt laden winds to consider, natives were used predominantly with some hardy exotics for interest. I have never designed, or used curving gabion walls before but after looking at these, that retain the level lawn area I’m keen to try them again.

Grey-green colours unite exotics and native plants and we have used lush green rainforest plants beneath the home, where after storms a creek runs…











February 18, 2014 | Leave a Comment  | Tags:

Cellar #2


The concrete slab went down Christmas eve, on one of the hottest days of the year, it’s now stripped of its formwork and awaiting the Zego blocks

The blocks are lightweight polystyrene foam that will work as great inflation, and the voids in the blocks are to be core-filled with concrete.

Stay tuned






Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 7.24.46 AM


February 13, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Stripping the Yuccas



When we get tired in the studio we take some time out and work in the garden. One of the nastiest, yet rewarding jobs is to strip the spent leaves from the Yuccca. This reveals their unique sculptural form and for around 3 weeks leaves a `collar’ of white wood from where the leaves are removed.

This isn’t a common technique, it’s one of those things that was learnt by chance one day when I was working in the garden, but it’s something we now do in most of our gardens where we use this particular Yucca.

The foliage is blue-green the flowers are a tower of white profiteroles – like a croquembouche. This species isn’t armed with the deadliest spines on the end of their leaves, but it still wouldn’t be nice to get one in the eye, so we do it with sunglasses on.

It’s things like this that makes our work different to other designers.



Yucca recurvifolia, Kalanchoe orioides and Banksia integrifolia `Roller Coaster’


Yucca recurvifolia, Agave vilmoriana (octopus agave), Banksia `Roller Coaster’ and mounds of Westringia `Milky Way’

February 12, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Excavated courtyard garden

Last year we did a design for a series of courtyards surrounding this Mosman home, and this particular garden is below street level and faces West. The soil is non existent, the builders had excavated into sandstone and we asked that a great lump of stone be left where it lay and the surrounding stone was sawn and cleaved away. The owner was keen to include some natural elements in the garden, so we had the stone carved to create a shallow bird bath and thee stone will grey off in time and grow moss if it ever rains again. The birds love to bath in this, it’s a cool addition and will only get better over time.

It’s one of those things that is unexpected, it will most likely never happen that we come across an occasion to do this again. It’s called happenstance.

PS Thought I should add a picture of the what was to be courtyard space and the `rock’ when we started work.




Chondropetalum tectorum (small Cape rush)



Panicum `Heavy Metal’ and pomegranates

February 12, 2014 | 1 Comment  | Tags:

Summer flowers

With my computer down, and in for repairs I’ve been unable to use any images.

The dry continues, and some rain would be really appreciated anytime please. There’s been overnight drizzles but I’m looking forward to the embarrassing gurgling noise in the drainpipes outside the bedroom, which really let us know when it’s raining.

Some brave flowers have appeared, like the Crinum outside the studio and the ginger lilies with their exotic scent that fills a room if you pick them – and that’s just what I do to stop the birds transporting the seeds that form after the flowers are spent. This particular ginger can be a bit of a weed in bushland areas, but it would be hard to live without it. Something to look forward to at the end of summer.


Crinum moorei

Crinum moorei


Hedychium gardnerianum

Hedychium gardnerianum


February 11, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

A new design in the bush

This morning we start our first new project for the year. Benjamin White from White + Dickson Architects is building a new home on the coast on a bush site with caves, rock outcrops and amazing views.

Designed in modernist style it will be quite a climb to the front door – but when you get there, it’ll be worth it.

On a site like this, we’ll be treating the native vegetation lightly, or just leaving it pretty much as it is, naturally. Why would you garden if you had Angophoras and grass trees like these?















January 9, 2014 | 1 Comment  | Tags:

Early January 2014

A day and a weekend to go (who’s counting) and we start back at work.

On drizzly Christmas day I rediscovered the joys of my wife Cathy’s butterfly chairs (see the link in Categories) positioned on the verandah where I can overlook the garden and pool. There is an abundance to the summer garden that could be overwhelming if you let it be so. I take it a bit at a time. The weeds slow down soon enough so I enjoy the heat of summer, try to forget the chores that await me and relax.


Cathy’s Butterfly chair (covers `Cremorne stripe’)




Agapanthus `Black Panther’ and Canna `Constitution’

In the orchard – and throughout the garden, the Cannas are loving the heat. As dusk approaches I have been walking (a glass in one hand) with Robbie and Alison who are staying a while over the holidays , looking at what we could plant in their new garden in Durban, South Africa.

The fragrance at that time is strong on most things. The night scented tobacco caught us by surprise the other evening.



Canna `Tropicana’ and Nicotiana sylvestris – night scented tobacco




Canna `Stuttgart’




Eucomis comosa (pineapple lily)




Hymenocallis littoralis

January 3, 2014 | 3 Comments  | Tags:

Pomegranates and the orchard

Down in the orchard the new growth is abundant, there’s an exuberance  to summer that makes you feel good to be alive.

The pumpkins and zucchini are flowering, the mysterious creatures continue to eat almost every other vegetable or salad leaf I plant. I suspect it’s possums and hope that they’ll go away. The pomegranates hang heavy, clunking me in the head when I mow the lawn. There are more lilies to bloom, sunflowers and daylilies next. The blue of the agapanthus is sublime.




Macleaya cordata and an unusual Agapanthus given to me by a friend.




December 29, 2013 | 2 Comments  |

Lazy days by the pool

I love the long summer days after Christmas when I can sit on the verandah, read a book, or wander around the garden making mental notes of jobs I may never do. The fridge is slowly emptying it’s stock of leftovers and the belt that holds up my shorts is increasing in length.

Yesterday I attached the giant metal ants Cathy gave me on Christmas day to the old camphor laurel next to the petanque pitch, repaired a broken water pipe and had an afternoon nap – a siesta, before afternoon drinks. I could adopt this habit.

A lot of time is being spent around – or in the swimming pool. The sweet fruit scents of gardenia, bai lan and angel’s trumpet hang in the air. With arms on the hot pavers, my body in the water, I was admiring the grassy seed heads of the grasses and the drier looking silver foliage on the Kalanchoe hildebrandtii and potted Agave. This look is something I admire in Provencale gardens, where cactus add their lazy, easy care attributes to summer.



Crinum pedunculatum





Agave americana

December 29, 2013 | Leave a Comment  |

The cellar # 1

And now I’m going to bore you senseless with the cellar. It will be like the pond and fountain – last years project. I have wanted to store my wine properly for years and yesterday Steve started by clearing for the concrete slab, and today I worked with Mark and Dad pulling out roots and levelling the ground in preparation for Fridays concrete pour.

I fell in the pond hauling a wheelbarrow over plank, my boots got very wet.

So this is the first picture. Not much to look but just wait and you’ll see.

This is where a 30 year old macadamia tree fell last Christmas Eve exposing us to the house – and barking dogs next door. The apple tree (dead sticks in the image below) has been so badly damaged by possums that eat every leaf and bud it produces is ready to cut down, so it’s a win, win situation. I get my wine, and we all benefit from the privacy.



December 17, 2013 | Leave a Comment  | Tags:

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