Two plants for dry places

By the pool doesn’t sound like a very dry place, but I don’t want to be watering here too often and it gets almost full sun all day. The Aloe lutescens gives me lots of pleasure – I like its particular shade of green, and I love its red buds that age as they open to yellow at this time of year, and the honey eating birds that visit appreciate it too. Closer to the house we have a huge camphor laurel tree and the dense canopy casts deep shade and the leaves allow little water to penetrate the garden below. This is where I planted a mass of a smallish bromeliad with soft green leaves a few years ago called Aechmea gamasepala which flowers particularly well in early Spring but also spot blooms all year. The Eastern spine-bills love the nectar they drip. They were a bit pale last summer and as an experiment I emptied a bag of fresh chicken manure around them and into the cups which retain the water which nourishes them. That they responded so favourably was a fluke, but now I’ve fed all the brooms with chicken manure and they’re all thriving – their colour depth increasing considerably.



Aloe lutescens


Aechmea gamasepala

Aechmea gamasepala

September 18, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

How is a man meant to work on a Spring day like this?


Magnolia `Iolanthe’



Rosmarinus `Irene’ and Phillyrea angustifolia next to the swimming pool




How am I expected to do any work today – the garden looks so amazing and things are growing at rapid vegetable speed.

Who wants to be inside?

September 18, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Recycling and reinventing

Sometimes you get lucky, but not often. Some time ago I had one of the landscape contractors tell me they had a pile of clay pavers left over and did I want them or they would be sent to the dump (you know the ugly cheap kind I mean)

So I played around with laying them skinny side up instead of flat the way they were intended and found that they looked amazing this way – like I saw in Renaissance towns in Italy years ago, and we have been using them in this way ever since.

This image was sent to us by Dan from Divine landscape Creations earlier this week of a section of paving he is laying at the end of a Camellia tunnel where we designed a pond, fountain and petanque pitch and I’m so pleased with how they look I’m sharing it.

This is what the concrete pavers come up looking like when they’re reinvented. Wow.



September 10, 2014 | 1 Comment  | Tags:

Awards night #3

And this garden won Best Regional garden in the Open value section and is on the North Coast near Newcastle.

The garden was designed to compliment an original Petit and Sevitt home and has two distinct personalities – it depends if you are in the front or back of the house. Streetside the garden has a vaguely Japanese influence, whilst out the back overlooking a park to the North the planting is more lush and tropical. Congratulations again Adam.


Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 5.44.21 PM

Agave `Blue Glow’


Image 152


Image 133

Hedychium greenei


Image 99


Image 162

An existing Murraya hedge was cut into `ice cubes’


Image 87

silver Kalanchoe hildebrandtii


Image 96


Image 90

the shimmering Kalanchoe hildebrandtii and bold-leafed Alocasia brisbanensis

September 9, 2014 | Leave a Comment  | Tags:

Awards night #2

And this is the flip side of the preceding garden where salt winds are intense but the views over the Pacific are to die for.

gabion outback


view through downstairs room


split lawn and gabion


coten step detail


Corten retaining wall


fence detail

A custom made fence using Australian hardwood and copper mesh ensures nobody gets too close to the cliff edge

September 8, 2014 | Leave a Comment  | Tags: ,

Awards night #1

On Friday night Cathy and I went to the NLA Awards night at Centennial Park (Thanks for inviting us Adam and Danielle) where we were really proud to share Nature’s Vision Landscapes win – receiving the accolades they deserve for two of the gardens we designed and they implemented. It’s always a great moment to see a garden completed; whereas we can `see’ it in our mind to see it actually constructed is another thing entirely.

This garden is at Copacabana Beach on the NSW Central Coast and it’s a very cool house and garden. Once owned by friends it has now been sold to new owners whom I hope are enjoying it as much as we do, because it’s a favourite of ours. This won the 2014 Residential Category and was awarded the Graham Ross Residential Construction of the Year 2014

Front steps

Off-form concrete steps lead to the front door


step detail. jpg

The owners encouraged us to think outside the box and we responded accordingly. Drought and salt resistant plants make up the majority of species with Australian natives sprinkled though the mix


Steps and Aloes

Aloe barbarae in the foreground withKalanchoe beharensis at thew top of the stairs


gabion and filetti

Gabion cages filled with stones contrast with porphyry filleti from Eco Outdoors


Outdoor shower

A custom timber screen offers privacy to the outdoor bathroom


Salvia Santa Barbara

Salvia Santa Barbara packs a colour punch and looks wonderful backlit with Miscanthus `Hiawatha’


black house and miscanthus

Miscanthus Hiawatha and young  fig trees to be espaliered

footbath rosemary and miscanthus

A blade wall of corten steel provides a backdrop to one of the owner’s travel finds – an antique marble sink we used as a footbath.


footbath and Tanika

The footpath and blade wall with a background of Aloe barbarae and Lomandra Tanika



September 8, 2014 | Leave a Comment  | Tags: ,

Arctic Blast

It appears Winter isn’t over yet – it’s windy and cold here with a temperature that wouldn’t be out of place in the arctic. I heard the unmistakable crash of a tree hitting the ground this morning as I walked around the dam on my morning inspection and ran to check one of my trees hadn’t fallen onto one of the fences – as I had just led a horse from stable to paddock. A quick call to a neighbour and I discovered it was one of their Eucalypts on their and everything was OK. Chainsaws are buzzing now.

I have a crazy theory that the wind that arrives at this time of year coaxes buds to burst so next week we will see…

This wind may be the end of the magnolia blooms in more exposed ports of the garden; I hope not as I haven’t had my fill of pinkness just yet. The evergreen shapes of various forms of box hold the garden together and I love their quirky forms that look as much like sculpture as plants. The winner this year on my favourites list is M. `Iolanthe’ This tree has the most elegant form and the velvet clad buds expand to reveal an opulent colour within.


Phlomis purpurea x crinata



Magnolia `Star Wars’



Magnolia `Iolanthe’



September 3, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Spring is in the air

With the coming of Spring and after recent rain it seems as if the garden has a new found richness to it that I find indescribable.

The garden is so compelling I have to force myself back to the studio and do some work, or if not, I could walk around aimlessly for hours just looking and dreaming, pulling a weed here and there or just planning next moves. For the main part the hard work over; Winter has paid off – now it’s time to reap the rewards of all that spreading of mulch and pruning.

There’s whiffs of scent about too. Daphne, jonquil, chocolate vine, wattle, and the almost invisible tiny Japanese box flowers that smell so good, and as I tap these notes I can only smell `Keeper’ my deerhound who keeps farting next to me, but I’m trying to maintain pleasant thoughts…



Mounding box hedge towards the studio



pomegranates in the orchard



Akebia quinata (chocolate vine)







September 2, 2014 | 3 Comments  |

Some praise for small things

It’s bloody freezing here today. Usually I light the fire inside at lunchtime, but today it was lit at breakfast.

All around the garden there are signs of an impending change in the weather and besides the magnolias who flaunt their floral beauty flagrantly, this is often performed discreetly, but not to say it’s unnoticed by gardeners. I love Winter flowers for their modesty and in addition many of them are also perfumed – sometimes discreetly and at other times not. The camellia tsai is such a beauty with a light fragrance and delicate single white flowers with a cluster of golden stamens.


Camellia tsai

The Edgeworthia were an experiment last year. I grow these in one of the gardens I designed up in the mountains where it’s considerably cooler, in a climate where snow isn’t uncommon, and I enjoy them so much there when I visit I wanted to try them here. So I did and they haven’t disappointed me with their fat pendulous buds promising a dusting of brilliant gold in the next few weeks.




We had friends over for lunch a few weekends ago and I gathered an armful of budding deep pink Chaenomeles to brighten the room. These buds are now all open almost four weeks later so they’re great for cut flowers…

Why is it that these once common, easily grown shrubs are rarely found in nurseries? When I order these to plant in the gardens we design I have to order these from a wholesale nursery out of Melbourne where I can choose from white, apple blossom, double cream and red cultivars.



Chaenomeles japonica

August 11, 2014 | 2 Comments  |

Black cockatoos

This morning as there as been for quite a few dates now, there was a lot of noise outside. This noise – and a lot of falling pine cones on my studio roof, signal that there are yellow-tailed black cockatoos outside. These birds are absolutely enormous and at this time of year they are feeding youngsters – hence the racket. They do little damage to the garden; unlike their sulphur-crested cousins, and these black cockatoos can shatter unripened Banksia serrata cones (their favourite) and the pine cones that now litter my driveway like a small car wrecks.

Three of us abandoned our work inside to observe them at fairly close range before they alighted and we resumed work at our respective computers




August 11, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

← Previous PageNext Page →