Winter Pruning 2014

Last week I had eight horticulturalists working in my garden – and didn’t we get through some work!

My entire garden has been cut back and 3/4’s mulched in preparation for the growing season ahead. That’s 80 cubic metres of leaf litter and probably 60 more to go on again next month.

Anyone that says a Winter garden is boring hasn’t experienced the quiet exhilaration that this level of gardening offers. Real gardeners are always in demand and guys with this level of expertise are a rarity so I thank Andrew from Cornerstone landscaping and Rob from Verduous Gardens for their generosity and time. The skill and art of gardening has almost been lost as the diversity in plant choices reduces in an ever ¬†diminishing downward spiral, and this means the way plants are pruned and trained is rarely appreciated. Now I can walk around my Winter garden crunching the frosty grass underfoot admiring the form and structure of individual plants.

On the day I was too busy with my own clicking secateurs to take photos so you will have to make do with last years image of he boys pruning the archway…





Rose arch before



rose arch after…



weeping mulberry – the shape revealed





Pruning the fruit trees

Winter pruning has begun here in my garden, and last weekend I got into a row of elderberries, the plum tree, one of the figs and the English mulberry in the orchard. I took this image of a shapely espaliered fig at one of `our’ gardens last week at Turramurra where Rob from Verduous gardens has been training what was originally a cutting from one of my trees against a stone wall, and the branch structure has a subtle beauty all of its own.

Pruning is such a satisfying job – to begin with you wonder where to start and before long the tangle of last summers branches has been sorted out and it’s all under control.

Other people may think differently, but to me it’s a kind of meditation – I get in the `zone’, concentrate on just the task ahead and emerge at the other side refreshed with muscles worked and a clear head.

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June 25, 2014 | Leave a Comment  | Tags:

More flying trees

This morning Mark and I were on site early to position a mature Camellia that we had selected for our current Killcare project.

On a perfect winters day before the wind came up, the tree was unwrapped of it’s protective shroud on the truck that had transported it and lifted up over the roof intro an internal courtyard where the builders had prepared a planter-box. It all went in without a hitch giving the courtyard an instant personality boost.

Working with mature stock is so satisfying. This tree has to be at least 40 years old – what a brilliant head start for a new home!





It’s in the mail

Who doesn’t love receiving packages in the mail?

Today the post-lady delivered one from the remarkable Barbara Clare who worked alongside me for many years and painted many beautiful watercolours of my designs.

Because last year some unidentified creature ate all my homegrown poppy seed Barbara saved me some of hers and some Tithonia too – which I have meant to plant for years and never have…

Not only the fat brown paper envelopes with handwritten names – but Barbara is a great photographer too, so she sent pictures of the flowers she saved the seed from.

Thank you Barbara for brightening my day.


June 20, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Cellar update #3

This weekend just past, I climbed up the ladder and dressed the exposed internal timber with tung oil before the insulation goes in the roof, the stonework is almost complete on the southern face adjacent to the old fish pond, but now things are at a standstill until the door is clad in copper sheet and installed – which is eagerly anticipated…

Next the limestone can go on the floor, and the walls can haves the final coat of cement render and be painted.


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June 20, 2014 | Leave a Comment  | Tags: ,

Oh Aloe

Even though it’s cold outside the garden is far from sleep, outside the Aloes are beginning to bloom and the busy Eastern Spinebills are taking advantage of the nectar – hovering like hummingbirds in search of sweet.

Michael Dent from Aloe Aloe¬†has releasing some spectacular new Aloe cultivars to the Australian market and has been generous enough to send some for me to trial and I haven’t been dissapointed.

Here are just a few that are blooming…




Aloe `First Gold’



Aloe `Copper Shower’ (foreground) and A `First Gold’ (behind)



Aloe `Winter Bells’

This isn’t one of Aloe Aloe’s range but it’s blooming now, and I couldn’t forget it. It’s flowering bravely in front of blue foliaged, drought tolerant rue Ruta `Jackmans Blue’ where it has grown close to a plane tree in harsh conditions for years. I love the deep green slender leaves which off-set the glorious red blooms.


Aloe succatrina





June 16, 2014 | Leave a Comment  | Tags:


This past year in addition to gardens we’ve designed quite a few swimming pools and the results are starting to show. Quite a number of these pools are above ground, taking advantage of sensational views and the constraints of the pool facing laws.

As I’ve said before I love hearing how things are going and it was great to see shots of this amazing pool as it’s development unfolded. This pool is close to a National Park with stunning views to the West over a natural wetland. Next the planting…

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Andrew from Cornerstone Landscaping is working on his own existing pool and we have made some recent modifications from our earlier design – like adding an outdoor fireplace and an outdoor kitchen to go with the new paving line and again, it’s so good to get an update of the progress…

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I’ve also included a drawing of a pool we designed earlier this year – which still hasn’t got out – or into the ground yet. On this design not only did we change the level of the paving surrounding the pool but we raked one of the walls to take advantage of the natural change of level.

Mark has developed his own style on our 3D drawings which is making it easier to understand the complicated level changes, especially as lots of these pools aren’t entirely in-ground.

We like to work with the natural levels rather than against them and this throws a whole new spin on the design and implementation.

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and I was really pleased to see the latest shots of this swimming pool. Clayton the owner coordinated the construction, built the decks, clad the pool exterior (how good is this?) and made the very cool timber fences.

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June 16, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |


Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 7.38.57 AMLater this month I’m excited to be heading to Newcastle airport for a quick flight to Brisbane to meet someone whom I have been talking to for sometime to design their garden surrounding their older style home.

With the airport so close (one set of traffic lights from my home) it’s an easy thing to do an interstate day-trip!

June 16, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Roof-top planting

Last week Mark was onsite at Killcare overlooking the Pacific where a roof-top garden was being topped in pebbles and planted. With only a shallow allowance the plants were set out in shallow trays in grids and rows to compliment this great new home which features rammed earth walls by Castlepeake Architects. We also designed the neighbouring garden so it’s an opportunity to make a positive impact on the `streetscape’

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On this occasion we chose Aloe `Gemini’ for it’s spineless leaves, compact form and apricot bell-like flowers on short, stout spires. In this stunning albeit exposed location, the winds are fierce, and with no irrigation the plants will have to fend for themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing the remanding areas planted – particularly the protected interior courtyard where I have selected a mature Camellia that will be shaped as a giant `bonsai’

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Aloe `Gemini’

June 16, 2014 | Leave a Comment  | Tags:

Tree Dahlia

It’s hard not to admire the tenaciousness of this perennial dahlia. It overhangs my driveway where it’s slapped around by the aerial of my car each time I pass by, and although Ive staked it this year to tie it back – I just know it will be lying on the ground soon.

Fast and almost indestructible I cut it to ground level after flowering and that’s it – no water, fertiliser or attention.

Soon to open its buds is a white flowering form that I’ve planted down below the dam – slightly stronger in the stem (or it may just be in more sun down there) it ‘s eagerly anticipated.


Dahlia imperialis

May 15, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

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