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The rain washed away our garden!

24 May

Well, OK, there’s not much of a garden there to start with.  Every time we begin to think about making a good start something, and by that I mean rain, gets in the way.  Sydney had an exceptionally wet summer, and while we have made a start, a lot of the hard clearing stuff out kind of work is done, we haven’t quite gotten around to the fun constructing bit.  So really the rain has washed away our garden dreams!

The cleared front garden with makeshift pathway waiting for the new design to take shape… yes it’s still waiting!  Though we have mulched it to prevent weed growth.

the mountain of weeds and unwanted plants cleared out of the garden.

After we mulched this garden ready for the plants and new pavers it rained, rained some more and when we thought it had finished it kept right on raining.  Throw in there a hospital visit, a few birthdays, a bad back and a run of sniffles and the end result is that we still have a mulch garden without the schmick new pavers.

The Munchkins and I have propagated a whole lot of plants ready for our winter vegetable garden.  We have broccoli, snow peas, sweet peas and normal peas as well as gourds and strawberries.  They’re all ready to have a go at growing on their own in the big bad garden, but just as we had set aside today to make their new home, it has started raining.  After one of the driest Mays on record, the one day we want to go out and get out hands dirty it pours!  I had planned on blogging about our gardening successes for today, so damn you unpredictable weather patterns!

A plethora of peas

Beautiful broccoli

Gorgeous gourds

The seedlings are stacking up next to the pavers ready to go into the front yard, the 2 Kangaroo Paws that have been waiting way to long to let their roots run free and the tomato stakes that just completely missed their opportunity for last seasons tomatoes.  The Drama Queen has been so proud of them, she carefully planted them (check that out here) and has been watching them sprout and grow.  The Daredevil has been my chief watering can manager, and so far as a team we’ve done a good job.  We just need the weather to come to the party and not rain on our parade.

So far my gardening activities have added up to a lot of weed pulling, a bit tomato taming and a bucket full of thinking and planning, basically not much doing.

For this weekend, rain rain go away, its time our garden had a play!

Sam

Pages – Kitchen Gardens of Australia

23 May

I have been looking for inspiration in the form of kitchen gardens. I have a client who is planning to renovate and create a conservatory kitchen which will open onto a kitchen garden space. While most of my research is done on the internet, I also spend a bit of time in the local library. There’s nothing like turning the pages of real books. I love the small sense of anticipation as you open the cover of a new book, hoping that it lives up to it’s promise delivered in the cover.

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I found this gem of a book today at the library. Kitchen Gardens of Australia by Kate Herd profiles 18 productive gardens throughout Australia. The profiles include plans, photos, interviews with the gardeners and hints and tips learnt from each garden.

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I love that the garden profiles tell the story of the garden and the gardeners as well as providing the more technical specifications. The photographs by Simon Griffiths are inspiring and showcase the gardens perfectly.

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I’ve only had a chance to have a quick
Look and to read one garden profile, but I already know that this is a book I would love to add to my library. There are so many lessons to learn from these gardens and design ideas to adapt into future garden designs.

Hint hint for Christmas Mr Perfect!!

Sam

Words and pictures – Roberto Burle Marx

7 May

I found this quote by Brazilian landscape architect and artist, Roberto Burle Marx,  and it reminded me of how much he inspired and shaped my design philosophy and opened my eyes to the creative potential of landscape architecture.

A garden is a complex of aesthetic and plastic intentions; and the plant is, to a landscape artist, not only a plant – rare, unusual, ordinary or doomed to disappearance – but it is also a color, a shape, a volume or an arabesque in itself.

With landscape plans like this

Landscape Design for Saenz Pena Square

And constructed landscapes that look like this

Vargem Grande – photograph http://www.mraggett.co.uk

Cavanellas Residence – photograph http://www.mraggett.co.uk

His words take on a new meaning and a reassuringly creative way for landscape architects to look at their horticultural palette.

Sam

Analysing the landscape

18 Apr

The landscape design process has a pretty logical path to follow. When you’ve prepared your base plan, see how we did here at How do we measure up?, You need to take stock and assess what you have. You need to get out your coloured pencils and undertake a landscape analysis.

I know this post has been a bit of a while coming, but to be honest it’s pretty dry subject matter, so I’ll do my best to make it a little more interesting and fun.

Before you can start the fun of designing, you need to be really clear about what you have already. There’s no point in designing the hanging gardens oaf Babylon if you only have a postage stamp sized area, and a tropical garden is never going to work in an alpine climate. Your existing space and its current features are your building blocks and foundation for your future dream garden, so having a good long look at them, working out what they are and how you can or can’t use them is super important.

Once you have your base plan prepared, what do you need to look at and why?

Aspect and light – what way does your garden face? Grab a compass and work it out if you don’t know already. Solar access is really important in terms of how you plan your garden. If you have a north facing garden full of sunshine, or a south facing shady space you are going to treat them differently (if you’re in the northern hemisphere than swap north and south). Sun light is important both for your plants and for you. It impacts how spaces can be used, and how well what you plant will grow.

Soils and geology – the building blocks of your garden – I have written about the dirty stuff here in Mud pies , so if you missed it , have a read and sort out your soils. What are they and how happy are they? This is important because different plants will grow in different soils, and if you intend on doing any structural works or earthmoving, different soils react differently and require slightly different treatment depending on what you are planning to do.

Topography and drainage – How steep is your yard?  Do you have a great flat palette to play with or do you have something a bit more challenging and hilly?  I personally like the sites with a bit of contour to them.  It’s fun to play with landforms and create different spaces, but it is hard work, and generally means that you have to think bit more about the drainage on the site.  In terms of drainage, how much water is there, where does it collect, where does it go??  Water in the landscape can be a very powerful force. If it’s not managed and directed properly, it can scour or pond and has the potential to damage landscape features or garden beds.  Get your drainage right and you will save yourself a whole lot of grief.

Existing vegetation – What do you already have?  Take a good look, identify what you can, and then decide what needs to stay and what should go.  This is an assessment of what still looks OK, and still has good potential.  What is healthy and happy, and you still like.  Try and be a little bit ruthless if you’re going for a complete overhaul.  It’s useless trying to work with plants that are past their use by date or are struggling.  Equally as difficult is keeping plants that are doing so well that they could also be classified as weeds, the plants that have taken over and smothered everything else are going to be hard to control.

Make a list of what you have, work out whether you like it, whether it’s healthy and then mark on your site plan where it is and whether you’re going to keep it.  You will need to look at everything, from your turf right through to your trees.  If you can’t identify everything, don’t worry, it’s not really that important, but have a go.  Don’t feel overwhelmed, you don’t need to be a horticulturalist to know what you like and what is or isn’t working in your garden right now.

Other features – Paths, walls, furniture, rocks, gardens, fences, anything else really.  Do you have any service pits or pipes? Is everything functional and in good repair or does it need a bit of work to make it safe and usable?  And again, what is worth keeping and what really needs to hit the Council clean up or garbage tip.

You should also consider the views into and out of the site.  What do you need to screen? Do you need to open up some views? And do you need to create some privacy?

Use and access – This one is up to you.  How is the site used at the moment and does it work?  Are you using your garden to it’s best potential?  Are there access points that need to be formalised?  Should you define or pave an area?  Where is your clothes line and utility area?  Has your compost heap become your garden’s focal point?  Where should things be and how are people moving through your garden.  Take into account all of the gardens users.  If you have pets, how do they use the space?  Do your little people use your garden differently to you?

Climate – This one is not really site specific but will have an impact on what will grow in your garden.  There are different ways of assessing this in different global regions.  Australia has broad zones ranging from Tropical to Alpine (check out this link to the National Botanical Gardens), while the US has a much more detailed map that clearly define gardening zones (this links to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map).  Work out where you are and what sort of climate you’re living in, so you know if you need to be frost or drought tolerant in your plant choice.

Now that you’ve collected all of this information, what do you do with it? I find the easiest way to collect and consider it is to draw up a quick plan.  Use your base plan and note your site features and information on it.  This will then help with an overlay of design options.  Here’s a very simple one I prepared when I designed our front garden.  It is a very small and simple site, but all the information I need is in the one place now and made the next design stage straight forward.

It doesn’t have to be pretty – mine isn’t, but it just needs to hold all the information that will take you through to the next design step.  And remember, you can keep coming back to your landscape analysis and change it and amend it as you learn more about your garden.

What are you waiting for, get out pencils and give it a go!

Sam

Friday finds: Lump

13 Apr

It’s been a bit of a slow week around Drawn Outdoors, we took some time out to head down the coast and try and catch the last opportunity for some autumn beach fun, so Friday Finds is all I could muster up blog wise this week, but it is a good one.

I sought out this company when I saw their fabulous screens used in the MasterChef kitchen, and while I haven’t had a chance to use any of their work yet, I keep visiting their website for some fantastic inspiration.  Lump Studio is located in Melbourne, and creates beautiful and striking outdoor art.  In their own words:-

Lump has quietly established itself as one of Australia’s premier designers and creators of contemporary art and outdoor sculptures, committed to producing original designs and high quality art pieces in their Melbourne studio.  Originally founded by Chris Vassallo and later joined by Timothea Jewell, Lump Sculpture Studio at its essence,  is a place where art is essential to the lives of the people who work there, a place where art provides a living, a sense of purpose and an opportunity to keep discovering.

Enjoy the lovely outdoor eye candy to end your Easter week.  If you need more, visit their website, where you’ll find these and many many more beautiful works.

Enjoy the weekend!

Sam

What’s your favourite?

5 Apr

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I was at a big family party on the weekend and got chatting to someone about gardens, and in particular about plants. This isn’t altogether a new experience, it happens often in my line of work. Most people have a garden, or at least a few pot plants on their balcony that they love and like to have a chat about. It’s a great conversation topic. I particularly like chatting to Michael (my Saturday night conversationalist), not only does he have a fabulous garden at home, but, as a teacher he is also responsible for the gardens and environmental education at the school he teaches at.

Whenever I sit down and have a chat to Michael, I always come away with some new ideas or questions to answer. The question he left me pondering on Saturday night was not at all earth shattering, and the answer isn’t going to save the world, but it had me stumped.

What is your favourite plant right now?

Simple question really, but one that still has me trying to come up with an answer. Michael was telling me that he had discovered Bromeliads. He loved their easy nature and unique and interesting look. The ease with which they could be reproduced, spread and shared had him waxing lyrical. For a school teacher trying to produce the best gardens possible for his students, Bromelliads were a perfect plant.

But what was my favourite? I do have a few, or should I say a lot. I’m a firm believer in the right plant in the right place philosophy, and won’t try to force something to grow when it just doesn’t feel at home. Asking a landscape architect what their favourite plant is is a bit like asking an artist their favourite colour. While there is a leaning towards certain species, we need to love them all to achieve our design outcomes.

As I ummed and ahhed my way around an answer I think I left Michael a little underwhelmed. So, Michael if you’re reading this (and yes, Deb you should show him!) here’s your answer.

I have two types of favourite plants, the ones I love with my heart, that make me smile and invoke happy memories, and those that I love with my head, that are reliable and always perform as they should. I’ve written about a few of them already, and will write about the others in the future, so will link to them as the profiles are written, but for now I’ll just tell you why they make my heart or head smile.

I’m a sucker for a good tree. They can make or break a garden, and the right tree in the right place can create a world of it’s own through shade, colour and play opportunities. On the reliability front, I am always recommending Blueberry Ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) and Native Frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum). These rainforest trees are reliable, don’t cause too much grief and are right at home in a small yard. If deciduous is what you’re after then the lovely Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is where I would head. Flowers, form, sculptural, lovely. But ask my heart and it will tell you to look at the gorgeous gum trees. Australian to their core, they bring back memories of bush walks and stories of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. It’s the smooth barked Spotted Gums (Corymbia maculata) and Sydney Blue Gums (Eucalyptus saligna) that I particularly like but it’s the Smooth Barked Apple (Angophora costata) that really makes this Sydney girls heart smile. Uniquely Sydney, this tree’s sculptural and gnarled trunk and branches and it’s smooth pink bark cling to shallow sandstone soil around the harbour and coastal areas.

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Yes there is a deciduous tree that makes my heart smile. It’s one that has a lot of people cursing the annual clean up it creates, but personally I see this as a minor inconvenience for the spectacular floral display it puts on each spring. I’m talking About the Jacaranda. I grew up with a jacaranda tree in our small terrace house garden, and seeing them brings back childhood memories.

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As for the smaller plants, there are so many that work, but I would be remiss to not mention my shady garden favourite, the Native Violet, or the hardy, and relatively trendy Phormium family, so many colours, so neat and low maintenance. But still I am agonising over what my head is trying to choose as it’s favourite and most reliable plant.

My heart, on the other hand is screaming it knows it’s favourite, and it isn’t reliable, it’s actually
pretty fussy. This plant is not often seen on a design plant schedule, but is magic when you find it in the wild. My favourite plant isn’t one I’d recommend for your garden, but hope that you stumble across when you’re enjoying a quiet bush walk. My all time favourite is the Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthi). Another plant with May Gibbs memories, I love it’s subtlety and simplicity. It reminds me of summer holidays down the coast where the vacant lot next to my grandparents house was a meadow of Flannel Flowers and Bracken Fern.

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I still don’t think I’ve provided Michael with a clear answer, but at least I’ve tried.

What’s your favourite plant? Is it loved by your heart or head?

Sam

Friday finds – funky furniture

30 Mar

As the Drawn Outdoors blog is rapidly heading towards it’s first birthday, I’ve been thinking about ways of improving the information I provide and streamlining how it is delivered.  I see a lot of really fun, interesting and exceptional outdoor products, plants and ideas in my inspirational searchings, so I thought a Friday Finds segment would allow a format to showcase them.  A couple of photos, minimal words and a couple of links.

So here’s the first Friday finds… Outdoor furniture by Italian designers Moroso, available in Australia through Hub in Melbourne and Sydney.

I’m in love with the colour!

Sam

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