Tag Archives: Garden

Friday Finds – marking it

20 Apr

This week’s Friday Finds is brought to us by the wonderfully creative souls that you find on Etsy.  There is such a beautiful organic synergy between hand made crafty pursuits and gardening, and it’s no secret that I adore both of them.  As it is spring in the northern hemisphere, garden themes are trending a bit on Etsy, and while we can’t ship plants and seeds down under, we can import ourselves some of the handmade goodies.  I love to browse on Etsy, partly for inspiration, partly for admiration and partly for aspiration.  I love supporting hand made as much as I love creating it.  Please enjoy these plant markers as much as I am enjoying finding them for you…

Swirl plant marker from metalgardenart

Fan shaped garden markers from cynthiavardhan

ceramic vegetable markers from fromArtisanHands

Natural stone markers from sjengraving

Repurposed knife garden markers from Revisions

Searching through the plant markers was inspiration enough for The Drama Queen and I to get out and sow some seeds, though without the time or patience to wait for some beautiful Etsy markers, we fashioned our own out of foam, paddle pop sticks and sticky tape – what do you think????

Have a lovely weekend, hope I’ve sowed a few seeds of inspiration!


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!


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!


Friday finds – eggscellent

6 Apr

Happy Easter! ‘Tis the season of chocolate, fruit buns and all things bunny and chicken, today’s Friday Finds is paying homage to this and asks the question…

What came first, the chicken or the egg???

First, the egg.


This growing egg, complete with little skyscrapers was created by architect, Matteo Cainer for the Art in the Easter Egg exhibition held annually in Rome. If you want to see more then head over to the website, it is in Italian, but the photos are fabulous in any language.

As for the chicken, how’s this for a chicken coop?




Created by Matthew Hayward and Nadia Turan in the UK, The Nogg is just cool, and not too big so it will fit in a suburban backyard.

I know that we can’t all afford a Nogg, but if you are keen to get some Eco cool chicken friends for your dream garden, check out Rent a Chook, and let Mr Chicken help you out. A try before you buy chicken keeping scheme, you can’t go wrong.

Please make sure you eat way too much chocolate this Easter, then I won’t feel so bad when I do!


What’s your favourite?

5 Apr


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.


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.


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.


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?


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!


Farewell to summer

16 Mar


If that was summer, well, I’d like my money back! We just spent the weekend down the coast, and while we did get out to the beach and have some surf and sandcastle fun, at night we were all gathered around the open fire, and autumn’s only just started.

Just when we were grateful that the drought was over, we’re kind of wishing it would come back. After the wettest and coolest summer Sydney has had for a very long time, you probably haven’t taken much time to enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer or to make the most of your own garden space. I think it’s time to cut our losses, look forward to next spring and summer and make like a boy scout and “be prepared”. If you’re like us, you haven’t had either the opportunity or inclination to spend too much time in a very muddy garden, and when you have ventured out there, the weeds are starting to reach triffid proportions, and they are just a bit too scary to attack. It’s time to take back control!

Here are my top 5 farewell to summer garden jobs to get you going.

1. Chop it up
Plants love a good haircut. Your trees, shrubs and even some of your perennials will love having a bit of a prune, re-shape and also spreading out. Autumn is the perfect time to give your deciduous trees a prune before they head into their skeletal winter dormant phase. Effective pruning not only improves the appearance of the tree, but it also promotes growth next spring. Shrubs also appreciate a trim, and it’s a great opportunity to have a good look at what is and isn’t working, and be ruthless with what needs to go. Clumping plants like agapanthus also benefit from a winter culling, thinning out and even spreading apart. You can double the area covered by effectively de-clumping and spreading out ground over species ready for the next growing season.

2. Dig it in
I love bulbs, I’m not sure why, but I think it’s the mystery of what is going to appear each spring and then the burst of colours the flowers provide. My only problem is that bulbs need a lot of planning. You need to plant them a good 3-6 months before they grow, and generally that’s just way too much forethought for me. But now that we have our own garden space this might be the year to give the bulbs a go. Spring flowering bulbs like Daffodils, Jonquils, Tulips and Irises need to be planted in autumn, between March and May. Planting methods vary between the species so it is best to follow the instructions on the pack. Bulbs can be purchased from your local nursery, supermarket or BigW or Kmart. If you want to be a bit more exotic you can order them through catalogues or on line at sites like Bulbs Direct or Garden Express. They all need a good rich loamy soil, so spread a fit of fertiliser and make sure that the garden drains well so they don’t get soggy feet.

3. Feed it – yum
If you have to have a lawn, then autumn is the best time to give it a bit of love. Some fertiliser, aeration and some extra grass seed to fill in the bare spots. It’s also a great time to start a lawn. While the weather’s cooling down and the soil’s still warm, the turf will thrive before winter strikes.

4. Recycle it
If you haven’t started a compost pile yet, then now is the perfect time to do it. You’re going to have heaps of pruning and culled plants after you’ve given your garden a hair cut, plus you have all the leaves that your deciduous trees have shed, so give them a suitable place to rot so you can re-use them on your garden as yummy compost. I’ve written about compost and worm farms before, so you can check it out here at To wriggle or rot

5. Think it through
If your garden leaves you less than inspired and you’re just not sure what to do with it, it’s time to re-design. While you’re cutting, digging, feeding and recycling take a step back and have a little dream. How do you want to use your space? What do you want to feel when you’re there? Grab a pencil and paper and start to sketch it out. And as always, if you need a little help, you can give us a call. Drawn Outdoors specialises in helping you to realise your dream garden! Check us out at Drawn Outdoors at your place.

The great part about Autumn is that the foliage is spectacular, think I might need to plan a trip to the mountains to be inspired by the autumn colour.


Back to the books

6 Mar


I am amazed at how tech reliant I have become. So much of my life seems to revolve around what I need to e-mail, research, or communicate on line. But what happens when mother nature strikes? In this case literally, and your portal to your online world is zapped?

Sydney has been experiencing some very un-summery weather, and for about a week we had some very impressive electrical storms. Unfortunately it seems that both our computer and router were fried in one of the storms, and we’ve been without them for about two weeks now. Frustrating and inconvenient? – yes! The end of the world as we know it? – no way. An opportunity to reconnect with an old school way of doing things? – Definitely!

I’ve talked about going slow before. You can refresh your memory here. The difference is that last time it was voluntary and this time it is an enforced tech-out.

I have had to come up with some creative ways to get plans finished, prepare quotes and research and select plants. I have a fantastic library of books, and the lack of computer has given me the opportunity to open the bookshelf doors and reacquaint myself with these old friends. I had actually forgotten about some of the books, so it was like a little walk down memory lane.

Some of my books were bought while I was travelling, some when I was at University, and others were gifts. It was the books that were gifts that bring back the best memories. My Mum has given me a mountain of landscape books over the years, she knows me well. She also has a great eye for books, and having been the wife of an architect and mum of a landscape architect she’s learnt a few things about design over the years. I’ve spent a bit too much time flipping through the books she brought back from the US, or the gorgeous Australian Garden Design book she gave me a couple of years ago, but it was the Collection of Australian Wildflower Illustrations that made me stop and think.


Mum and Dad (or should I say Santa) gave me this book for Christmas when I was 10. Long before I was a landscape architect, before I think I had even considered it as a career choice. I remember spending hours flicking through the pages and savouring the delicate water colour illustrations. Could it have been this book that started me down the path I’m following? Could it have sown the little seed that has grown into the garden of my life?



I’m quite enjoying my tech exile for the short term, my books are keeping me company, and reminding me of my roots, but I can’t wait to re-discover the convenience of the world at my fingertips.


Valentine your garden

14 Feb

Happy Valentines Day!  Instead of the usual soppy cards and roses, I like to look for some different, fun and unique ideas for showing my loved ones how much I care.  It’s not often that we go over the Valentines top at Drawn Outdoors HQ, but one day I might just surprise Mr Perfect!

Oh Happy Day had this idea for transforming your lawn into a loved up artwork. You might like to try it out, the instructions are at Valentine’s Day Garden Heart Attack

Activekidsclub.com has a great idea to spread the valentines love to our feathered friends (though the instructions will need a little adaptation for those of us in the southern hemisphere).  Take a look at Give a Heart to the Birds.

trendhunter.com has found a more extreme way to demonstrate your love.  Check out their Valentine street art gallery

And my favourite outdoor valentine project is this one from Playscapes.  Because everyone loves a playground, check out this fantastic playground designed by a year 3 class in Denmark and realised by landscape architect Helle Nebelong.   The Playscapes article is here.

Love and Valentine’s kisses to you all,


Playing the waiting game

13 Feb

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion.  These three are your  greatest treasures.” – Lao Tzu

This morning I have been waiting… The Drama Queen had a check up at the hospital, she’s on the mend and all appears OK finally! But as seems to be the drill, we had to play the waiting game.  First there was the waiting in traffic (I now know why I avoid peak hour driving as much as possible).  Then the waiting for the doctors.  If I had have known we were going to be there for over an hour and a half I might have come a little better prepared.

I’m generally a patient kind of soul.  Not in too much of a rush, and know that sometimes good things might take a little bit of time.  Good things come to those who wait, patience is a virtue… you know the sayings…

But sitting around with two munchkins who haven’t quite worked out how to play the patience game proved to be a little more fun than I needed.  I found myself explaining to the Drama Queen about patience and how if you wait you might get something even better than what you had.  In her 4 year old mind this was a difficult concept to grasp, so I tried a few analogies.  Her favourite was the cake analogy. That the finished cake is better than the batter, and that you have to be patient while the cake bakes.  The downside (or is it an up?) is that we may be making cup cakes this afternoon!

Creating your own garden is the ultimate lesson in patience.  It is rare that your ultimate vision will be realised instantly.  In the words of the great English garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll:-

“A garden is  a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”

Every garden should be a growing and changing work of art.  While you set out with an ideal design and a superb vision, through the sheer organic nature of your primary design medium (your plants) you will need to find patience and trust to let it grow the way it needs to and to help it find it’s way to your ultimate dream garden.

I love the waiting that comes with designing and creating gardens.  I love patiently waiting for seeds to propagate, and the will they, won’t they anticipation that this brings.  Keeping track, year after year of how trees are growing and developing and changing the view and environment around them fills me with a sense of pride.  I have designed a lot of public spaces, and visiting these areas five, ten or fifteen years after they were built and planted always fills me with a small sense of awe, knowing that I had a little part in the creation and transformation of this landscape.

When you plant your seedlings, your baby trees and the tiny little plants that will ultimately deliver your dream garden remember to throw a little pinch of patience in there with them, and just watch and wait.

As patient and virtuous as I like to think I am, I can’t help but agree with the Iron Lady.  In the words of Margaret Thatcher:-

“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”



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