Tag Archives: landscape architect

Am I Mad May???

1 May

Thanks to the wonderful Bizness Babes for this little piece of motivation to kick off May

A post a day in May.  Am I crazy? Have I bitten off more than I can chew? The answer is probably yes to both, but who doesn’t love a challenge.

This month is the first birthday of the Drawn Outdoors blog.  There’s a lot to celebrate.  I wasn’t sure how long I would last, how much I would enjoy it or even if anyone else would enjoy my inspired ramblings.  I have survived, have loved my blog and grown with it over the last 12 months.  The best news is that it appears there are a few people out there who enjoy it too, and my page views are gradually increasing as each month passes.  For this I am grateful as it provides me with a small sense of purpose and motivation to keep on going.

To celebrate the last twelve months and to kick off the next twelve I’m challenging myself to a post a day for the month of May.  I have some great ideas for posts.  Some may be very short, just a photo or an idea, others might provide a bit of inspiration, information or just some light reading.  I’m not sure that it will be the easiest way to celebrate, but it will be fun.

I’m also linking up with Seven Cherubs Happy Days in May project. It is such a perfect way to recognise the great things I have going on around me.  I don’t think I’ll post my sentences daily, but save them up for a weekly happiness update.  If you’re game, you can come along on the happiness ride.  No need for a blog, a pen and paper will do.  Check out the project here.

31 posts will be a lot, I might  need a little inspiration, so I’m throwing it out to the universe, what do you want me to write about?  Is there a burning thought or question you would like addressed?  Is there something you’re interested in or think that I should be interested in?  Leave me a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

One down, 30 to go, wish me luck!


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,


Colour me orange.

7 Oct

I just had a wander through a local shopping centre, and it appears that orange is THE colour for this spring.  Not my usual go to colour for wardrobe essentials, I actually found myself imagining how I’d look in one of the very cute, but very orange summer dresses hanging in all of the shop windows. Maybe this one from Sportsgirl?

Or these ones from Dotti…

As I’ve said before, inspiration can come from anywhere, and all this fashion orange has me thinking about colour for the garden, and orange is an easy one to add to the garden.  Orange flowers, fruit, leaves.  Orange sculpture or feature walls.  There is one thing though, orange probably shouldn’t be your primary colour, it works best as a feature, a seasonal addition or a splash.

Orange, as a colour can evoke some interesting emotions, it can be one of the most loved and disliked colours in the spectrum.  Generally, as a warm colour, it evokes feelings of energy and can be invigorating, though overuse of the brighter tones can be jarring and confronting.

Here are some inspirational orange garden shots to get you thinking…

photo from the Cool Hunter

A Topher Delaney healing garden

Tulip Photo from National Geographic

Even the natives get in on the act - Corymbia ficifolia

Like it or love it, I think orange is here, at least for this spring!


Spring cleaning… the outdoors edition

21 Sep

Yes, it is Spring finally.  What do you need to do to make sure your garden is gorgeous? You will want to spend hours in it, but those hours shouldn’t be spent working and sweating, they should be spent enjoying and having fun.  It’s not much fun when all you can see are the things that need to be done, so here are five tips for spring “cleaning” your garden.

Don't let your garden get the better of you this spring! Image from http://www.24x7photography.com/2011/01/06/zombie-garden-sculpture/

1. Does your design do it for you? – Does your garden design work for you? Is everything in the right place and do you have the right structure for your garden.  Do you have a design or  plan, or is it all a bit ad-hoc?  A well designed space will provide you with hours of outdoor pleasure!  Do you have too much garden space?  Do you need so much lawn? Is the paving in the right place, do you need an extra path, could you tweek the levels a bit?  So many questions, but it pays to ask them.  You can do this yourself or pay a professional like me!  Check out Drawn Outdoors at your place for details.  Once you have a design that suits you, the time and resources you have available, and the activities you need, your garden might seem to almost take care of itself!  Here’s a Drawn Outdoors original I sketched up for my Mum a few years ago!

Mum's garden designed for her birthday a few years back.

2. Clean the floor – your hard surfaces need a little TLC too.  Whether you have a great deck, paving, gravel or just a concrete path, each of these does need a different treatment to keep them looking good and safe to use.  Winter tends to create a bit of moss and algae growth, so a bit of a clean and scrub will bring your hard surfaces back to a springtime state (we’re about to give our poor pathways a bit of love).  Don’t forget that decks love a little lick of oil, stain or varnish (depending on how you’ve finished them).  Gravel needs to be raked and topped up every now and again, and if your concrete really is looking a little worse for wear you can always give it a splash of textured paving paint – just check the slip factor first before you apply.  With your hard surfaces looking clean you’re halfway there.  And if you’re not so inclined to be a bit DIY, there are plenty of handymen out there who can take care of this for you!

3. Rip it out, cut it up – You don’t need to keep all of your plants forever, and they are OK if they lose a couple of limbs now and again.  One mistake people make is not being able to let go of plants that have reached their used by date or have just gotten a little too big for their space.  Have a good look, take stock and heave a huge breath then get out your secateurs or pruning saws.  Let rip – clean it out, keep what you love, get rid of stuff that’s taking over, or you just aren’t too keen on.  It’s OK, your garden will thank you for it.  Make room for the plants that you’re keeping to grow or the new plants to thrive.

4. Spread a little love – This comes in two forms – food and clothes (what the?).  Give your garden some food.  Spread a bit of fertilizer, dish out the compost.  You know you love it when someone gives you a box of chocolates, give your garden the same love.  The other thing your garden will love is a nice new layer of mulch.  This is the equivalent of a brand new spring wardrobe.  You’ll be surprised at how much difference a layer of mulch can make to your garden.  A basic leaf mulch will do the trick, though the more decorative eucalyptus and pine bark mulches look fantastic.

5. Style it up –   Add the right furniture, a bit of bling, some pots and a touch of colour and you might just transform your garden into an irresistible and inviting outdoor room.  Everyone has their own taste and style.  You can make it rustic and build your own furniture out of recycled materials or go for something in a sleek stainless steel finish.  Whatever you do make sure it can withstand the elements.  There’s no joy in hauling furniture in and out of storage each time you want to use it.  Here’s some inspiration…

Colour can be so much fun in the garden, give it a try. Image from http://rhsblog.co.uk/category/anewgarden/

Maybe you just need one key piece of furniture. Image from http://www.cankulagi.com/2011/04/08/beautiful-outdoor-furniture-design-2/

Whatever it is you need to change, add or just spring clean, make it fun and enjoy!


R-E-S-P-E-C-T This is what it means to me.

16 Sep

I read a blog post the other week that rang a little true…  (You can check it out here if you’re interested) How do you show a bit of professional respect?  I’m not talking about the lay person in the street, I’m talking about those in realted or similar fields.  People who should want to, need to and love to work with you to make their and your job easier and better.

I’ve recently spent time haunting some local nurseries, time I really enjoy, until I get talking to one of the nursery workers.  I generally don’t give away my profession, play a bit dumb and get chatting about the plants and what people are buying and doing.  Inevitably I ask them about design, and without fail I’m told not to waste my money on a landscape architect or designer, that I could do it myself (little do they know…) and that designers generally don’t know anything about plants anyway.  Needless to say, I generally leave a little less happy than when I get there which is obviously not the aim of the exercise.

Part of the purpose of visiting the Nursery is to do a little bit of mystery shopping.  Work out what people are doing, wanting, buying and liking.  See what’s new in the horticultural market and what’s trending.  I’ve had a couple of years away from the profession and I want to get my groove back, so I want to talk to people and get a good feeling for what’s happening in the industry.  When I get feedback from people who I consider to be in my industry about how ineffectual they think the job I do is it makes me a little sad.  Then I start to think about all the things they might be missing out on through their narrow view of their industry, and I get a little sadder.  Then my mind wanders to all those people who might have been thinking about getting help to design their garden because they thought it was a bit beyond them, only to be told not to waste their time or money and it makes me angry.  Not because of the possible work being lost to my profession, but because there are people out there who want to love their gardens but are being left feeling frustrated and a bit overwhelmed while they plant the same plants the nurseryman has told the last 10 people to buy as well.

Now, to set the ledger straight, to those of you who think you might know better, and that the designers out there serve no purpose, have a look at the house  you live in, the seat you are sitting on, the park you’re enjoying while you watch your kids run through the playground they love.  How many things in your world would be a little less wonderful without that special someone who, in the beginning stages had a little vision, a little dream, a tiny creative spark, that turned into a gush of designing talent that created the things that you love.

Yes, designers can be a little precious, and I know I can be guilty of that at times, but we serve a purpose.  We often think outside the square and make the little changes that others are a little too scared to make.  Sometimes those little changes can be huge leaps of faith, and it takes courage to put it out there, and believe in your own talent and ability.  But, designers are far from useless, and rarely can someone just do it themselves and achieve the same magical outcome.

Besides, a landscape is more than just plants! Therefore you need to know about a lot more than just plants to design one… but I’ll get into that a bit more another time…

Yes, I have some hard men and I'm not afraid to use them!

OK, rant over, back to normal programming, but if you’re feeling a little under valued and there’s not a lot of respect coming your way, I don’t think we’re alone!


Textures from the Nursery

10 Sep

I managed to convince Mr Perfect to visit the Nursery – one of his least favourite things to do…  Though it was a quick visit, I loved the textures of the plants and the landscape supplies.  So did the Drama Queen, who just had to pose with the pebbles.

Koi Carp at the Nursery - now the Drama Queen wants fish!

Washed river pebbles

Apparently these ones are lucky

The Drama Queen poses with the Cowra Gold!

While it's not as pretty as some of the others I love leaf mulch for it's smell and texture.


Lilly Pilly

Back to working on those designs….


Weeding it out

15 Aug

With spring finally just around the corner, it’s time to stop procrastinating.  Yes, I know I’m a champion procrastinator, and it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but our yard is in some desperate need of TLC, or should I really say major makeover, so it’s time to get going.  I have been putting off work out in the yard while I unpacked, waited for the weather to clear and organised the telegraph pole style palms to be removed.  We’ve made a bit of progress. Most of the boxes are unpacked, hopefully the rain will stay away for a little while and the palms are going on Wednesday!  Finally a few steps closer to the end goal.

But we haven’t been completely idle.  While I’m concerned about my own space, we are also part of a larger complex.  There are 12 other villas in our complex, and quite substantial communal gardens and spaces.  These have been largely neglected for a long time.  The complex was previously defence housing, and as a result most of the villas are investment properties, and a lack of owners on site has lead to a lack of activity in terms of the continual improvement of the grounds.  There has been a change lately.  Not only have we moved in, but there are a few other owner occupiers and a change in the executive of the strata has meant a renewed energy in terms of the complex.

The most exciting part is that we can see a visual change already.  Friday sparked the start of a long process of garden renovation.  The overgrown gardens have been cleared and all the Privet, Lantana, Asparagus Fern, Bracken Fern and old and scrappy looking Dietes have been removed.  The gardeners started on removing the Morning Glory and have also made a start on mulching all the garden beds.  Here are a couple of before and afters.

Before - The garden was overgrown with a whole cocktail of weeds and undesirable plants

After - Gardens are cleared and mulched - the potential is amazing

Before - The trees were being choked by vines and weeds invading from the bushland next door

After - Weeds cleared from the trees and gardens

Before - While it's great to have green, there were so many undesirable species and sight lines were being blocked through the complex

After - These gardens used to be overgrown with Lantana and Privet

After - This light couldn't be seen before

As a first step this is pretty exciting.  We’re hoping to develop a bit of community within the complex.  A little bit of pride and love in the gardens and the appearance of the complex.  As spring and summer come a long these space will be a great playground for the Drama Queen and the Daredevil.  Hopefully with a little bit of vision, some love and a whole lot of work we might be able to transform the gardens into a little oasis.

Hmmm… just another little design project for me!


Boys and girls come out to play

30 Jul

Sun, playgrounds and laughter. No more whinging about the rain, I think it heard me last week.  We’ve finally had a week of glorious weather – beautiful blue sky sunny days and crisp cool nights.  Perfect winter weather, great for being drawn outdoors during the day and for snuggling around the heater, or open fire if you’re really lucky at night.  This is how winter is supposed to be, though adding some mountains, a bit of snow and some chairlifts in there somewhere would make it nirvana for Mr Perfect

Besides the mountain of washing we’ve had to navigate, we’ve managed to plant the Drama Queen’s snow pea and broccoli seedlings and mulch them, plus she’s planted some new seeds, and is anxiously waiting to add them to her little Vegie patch.  We’ve even managed to catch some run around crazy in the sun time.

We had a perfect sunny winters day today.  Lunch with friends at the local sailing club.  In the sun.  On the balcony.  Good food, good wine, great company.  Munchkins were generally well behaved, but there is only so long that you can keep a Daredevil tied up in a high chair before he cracks it, so then it was playground time.

The Daredevil tackling the slippery dip

I have a soft spot for playgrounds.  Besides being tremendous fun to play in and around, I spent a lot of the last 15 years of my landscape architecture career designing and building playgrounds around Sydney.  I think they are the most inspiring things to design.  If you are given the freedom to really let yourself go, the opportunities for creative expression are endless.  I love trying to put myself in a 5 year old’s shoes and trying to work out what it is they need to transport themselves to whatever imaginary world they want to visit today.

There are a few things I think make a great playground, and they are also things that you can incorporate into your garden if you want to make it kid friendly.  Besides the obvious safety issues, these are some design considerations that are easily incorporated into your home design.

Colour – kids love colour.  It doesn’t need to be over the top, just enough to spark their interest, or you could go for a whole rainbow.  Kids see colourful spaces as inviting, interesting and exciting.

The Daredevil loves these coloured abacus counter rings

Measured risk – If you can put some form of risk in front of a child, they will jump at it, some more cautiously than others.  It’s the playgrounds that offer a sense of risk taking to kids that are often the most successful and popular. Flying foxes, climbing nets, swings and slippery dips all offer some sense of risk or out of control movement.  We all know that the real risk is minimal on a well designed playground, but for a little person they think they could be conquering Everest when they hit the top of a huge climbing net.  At home it might just be a balancing opportunity or stepping stones, but if it takes skill, effort and is a little bit scary they will love it.

There was no real risk in this bridge, but the Daredevil took his time working out how to get across

Opportunity for imagination – Kids don’t need to understand exactly what it is they are supposed to do in a space or with a piece of equipment.  They will experiment until they work out something fun.  It’s also magical to see them turn a piece of equipment or a space into something completely out of this world.  I’ve seen kids sailing through pirate infested waters, blasting off into space or on safari in deepest darkest Africa all within the confines of the same playground.

The Drama Queen and Daredevil waiting for their "cake" to bake

Ability to commune with nature – What little person doesn’t love picking flowers, collecting leaves or climbing trees?  There are so many opportunities for learning and creative play within just one plant, imagine what a little mind can do with a whole garden, particularly when they’re chosen for their play value.  Native grasses can be oceans, Hibiscus flowers make fantastic princess dresses and there’s always the timeless daisy chain necklace. And the dirtier they get the more fun they have.

The Drama Queen is at the age where she loves to pick flowers for her Mum - Lucky me!

The photos I’ve used to illustrate this post were taken today, and at the time they were taken I had no idea what I was going to write about, but they perfectly illustrate how one simple space can provide a variety of play experiences, and the things that little people enjoy in their play.

At the end of the day a playground doesn’t have to have swings and a slippery dip to make it fun, and neither does your garden.  Just take a little bit of time to think like a 5 year old, and you might be surprised at the outcome.


Mud pies

13 Jul

Image from Danilo Rizzuti on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the most important considerations when designing and planning gardens or outdoor spaces is your soil type and underlying geology.  Hmmmm…. yes I know, exciting stuff.  I can hear you all reaching for your mouse, see the cursor heading to the little cross of blog post death, but wait, don’t do it, not yet.  Maybe, just maybe I can make it a little bit fun, slightly interesting, or at the very worst you might just learn something.  Come on, give the dirt a chance.

So, now I’ve convinced you not to click off, I have to make this dirt interesting…. here goes….

Boring bits first.  Soil structure is important for both plants and any garden structure and earthworks.  Different soils react differently and plants either like things wet and heavy or light and dry, or anywhere in between. There are basically 3 different soil structures that are made up of the base material (eroded rock) and organic material (the yummy stuff).

Clay soils – Come from shale, are really heavy, become waterlogged and don’t have a lot of the yum stuff.

Sandy soils – Well, just think of the beach.  Sandy soils have a large particle size, drain easily and also don’t have a lot of the yum stuff

Loam soils – Goldilocks would love this stuff, not too heavy, not too dry, just right.  Loams have  the perfect mix of clay, sand and organic matter , and if you have a perfect loamy soil you are set.

Image from smh.com.au

But how do you know what you have, and how to get goldilocks to love it? Well, have a dig, get your hands dirty, make some mud pies.  I had a lecturer at uni who used to make us test soil on our teeth (yum!).  The theory was similar to the pearl test, in that when you rubbed the dirt across your teeth they could detect the difference between the fine clay and more course sand particles.  Personally I think she just got a laugh watching 30 unsuspecting undergrads eating dirt – I know I would!

Much better is the mud pie test.  Grab a couple of handfuls of dirt, add a little bit of water and make some pies.  If your pie holds together so well you’re thinking about sculpting it into an award winning cake decoration, you probably have clay.  If it makes a nice round pile of mud that holds together well, but won’t handle more detail, then you’ve got the lucky loam, and if your mud pie just can’t hold itself together, and is a lot more like a sandcastle, then sand is what you have.

The good news is that any soil can be made better and create a happy home for any plant, providing all the other things like sun and water are there.  If you have clay then add sand and compost, sand needs compost and mulch, and loam, well everyone loves a little bit of the yummy compost stuff every now and again.  The even better news is that compost can be free if you’ve thought ahead, but more about that in the future, ’cause I’ve been weighing up whether to have worms or a heap.

Moral to the story is if you love your mud and give it some yum stuff, it will love you back and give you bountiful harvests.

image from smh.com.au

If I’ve actually got you thinking about mud, check out the 14th annual Boryeong Mud Festival at Daecheon beach, 190 kilometers southwest of Seoul, Korea. The festival encourages the use of mud for its benifits for skin-care and to promote tourism in the region. The festival runs until from July16-24.  But really it just seems like an excuse for college kids to get really really dirty!


Inner West garden story part 2 – Detailing the design

9 Jul

You’ve seen the site, and the concepts in the previous Inner West post.  You can read it here if you missed it, or if you need a refresher, it was a little while ago.

The next stages involved refining the design and detailing and documenting to enable construction.  This is sometimes the hardest part of the design process.  It involves some hard decisions, compromises and a lot of calculations and cold hard facts.  This is the part, as a designer you can either fall in love or fall apart with your design.

After chewing through a lot of butter paper and a fair amount of red wine (most of our design discussions were held over food or between kid minding duties) a final design was reached.  It was time for the hard work to start.  Fortunately, they already had a landscape contractor they wanted to use, so there was no real need for a full set of documentation and specification.  We agreed that I’d put together a basic set of detail and planting plans.

Some of the butter paper workings

What does a basic set of plans entail?  It’s still a fair bit of work, especially when you’re a hand drawer, but you need to get them right to ensure that your design is communicated and able to be translated into a living breathing garden. I prepared 3 basic plans and some details and planting schedule.

The final plans

1. Site set out, demolition and general information – gives basic site information and instructions to the contractor.

2. Hardworks and finishes plan – this included all the basics hardworks finishes like paving, garden edging and drainage.

3. Softworks plan – identifying all plants, their location and size.  The accompanying plant schedule provided quantities and container sizes.

4. Some basic construction details were also provided.  As I was assuming that the contractor could knock off the basics, I was more concerned with the construction of the retaining wall and ensuring this was sound.

I seemed like the design process took forever, but eventually the construction was underway.  Here are some “in progress” photos.

I can’t wait to see the finished product!



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