Tag Archives: nature

Out the Back

14 May

One of the iconic Australian landscape images is of the Outback.  The desert, kangaroos, Uluru, you know the picture.  Like most Australians, I haven’t actually been there.  We like to stick close to the coast most of the time, but Mr Perfect and I did venture a little way back a few years ago and visited Lake Mungo National Park in far western New South Wales.  It was a spectacular and ancient landscape, with an interesting juxtaposition of Natural, Indigenous and European histories.

Love how these landscapes can inspire.




Friday Finds – Yellow Treehouse

11 May

Is this the most spectacular treehouse you have ever seen?  The Redwoods Treehouse was built for an advertising campaign for Yellow – the New Zealand Yellow Pages, and is now used for functions. The Treehouse is located near Warkworth, north of Aukland on New Zealand’s north island, and was designed by Pacific Environments.  I think it looks like a delicate cocoon clinging to the majestic Redwood tree, it is stunning!

What a creative dream this would have been to design!


All photos from www.yellowtreehouse.co.nz and www.pacificenvironments.co.nz

Plant Lovin’ -Sweet Pea

10 May

I always seem to be choosing plants for my Plant Lovin’ series that have I a bit of an emotional connection to.  These plants provide great memories, or remind me of special people.  The Sweet Pea is definitely one of those plants.  My Nanna Bet had the most fantastic vegetable garden, and Sweet Peas always featured.  She had a fabulous trellis that they snaked across and hung over.  I remember going home with bunches of Sweet Peas on so many occasions.  It was also one of the flowers used in the bouquets at our wedding, it was a perfect softener for the red roses that matched the Bridesmaids dresses.

It is a plant that I have been wanting to try out for a while, but didn’t think would work too well on our old balcony, and then I missed the season last year.  So this year, the Drama Queen and I have some little baby Sweet Peas getting ready to hit the garden.  Hopefully they like us and give us bunches of their sweet smelling flowers!

So here’s the Snow Pea low down…

Name: Lathyrus odoratus

Description: The Sweet Pea is a flowering annual that grows to 1.5-2m tall with the aid of a trellis or frame.  The sweet smelling flowers are the main feature of the plant, but I’m also fond of the delicate looking tendrils that are used to grip.  Flowers range from white through to pink, red and purple.

What you’ll love about them: The flowers, the flowers, the flowers!  As they are a climber, and grow to about 2m high they are perfect for screening a fence or covering a lattice or garden screen.  As they are winter growing, they will fill in the winter bare patches in your garden.  They will grow easily from seed.  Let’s face it, if we can germinate them, I think anybody can!

What they love:  Sweet Peas love the sun, they need at least six hours a day to keep them happy.  A well drained soil, and a lattice or trellis to grow on.  As they are annuals you will need to rip them out and replace them each year.  In Sydney they are a seed that is best sown in Autumn, so they don’t like it too hot.  Check in your part of the world for what time of year would suit them best.

The not so great bits:  Sweet Pea is an annual plant, so will not last past one season.  It’s not a long term garden solution, but a fun splash of colour from year to year.  It will need a bit of work to get them started and then to rip them out again at the end of the season, but if it fits in with your vegetable garden rotation there’s not problem!

If you prefer something a bit more home grown: There are no native Sweet Peas, and nothing that I can think of that is an Annual, so there isn’t anything that you can directly substitute, but if it’s the vine you are looking for you could try a Hardenbergia violacae, it is fairly hardy and vigorous and has purple pea shaped flowers.

Off to water our sweet pea babies and design them a trellis!


Woo Hoo! One year old today

9 May

One year ago I sat down at this computer desk, at a very similar looking but different computer and tapped out my first blog post.  Drawn Outdoors the blog was born!

I’m just a little bit proud of the achievements I have made in the last twelve months, they’re only relatively small in the bigger scheme of things, but most have been significant first steps into previously untested waters for me.  A bit of faith, a bit of inspiration and a lot of hard work, and I am well and truly on my way.  If I could have predicted the future, I would have thought that this blog would have started out like a burst of Sydney New Years Eve fireworks, and then kind of faded away in the haze of smoke that was left in its wake.  I wasn’t sure that I would still have things to blog about, how I would find inspiration and ideas, and even if anyone would read what I was writing.

Fortunately I was wrong.  My daily page views are steadily increasing each month, and I seem to be enjoying blogging more with each post that I write, this is my 88th post, so by the end of May I will be well and truly into triple digits.  I am constantly amazed that my most read post has had over 1,000 views, and that it was this one

What have I achieved, what happened this year and where to from here?? Is it time to make a new blogging year to do list, re-write some aims and objectives and set the bar just a little bit higher? Hell yeah!  It’s time to dream bigger, better and in every colour of the rainbow!

Drawn Outdoors’ first year saw births, deaths and marriages.  We had hospital stays and holidays, and an incredibly huge amount of rain!  At least the weather is my prevailing excuse for the lack of activity on the Drawn Outdoors courtyard.  Drawn Outdoors has attracted a few clients, I’ve dusted off the drawing board and designed some fabulous gardens, though still not ours!  As I said, baby steps, but at least when I prepare my tax return this year I’ll be able to show a very modest income!  Significantly I graduated from the Bizness Babes program, and blogged about it here.  Without these wonderful women and fantastic program I don’t think I would have had the nerve to start down this road.

As for the rainbow coloured dreams, as the Daredevil will be heading off for a day or two of childcare soon I’ll suddenly be presented with the luxury of time.  Time that will be used to grow my business, improve my blog and take the next step and start to develop my website.  With the extra time I’ll be able to start to market Drawn Outdoors and find clients rather than waiting for potential clients to find me.  And maybe, just maybe I’ll actually finish my business plan, rather than continually “improving” it!

I know that this year I’ll be taking bigger steps, confident strides, and there is a possibility you might even see some running and jumping, though dancing might be more my style.  Bigger things are in store, better things down the track.

Happy birthday Drawn Outdoors!  Thank you for reading, I hope I have informed and entertained.  At the very least I hope I have made you smile, think and feel inspired.  I hope you’re really starting to feel drawn outdoors!


Red flowering gums

3 May

stunning is the simple word for any red flowering gum.  They generally don’t grow very well in Sydney, but there are some cultivars and new varieties of Corymbia ficifolia that are challenging the Sydney conditions.  There are quite a few in the gardens around Drawn Outdoors HQ, and I couldn’t help but take a photo on our wander up to the shops.

I’m feeling a wee bit like Little Ragged Blossom now.


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?


Plant Lovin’ – Crepe Myrtle

28 Mar

Illustration from Wikipedia

As Sydney is starting to feel a little chillier in the mornings and we start to think about donnas and blankets a little more, I’m starting to look for the first leaves to turn in Autumn.  If you design your garden well, you can probably experience something spectacular in each season of the year.  While Spring and Summer are known for their floral tributes, it’s autumn that provides some of the most spectacular colour courtesy of turning foliage.

While the Crepe Myrtle (or Crape Myrtle if you’re in the US) doesn’t have the most spectacular autumn foliage, when you package together it’s other attributes it becomes a tree that’s hard to bypass if you’re after something small and spectacular.  It’s summer flowers are the most spectacular part of the Crepe Myrtle, but it’s the smooth and sculptural bark and trunk that I love.  When most deciduous trees are looking a bit skeletal, the Crepe Myrtle feels much more artistic.  I love that this deciduous tree doesn’t have a bad season.  Spring brings new growth and vibrant budding leaves, summer has spectacular floral colour, autumn brings the turning leaves and in winter, you have a great garden sculpture.

The sculptural bark and trunks of the Crepe Myrtle are a feature in their own right

The Crepe Myrtle is the living, growing proof that good things come in small packages, as it rarely grows taller than 6-8m, and it prunes well, so you can control the growth to what you and your garden need.

So here’s the Crepe Myrtle low down…

Crepe Myrtle Tree form - photo from HowStoffWorks.com

Name: Lagerstroemia indica – There are a heap of different varieties so check out what’s available at your local nursery to find the one that’s right for you.  The main variation is the flower colour, so it’s pretty easy to co-ordinate with the rest of your planting design.

Description: A small deciduous tree that provides a spectacular floral display.  Flowers range from white through to vibrant hot pink.  The Crepe Myrtle is native to Asia, and grows exceptionally well through most of Australia.

Vibrant red / pink flowers

What you’ll love about them: There is just so much to love about the Crepe Myrtle.  If you are after a smaller tree, then this fits the bill perfectly.  It is great for small gardens and courtyards, and can be pruned and trained to fit into any situations. The flowers are spectacular and come in a range of colours from white through to mauves and vibrant pinky reds.  I love the sculptural trunks that become more twisted and gnarled as they get older.  The list of pros for the Crepe Myrtle is long and impressive, which is why it’s a tree that I always find myself recommending.

Pretty pink flowers in summer cover the whole tree.

There are some spectacular old Crepe Myrtle trees in the heritage suburbs of Sydney, and it looks equally at home in a new and more modern landscape.  Flexible, adaptable, easy and very very pretty, this is a great tree.

What they love:  Crepe Myrtles aren’t too fussy.  They like a nice drink of water and an open aspect, though can really grow anywhere as long as their toes don’t get too wet.  They like a good haircut in winter too.  Keeping the tree pruned will promote larger flower sprays, so prune back when they lose their leaves, though do be careful to maintain the tree’s shape and avoid a “hacked back” look.

The not so great bits: Yes, it is deciduous, so there is a little bit of leaf drop once a year, and yes if it worries you, you might have to clean up the leaves.  It also does better if you give it a bit of a prune every few years.  If you don’t like leaf drop or pruning, it’s not for you, but to be honest, I see this as very little pain for whole lot of gain.  Some of the older varieties are also prone to powdery mildew, but newer varieties are resistant to this.  The good definitely outweigh the bad on this gem of a deciduous tree.

If you prefer something a bit more home grown: There aren’t a lot of deciduous natives, particularly with all that the Crepe Myrtle has going for it, but you could try the White Cedar (Melia azederach).  The White Cedar is a small deciduous tree native to northern Australia and areas of Asia, and has a really nice floral display, but doesn’t really have the autumn colour or sculptural trunk that the Crepe Myrtle has.

The flowers and foliage of the White Cedar, image from Royal Botanic Gardens website.


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