garden beforeOnce upon a time there was a tiny little garden.  This garden was unloved, neglected, and forlorn.  In fact, you could hardly call it a garden: it looks more like a covered area where you’d store your rubbish bins.

This seemed such a momentous issue to solve that we sought the advice of a landscape architect, Peter Glass.  He drew us plans, but the plans he drew were costed at more than $50000 to build (WAY out of our agreed budget).  Things turned pretty nasty (I won’t relive that here…)  I since found out a similar thing happened at a university in Sydney.  Apparently you still have to pay for those plans (even university lawyers couldn’t get out of it) even if they are completely useless to you. 

So if I can save any of you the pain we went through – be very careful.  In Australia at least, you aren’t protected at all in this area as a consumer.

So, by this time we didn’t have any money left.  Nor any useful designs ….so we did it ourselves….  and here are the pics of how we did it.  We got very tired, very muddy and very strong. 

doesnt cost the earth garden

You can see that lattice had been put all over the garden.  This is actually the view from our sitting room!  not very inspiring….

recycling the garden

The first thing we did was to rip down the lattice and remove all the structure beneath.  This was such a joyous exercise for me – I did a little dance every time we tore down another light-restricting, dark, enclosing beam!

ripping out the garden

And suddenly you could see daylight!  And also that there is a big slope.  But plenty of potential.

starting demolition in the garden

As an interim measure I had covered the sleeper wall with bamboo and mirrors to try to improve the outlook from the sitting room.  These all came off, and the sleeper wall was lowered, bit by bit, taking out the soil as we went.

we're getting there

You can see that the soil isn’t that great, but as we excavated, we uncovered more and more of a massive tree stump.

starting the excavation

The access is so bad that you can’t get a stump grinder down. 

(There is a side story here of how we did try to remove it ourselves with a hired chain saw, but after the ‘man’ (or ‘rude name’ as he was called briefly during this incident) sawed through the water main, creating our very own geyser, flooding the house and generally creating pandemonium, we decided not to tackle this ourselves). 

We got a stump whisperer in who removed it with wedges in an hour.  I kid you not.  He must have been at least 70 and he took it out as easily as if it were a sponge cake.

a tree stump issue

We dug out tonnes of soil.  That was the backbreaking and boring bit.  One or two divine and lovely friends pitched in and helped.  And eventually we were ready for the construction phase.

garden design

I decided that as I could design inside, surely I could manage outside too.  So to minimise the feeling of height, I designed three beds, each stepped down.  At first we wondered whether we needed brick walls and concrete foundations.  But keeping the walls to 500mm high eliminates the need for that (and for structural engineers).  So we worked with concrete fibreboard and wooden posts cemented into the ground, 300mm deep.

earth - in the garden

We got new earth and manure to mix in with the old grotty stuff, and ordered plants wholesale as we needed so many of them.  I wanted simple repeating elements (as I like them in my interiors) so we had a line of three Olive Trees as a feature, with rows of Agapanthus backing each bed, and tricolour Jasmine to tumble over the front.

planting the garden

This was such a rewarding stage!  We also painted the new walls and the old sleepers (we left a low front wall of these as they had been so well-built) with the same exterior paint to unify the look.  We chose a colour that picked up the sandstone in the wall behind.

newly planted garden

We only planted this in March of this year.  A few months later (and this is during the Sydney winter) the plants have already settled in and started to grow.

growing garden

The Bougainvillea is in flower:

And the Birds of Paradise have put forth their first bloom – so exotic!

Bird of Paradise

It will be a good year or so before the beds fill out – but as Spring is now officially here – it seemed the right time to share them now….

Once again:


recycling the garden


growing garden


doesnt cost the earth garden


planting the garden