Finished landscaping of Unit 1 front garden
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Landscaping makes a difference

Like fine wine, some things take time.  Landscaping the Unit 1 front garden is one of those things.  A series of obstacles meant the project hung around on the to-do list for longer than expected.  Christmas holidays emptied the site as everyone took a well-earned break. The long, hot, dry summer weather stopped any thought of planting defenceless seedlings.  Building Units 2 and 3 then took centre stage so landscaping slipped onto the back burner. However, the planets eventually aligned and, now, the front garden looks nothing like the construction site it was 6 months ago.

Landscaping started with the garage.

Boring it might be, but every house deserves a decent driveway and a garage needs a door.  These features certainly help with first impressions. Organising these basics kicked off our landscaping project.

With the rest of the house essentially finished, our street appeal was hampered by the dirt driveway and missing garage door.

Garage lacks a floor, door and driveway.

Looking from inside the garage clearly shows the potential for improvement.

Lack of driveway affects street appeal
Lack of driveway and security fence limits the street appeal.

After laying the concrete floor in the garage, Frank and his Palacon crew prepared the driveway.

Finished the garage floor and moving onto the driveway.

Our driveway job proved to be bigger than most because the Council required a new crossover spanning the entrance to Unit 1 and the units next door.  With some careful planning, all the tenants arranged to move their cars onto the street for the days the crossover was out of action. I helped in one case, driving a tenant’s car through a temporary gravel driveway Frank created around the back of Unit 1.

No traffic allowed on crossover for Unit 1 and the next door units.

Removing the bunting revealed a completed driveway and crossover.  Good drying conditions for the Vic Mix concrete produced a great result.  Maintaining a watchful eye over proceedings ensured the finished surface didn’t suffer the embarrassment of dog footprints or kids’ names recorded for posterity.

Finished driveway and crossover.

Laying the concrete floor enabled Steel-Line to install a garage door.  Looking at the door reminded me of a dentist fixing a missing tooth. Unit 1 could now smile at the street without showing an unsightly gap.

Garage door completes the facade for Unit 1.

Preparing for front garden landscaping.

Installing a driveway had an interesting ripple effect on our plans for a garden.  All the earth removed to from the driveway excavation ended up in front of Unit 1. We’re talking about a lot of wheelbarrow loads to move that pile.

Landscaping can't begin until a pile of earth is moved
Pile of earth created during excavations for the driveway

Frank solved the problem by using his excavator to load the soil into a truck.

Fast and easy way to remove a pile of earth is a skilled operator in an excavator.

All it took was an hour or two and the job was finished.  We had a flat area to landscape. The only features to be seen are the Timbercrete structure for the electrical meter boxes and the retaining wall David built earlier.

Ready for landscaping after the pile of dirt was removed
The levelled site is ready for landscaping.

The last job David and his team did for the year was to install letter boxes for the three units.  It’s amazing what can be done with a bit of imagination and some timber from the old house. At his next visit, I asked our postie what he thought of the structure.  He gave it his seal of approval, being an easy height to reach from his motorbike and looking more attractive than most of the boxes he sees.

Letterboxes on an abstract structure made out of timbers reclaimed from the old house.

Oops! That’s awkward.

One fine day, I thought I would help with site maintenance by clearing the couch grass that was quickly taking over the bare surface.  All went well until I jabbed the digging fork into the line supplying water to the construction site toilet. I should have paid more attention to exactly where this pipe went.

Oops! Water spray from puncturing the water line.

After shutting off everyone’s water supply, I sheepishly admitted what I’d done to David who suggested a trip to Reece plumbing to buy a connector.  Luckily, repairing the leak was within my limited plumbing skills.

Repaired water line with coupling in place.

So, here is our blank canvas to work with.  It’s no longer a construction site, just a flat bit of earth.

Cleared site awaiting landscaping to begin
No longer a construction site, but not yet a garden.

Let’s do this.

When the warm weather finally eased off, our landscaper Dan Molloy (Terra Firma Creations) arrived on site to discuss options.

Ready to start landscaping the front garden
View of the home’s facade without vegetation.

The final design took shape over a couple of meetings with lines sprayed onto the soil to show where key features were going. We had already decided on an indigenous plant theme, with shrubs and grasses clustered around several canopy trees.  Going indigenous means we have an attractive, low maintenance garden which also provides support for the local fauna. Dan suggested including a few large rocks to give the site a bit of texture.

Lines mark locations of landscaping features
Spraying lines on the ground helps to visualise the important features

Putting the rocks in place required the delicate touch of a small excavator.

Putting rocks into position required assistance from an excavator.

Building the form-work for the steps leading to the front door wasn’t a straightforward task since this is a decent drop.

Stairs leading to the front door are a mix of short and long steps.

Dan used his crazy paving skills to build an eye-catching feature of steps using Kakadu slate.  The colours complement the earthy tones of the garden and honey colours of the board and batten cladding.

Landscaping includes crazy paving on front steps
Crazy paving with Kakadu slate creates an eye-catching entrance

Most time in our landscaping discussions was spent talking about a centrepiece.  How could we give the garden immediate street cred, before the plants grew larger?  For a while we ummed and aahed about putting in a mature grass tree. A grass tree with several limbs does look dramatic.  However, the cost killed that idea. The final plan involved installing railway sleepers with an enclosed space for an appropriate sculpture.

Old railway sleepers as a centrepiece added character to the landscape.

Plants are the finishing touch.

Our indigenous plants came from the CRISP nursery whose volunteers are specialists in the field.  For months, our trees, shrubs, grasses, lilies, etc waited patiently in pots. Regular watering and a round of re-potting helped them through summer.

Some of the potted indigenous plants we stored around Unit 1.

We could almost feel the sense of relief from the plants as they were placed around the front garden.  It’s not a large area, but we did run short. Fortunately, the nursery is only a couple of minutes away so we scooped up another batch of seedlings to fill in the blank spots.

Placing the plants to get the desired effect of a bushland setting.

That’s all, for now.

Until the driveway to Units 2&3 is finished, that’s all the landscaping we can do.

People wandering past like what they see.  It’s a lovely feeling to have pedestrians stop and comment on how good the garden looks.

Finished landscaping of Unit 1 front garden
View from the street as pedestrians amble past.

We’re pleased with the way the landscaping complements the Unit 1 facade.

Dramatic change from the bare earth just a few weeks ago.

The sculpture centrepiece remains a work in progress but we have a plan.  To give an idea of the finished product, I placed our “found object” mother and baby bird sculpture in the railway sleeper enclosure.  Libby bought the sculpture years ago at Bulleen Art and Garden for our house in Blackburn.

Found object mother and baby bird sculpture adds interest to the garden

In a few weeks, the actual sculpture should arrive.  We’ve commissioned Warwick from Wozbits to make something special for us. He’s a master at crafting artwork out of old bits and pieces.  Here’s an example of his work from an exhibition at Bulleen Art and Garden. We love the way he somehow adds emotions to the little creatures that pop up in his sculptures.  Also, being made from recycled objects and reclaimed wood fits right into the philosophy of our build.

Example of the sculptures created by Wozbits.

What a pleasure it is sitting at my desk in the second bedroom, looking at the front garden. I’m confident this little patch of bushland, along with the Wozbits sculpture, will mature into something that attracts local fauna for many years.

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