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.
Looking from inside the garage clearly shows the potential for improvement.
After laying the concrete floor in the garage, Frank and his Palacon crew prepared 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.
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.
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.
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.
Frank solved the problem by using his excavator to load the soil into a truck.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, here is our blank canvas to work with. It’s no longer a construction site, just a flat bit of earth.
Let’s do this.
When the warm weather finally eased off, our landscaper Dan Molloy (Terra Firma Creations) arrived on site to discuss options.
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.
Putting the rocks in place required the delicate touch of a small excavator.
Building the form-work for the steps leading to the front door wasn’t a straightforward task since this is a decent drop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re pleased with the way the landscaping complements the Unit 1 facade.
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.
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.
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.