Nice Wolf battles coastal storms to build steps.

Installing step pavers.

Slow work on steps

It’s bloody freezing outside.  I’m sure our weekend weather comes from the Antarctic.  (I’ve not had a winter for several years, so I may be a little sensitive.)  The Nice Wolf is tough!  And handy.  And is currently outside working on step pavers and cobblestones through squalls of rain and chilling wind.

He’s on a schedule.  The professional landscapers are yet to install our garden lights and the roller door which covers some outdoor storage beside the canal.  To complete these two jobs, they need us to complete the step paving which houses step light canisters and the section of cobblestone paving around the storage area.  Of course, by “us”, I really mean The Nice Wolf.  These are both seriously slow jobs.  The steps have to be done step by step, literally.  There is concrete carting and setting time involved and some fiddly circular holes to be made for the light canisters.  Perhaps a professional might knock the job off in a day, but for my weekend warrior, it is taking more than a few weekends.  Never-the-less, he’s getting there and his labour is free.

Laying cobblestones.

Cobblestone progress.

The landscaping is slowly progressing.  The outdoor tiles around the pool area have been completed and we have a fence and gate installed to restrict access from our front yard.

Monument colorbond fence.

Colorbond pool fence.

We went for a cheap option for this side of the pool fence.  We may alter this area to include a covered outdoor kitchen a few years down the track, in which case, the fence will go.  In the meantime, I’ll cover it up with some creepers on the poolside.

I’ve been itching to get started on the planting.  I need to be patient and wait for the hardscaping to be done.  The longer I have to wait, the more I change my mind.  I’m oscillating between choosing a frangipani or an olive tree as our feature tree.  On one hand I love the colour of the olive leaves for our colour scheme, on the other hand, the frangipani’s sculptural trunk and branches are hard to beat.

Coastal garden

Lomandra, coastal banksia and a native ground cover.

I snuck in a few extra plants which made me very happy.  What can be better than gardening beside the water?  My coastal banksias were looking lonely, so I planted a row of lomandra and a row of native ground cover either side of the trees.  I popped in a few ground cover plants around my kangaroo paws too, to create a bit of interest and try to limit weed growth.

Six months maintenance.

Six months since handover past and I sent my list of items requiring attention to the builder.  There was nothing of great significance on the list and I’m pleased to report that most of the items were quickly fixed with a minimum of fuss and tradie visits involved.  I will do a full review of our builders, Webb and Brown-Neaves, sometime soon, but I must give them a pat on the back at this point for making the “six-month maintenance stage” fairly painless.

Ensuite.

Our ensuite. Simple, spacious and lovely!

Finally, a little “HELLO” to the House By The Water tourists!   We’ve been getting people stopping in their cars outside our house to take photos.  Some are braver than others and say “hi”.  I love that one lady this week asked if she could hold her tile (that she happened to have in the car) up against our paintwork.  That’s totally something that I would have done!

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Landscaping slowgress.

Snail’s pace is the only way to describe it.  The current rate of  work seems to be one job per month.

Hardscaping progress.

Current state. Work in progress (occasionally).

  • December- deck.
  • January – glass fence
  • February- remove scaffolding over pool.
  • March- concrete around pool
  • April – start tiling, concrete roof of storage area.
TDL plan

Landscape plan by Tim Davies Landscaping.

The grand plan for landscaping on our canal and pool side was conjured up 3 years ago.  We were wooed by smart landscaping around display homes and the existing relationship between our builder Webb and Brown-Neaves and Tim Davies Landscaping.  We decided to pay the big bucks for a clever design and for the luxury of not having to find and co-ordinate trades to make a pool, concrete, lay tiles, build a deck, install fences, etc.  Turns out the experts also have trouble finding and co-ordinating trades and so it has been a sloooww going.

To keep within some sort of budget, we kept at least half of our garden space to landscape ourselves, plus all the planting preparation and planting because that really shouldn’t be rocket science.  There is a lot to be done, so we are breaking it into chunks and trying to set some reasonable goals for completion time.  I really want the canal-side planter boxes to be filled before Winter.

I’ve been having an internal debate about whether the planting should be massed rows, or “randomly artistic”.  I can argue either way.  I am so inspired by modern coastal gardens designed by the likes of Peter Fudge and Fiona Brockhoff:

Fiona Brockhoff coastal garden

Fiona Brockhoff Design

Peter Fudge modern garden

Peter Fudge Gardens

The apparently random planting on the very impressive Esperance foreshore and good ol’ mother nature herself in Australia’s south-west on our recent holiday had me convinced that “au naturale” was the way to go.

Esperance park

City of Esperance, stunning foreshore development.

Coastal garden Esperance.

Coastal garden inspiration.

In the end, I’m going for the easier option and the one that was originally intended for our landscape design, rows and repetition.  (Don’t try to talk me out of it!  I’ve changed my mind daily for the past month.)

I’m about to head off to the Perth Garden Festival, but a few pictures of our current DIY landscaping progress.  (Yes, equally slow to progress.)

Front entrance.

The Nice Wolf did a stella job constructing our “jetty” front entrance.  (Front door is still to be replaced.)

Mum and Dad at work.

My Mum and Dad love a good day’s work in the garden.

Planter box.

My Dad moved the lion’s share of a truck load of dirt from our front yard to this giant planter box at the back.

Dianella.

I had the fun of the first plantings. Dianella.

 

Can’t see the wood for the trees.

In order to limit our landscaping costs and because we like gardening, we are planning and planting the trees and plants ourselves.  The garden is a long way off but already we’ve been keeping an eye out for suitable trees.  I’ve been scouring Houzz for good looking gardens by West Australian landscape companies.  Houzz is very useful because the landscape companies often give details about the products and plants that they use.

Fully labelled photo - scroll over tags in "Houzz" to see the name of each plant or product.  Landscape design by Secret Gardens, photo via Houzz.

Fully labelled photo – scroll over tags in “Houzz” to see the name of each plant or product. Landscape design by Secret Gardens, photo via Houzz.

Surprisingly, recent real-life inspiration came from Parliament House in Canberra.    The landscaping there is beautiful.  Orderly without being stark. There is a distinct colour scheme of grey and green.  The outstanding feature is a grove of birch trees.

A courtyard at Parliament House, Canberra.  Photo courtesy of Swah from Swah Love.

A courtyard at Parliament House, Canberra. Photo courtesy of Swah from Love Swah.

There are 5 or 6 areas of our landscape that require trees.  I’ve created a shortlist for each area after researching the following local resources:

Let’s start at the back (canal-side).

Trees for the canal side.

Trees for the canal side of our block.  Landscape design by Tim Davies Landscaping.

We need one feature tree, a row of 3 narrow trees and a poolside row of pleached trees.

1.  The feature tree needs to:

  • shade the outdoor lounge area from the Western sun.
  • tolerate coastal conditions including wind (and sandy soil?).
  • be beautiful.
  • have roots that are containable to a small area (pool and pavers are nearby).

    This picture is fairly close to our landscaping plans.  Upright fencing, pool.  Not much shade going on here.

    This picture is fairly close to our landscaping plans. Upright fencing, decking and pool. But, we need more shade.  Source:  William Dangar and Associates, via Flickr.

Here’s my shortlist:

  • Frangipani (Plumeria).  Shortfalls might include inadequate shade and wind intolerance.
  • Magnolia Kay Parris.  Might need wind protection.
  • Chinese Tallow.  Due to invasive roots, I think it would need to remain potted.  The leaf drop in the pool may be yuck.
  • Olive.   Not quite in the beautiful category when planted in isolation.

(Picture sources:  1 & 4.  Arbor West Tree Farm.  2.  Ellenby Tree Farm.  3. Cultivart Landscape Design, via Houzz.)

I don’t think I’ve found the perfect feature tree, so let me know if you have a suggestion.  (No palms.)

2.  Row of 3 trees needs to be:

  • Light on foliage, to keep the view.
  • Narrow.
  • Tolerant to coastal conditions.

Shortlist:

  • Ornamental pear. (Might need wind protection)
  • Silver birch. (May grow too large.)
  • Evergreen ash.  (Could block the view.)
  • Chinese tallow. (Their roots make me nervous….)
  • Olive.
  • Banksia Integrifolia (pictured at the top of the post in the Houzz photo).

Picture sources: 1. C.O.S. Design via Houzz.  2.  Swan Architecture via Houzz.  3. Abor West Tree Farm.  4.  Tim Davies Landscaping.

3.  Pleached row of trees along poolside wall needs to be:

  • trainable.
  • not too messy (evergreen).

How about?:

  • Evergreen ash.
  • Designer ash” (Fraxinus excelsior “Nana”).
  • Weeping Lilly Pilly.

Picture sources: 1.  Tim Davies Landscaping  2.  Flemings  3. Swell Homes

Now to the front – here it is simpler.  North facing, more protected from wind and with more room to grow.

1.  Feature tree near front entry.  I think we’ll match the feature tree from the back, whatever that might be.

2.  Orchard around front yard perimeter:  This one is easy – olives and citrus trees, maybe a bay tree to complete the cook’s garden.  We’ve had olives and lemons in Mandurah before and they grew like wildfire.

Picture sources:  Olives – Charlotte Rowe, Bay tree – Penny Woodward,  Lemon and limes – Abor West Tree Farm.

Midway through my list making, my husband asked whether I could really mix native trees with non-natives and still keep to a single landscape style.  Despite the fact that he was only voicing what I had been wondering, I was annoyed that he was adding to my tree dilemmas!  Further web trawling has given me the confidence that mixing trees and plants  can be done well.  (The top picture is a good example.)  So my answer is now, yes!

The subject of trees certainly opened up a can of worms.  I’m not sure that I’ve concluded anything yet, but hopefully this post will encourage some advice from green-thumbed readers, particularly those in the same climate as House By The Water.  At the very least, I now have some short lists to take to the tree farms or local nurseries to seek further advice.