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!

Russian blue cat.

Three Little Pigs and Two Kittens

Small steps happening here.  There are a couple of feline distractions, that I deny were selected for their match with our sofa.

Six months have past since handover and I sent my list of problems into Webb and Brown-Neaves.  Nothing drastic.  They’ll pay me a visit next week to review everything. Hopefully, the fixes will be quick and with minimal time off work required.

We finally got around to our handover with Intelligent Homes who were subcontracted to install our security and communication systems.  Burglars, be warned!  You’ll need ear plugs.

A decent front door arrived (the first one was water stained) and has been varnished.  It’s a bit dark but by the time we install the decorative security screen door, that won’t matter.

The Nice Wolf hung an old front door bell that we’ve been carting around for more than a decade.  It came from our first house.  We took it off to render the 70’s brick and promptly lost the bracket so never rehung it.  I’m very grateful now.

Waterline tiles

Charcoal waterline tiles.

pool tiles

Waterline tiles

The waterline tiles have been laid in our pool and there has been talk of solar versus electric heating.  I can almost believe that we’ll be swimming in this pool come Summer.  I’d better get cracking with the fence painting and planting.

There’s a chance my blog may spontaneously combust this week.  Last year I paid a small amount for “custom design” and no ads, but this year I put the money towards this floor lamp:

Floor lamp.

Irresistible purchase from Barney and Fleur in Bridgetown.

So if this page is looking a bit weird later this week, that’s why.  I shall attempt blog first aid as necessary.

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.

 

Outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchen

Our barbecue collection is becoming a bit embarrassing.  Lest we be caught short without a barbecue, our current count is 4, spread over 3 locations.    But that is not enough for The Nice Wolf (a.k.a. husband).  Australians love to barbecue, but so do Canadians, Brazilians and South Koreans and they all do it in different ways.

The Nice Wolf loves to entertain and if he invites you for dinner, the chances are you will be fed either BBQ or pizza.  And when the husband is cooking, which wife in her right mind would deny him the “necessary” tools?  So the outdoor kitchen at House By The Water shall be requiring a standard Australian/Canadian style barbecue, a Brazilian churrasqueira and a pizza oven.

Top 5 Outdoor Kitchens:

COS Design back yard.

This is probably the closest example of how I imagine our BBQ area to look. Amazing Melbourne back yard by: COS Design.

Pizza oven

Pizza oven and built in BBQ by Harrison Landscaping. (Feature photo is from the same garden.)

Punta del este alfresco

Space hungry but beautiful.  Source: Menossi Fotografo.

Black and timber outdoor kitchen

Building approval required for this rather OTT outdoor kitchen. Never-the-less, it’s classy. Photo source: unknown.

Simple BBQ bench.

Subtle BBQ bench by Secret Gardens.

Longtime readers will know that I like to choose my favourite 5 photos for inspiration, but I have to tell you that outdoor kitchens were a struggle.  So many of them dominate a space.  When I’m outside, I want to forget about the sink and let the canal and garden be the focus.  We want a lot of BBQs but we don’t want it to look like a lot.  Probably the standard BBQ will be wheeled out of sight most of the time, leaving just the built-in churrasqueira and pizza oven on display.  I’m sure the Nice Wolf will enjoy the challenge of designing just the right space, with my guidance on the finishes:

Mood board for outdoor kitchen.

Keeping the outdoor style consistent. Modern Australian with a touch of Italian and Brazilian!

  • concrete ✔︎
  • timber ✔︎
  • matt black ✔︎
  • stainless steel ✔︎
  • neighbour friendly ✔︎
  • plant friendly ✔︎

Have you got a fancy outdoor kitchen plan?  

What are your back yard cooking essentials?  

Could you start your own barbecue shop?

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to my Dad whose favourite BBQ method is a snag in a pan on a campfire in the paddocks, and to the Nice Wolf, who likes that too!

Post handover plan.

In theory, the keys to House By The Water should be ours in 6 months from now.  Somehow it still seems like a lifetime away, but I’m daring to start thinking about the post handover plan.

There’s an enormous amount to be done, so I put it all on a spread sheet and prioritised each task into high/medium/low categories.

Post handover plan - missing some pieces.

Post handover plan – work in progress.

The critical items are installing timber floors throughout the house and window dressings for the bedrooms.  These need to be done before we move in.  The driveway is also high on the list – we don’t want to be walking sand on beautiful new floors.  We took the driveway out of our builder’s scope of work.  We want cobblestones and their quote was ridiculously out of line with any other quote.

So herein lies a logistical nightmare!  Our best flooring quote comes from a company that says our floors could take up to 5 weeks to install!  We do have 300 square metres of floor to cover, including a set of stairs, but this is not what I expected.

You can see I have a few gaps in the table.  I’m looking for recommended local contractors to quote on:

  • laying a cobblestone driveway with a concrete base
  • constructing a rendered brick front fence with steel insets
  • installing an automated driveway gate  (preferably these 3 items would be done by the same contractor)

I’d really like to know:

  1. What was your order of works post-handover?
  2. Which post-handover tasks could be done in unison?  i.e. multiple trades on site.
  3. How long did you take between handover and moving in?
  4. Any other tips for running a tight post-handover ship?

I want to get this plan right.  The race to Christmas will be on for the construction industry, and the longer we take the longer I’m going to be sleeping in the caravan in our front yard.

Perhaps if I get a few film cameras involved,  in “The Block” style, we can get the whole lot done in a week!

These pictures are from my favourite house on The Block this season.  Josh and Charlotte share my love for timber floors and white shutters.  (Photo source:  Domain.) House By The Water will be the third house we’ve lived in with this simple winning combination.

Vegetable garden
Gallery

Veggie Patch

All good Easter Bunnies need a vegetable patch, so I thought it was a good time to tackle the topic of growing vegetables.  Well, I bit off more than I could chew,  so consider this Part One.

Let’s start with the easy bit.  Some inspiration.

Wood planters.  Source:  Remodelista.

Wood planters. Source: Remodelista.

Photo by Anna Fasth at  Tradgards Design.

Photo by Anna Fasth at Tradgards Design.

Concrete kitchen garden.  Photo source:  Skarp Agent (unverified).

Concrete kitchen garden. Photo source: Skarp Agent (unverified).

Source:  Style Room

Source: Style Room

(Header photo source:  Victoria Skoglund.)

Good looking, hey?  Looks are important because our vegetable garden is going in our front yard.  I like the simplicity of several black boxes in a row, but I’d also like to soften the look of the front yard so gardens with varying heights and angles appeal to me too.  There are plenty more swish vegetable gardens to see in my Pinterest file.

I’ve grown herbs and a few veggies before but on a very small scale.  The more I read, the more I go round in circles considering aspect, soil, garden bed material, climate, pests and even who’s friends with who in the vegetable world.  So I’ve narrowed my plan of attack down to these three options:

  1. Continue to study up and plan a technically correct vegetable garden.
  2. Bribe my Dad with an airfare, give him a budget and let him loose in my front yard.
  3. Wing it.

I’m currently favouring the last option.  In the mean time, here are a few resources that I’ve found interesting:

  1. Yates – my hard copy of Yates Garden Guide is in storage, so I had to resort to the web.  This site has a lot of Australian based information.  I signed up to trial their virtual garden, but it lacks the detail to be useful.
  2. Garden Angels – How to Grow Your Own Vegetables video series.  These cheerful and short videos start right from the basics of building your own garden bed.
  3. Online Garden Planner.  The trial version is free.  You can map out your garden space, getting an idea of scale.
My veggie plan as drawn on  the Online Planner:  work in progress.

My veggie plan as drawn on the Online Garden Planner: work in progress.

And because I’ve failed dismally so far to put together a “This is how I’m going do it” plan, I am referring you to the talented Steph from Saltbush Avenue.  Not only did Steph do her research and develop a great vegetable garden plan that included the most adorable illustrations, but she’s harvested her first crop and is now teasing me with photos of home grown veggies.

Have a great Easter everyone and don’t forget to leave a carrot out for the rabbit.

 

 

Vertically challenged.

Vertical garden

Gorgeous but tricky?
Source:  Architectural Digest.

I’m not the worst gardener in the world, but I reckon some of those beautiful vertical gardens wooing me on television screens and magazine pages, could be money down the drain.  Some are gorgeous works of art when they are first installed, but I wonder how they look one year later.

Our House By The Water has a few spots that will need the green treatment.  My main focus for now is the view from the scullery:

Scullery view

Creamy coloured old brick wall.

Side alley.

Site for future vertical garden.

Dining view

The dining room shares a partial view of the same brick wall. I’m not sure how the neighbours intend to replace the fence they took down, but at least, the existing section needs beautifying.

Here’s the situation:

  • The width between the house and the brick fence is 1.6 metres at the narrowest point.
  • Shared utility space for garage access, washing line and bin storage.
  • Strong chance of being a wind tunnel.
  • Exposure to sun: only a few hours per day.

Tough conditions.  Forgetting the plant selection for a moment, here are my options:

  1. Plant climbers into the ground.  Help them with some simple wires.
  2. Espalier trees.  Reticulate.

    Photo sources: 1. Flickr.  2. Lucy Williams Interior Design.  3.  Herbidacious.

  3. Pot plants and use shelves or some kind of structure to layer them up the wall.

    Photo sources:  1. Revista Natureza.  2.  One Kings Lane.  3.  Flickr.  4. Wanilla Rose (unverified).

  4. Use a simple pocket system for vertical gardens, with or without an irrigation kit.

    Photo sources:  1.  Wemmy.  2.  HGTV.  3.  Plants On Walls via Buzzfeed.

  5. Use a complex vertical garden structure with built in watering system including a pump.

    Photo sources:  1.  Better Homes and Gardens.  2. Garden design.  3.  Watergarden Warehouse.

Verdict

I’m going to save options one and two for the front yard, to hide the rear walls of the neighbours’ garages.  The front yard faces North and there will be room to condition the soil, so espaliered fruit and climbing plants should do well there.

Options four and five scare me.  In our challenging conditions, I’m worried we’d end up with an expensive, dead mess.

For my scullery view, I’m favouring the plants in pots option.  We’ll render and paint the brick fence almost black.  We’ll add some structure to give the plants height so we can see them.  I’ll recruit a large, hardy pot of rosemary or something equally tough to act as a wind break, or if necessary construct a screen.  Worst case scenario, move struggling plants to a happier location.

Pots on shelves.

Yep, I could gaze at this while I scrub some dishes. Source: Revisita Natureza via Blog da Ayda.

Could you pull off a vertical garden?  Do you have some suggestions for covering a shady wall?  Have you seen any great green walls that stood the test of time?  (Ivy doesn’t count!)

For more vertical garden ideas of all descriptions, take a look in my Pinterest file.