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.


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.

Little discoveries from my W.A. visit.

Cocoflip replica

Replicas galore.

1.  I’m so glad I checked out the “Cocoflip” pendant replicas. At $300 (versus $1500 for the real thing) – I had to consider them.  They looked great from 2 metres away, but then as I got close I noticed that there was no join between the “ash” top and the “aluminium” bottom.  So I reached out to see how it was done and realised that the whole thing was painted tin.  If I’d been fooled online and had the replicas delivered I would have been so disappointed.

2.  A sad moment at Myaree Ceramics…. the oil-blue tiles that I had coveted to replace our discontinued splash back tile, have also been discontinued.  No time for crying.  There were a number of good options that were close to my original grey subway tile selection.

How about that white “painted brick” tile (bottom right)?  Very clever.  Possibly not in keeping with House By The Water’s style.  Here’s my selection:

Splash back tile.

Masia gris claro tile. $96/m2

I’m going to have it laid vertically for a modern touch.

Next, I needed to reselect floor tiles for the laundry and powder room.  The laundry was easy.  I’m keeping it simple.  A matt grey tile.  The powder room, however, is a little room where it may not cost much to experiment with something a bit “out there”.

Powder room mood board.

This floor tile is a bit unusual so I made a mood board to help the Nice Wolf visualise how it might look.

Here the Caesarstone bench top in clamshell and the floor tile seem to clash but in reality they looked good together.  The tiles actually come in 4 different prints (of which we’d use 3) so the tiler will have to puzzle it together.  Hmmmm?  That could be unpopular.  I’m waiting for the costs of laying this tile to be confirmed before I commit.

3.  Next stop, a meeting with the owner of “Well Built Landscape Construction” (WBLC) to discuss our front yard plans.  I give Nick 10 out of 10 for keeping his overheads low, with our meeting taking place in McDonalds!  WBLC gave me the best quote for a cobblestone driveway and have produced some stylish home landscaping.  We discussed the driveway and our front fence and gate.  I begged him to help me decide whether to go with vertical wood or steel infills and render for the front fence.  He would have humoured me with either option, but my sensibilities and his have pushed me towards steel infills.   WBLC will provide a quote to kick-start our front yard, leaving the garden preparation for us to do at our leisure.

4.    At Nick’s suggestion, I went to Water Garden Warehouse to study steel infills for our front fence.  They supply my favourite steel infill pattern – the “wattle”.

Available from Water Garden Warehouse.

Available from Water Garden Warehouse.

I photographed steel art featuring this pattern a year ago at Home Base because I loved it.  It’s still my favourite.

We need to choose a finish.  Powder coated is smart (no rust stains dripping down the rendered wall), but the rusty steel and Corten options have a more organic look.

Work in progress - but you get the idea.

Front yard mood board.  Work in progress – but you get the idea.

5.  And just because it’s right next door to Water Garden Warehouse, I had a browse in Eco Outdoor.  Our cobblestones will come from here and I always love their outdoor furniture, though it’s usually over-priced.  Currently they have a sale on so their outdoor sofas are closer to the realms of possibility.  It’s a good place for alfresco inspiration.  They have some tempting heavy linens for making cushions and a great vertical garden.

Vertical garden

The wooden frame hides typically ugly vertical garden infrastructure.

6.  I popped into to say hi to my “Construction Liaison” at Webb and Brown-Neaves’ office.  It’s always nice to put a face to a name.  Emma took the time to explain to me a proposed change to the width of our “gutter fascia” that despite my best attempts to understand, by studying the drawings, I still could not fathom.  I have been assured that the change is purely cosmetic.

So that’s it.  All else for the remainder of our house construction must be done remotely.  The next time I visit Western Australia will be for the “practical completion inspection”.  But you know, I’ll be hovering around in the mean time, one way or another!


Making an entrance.

Source:  HomeDSGN.

I’ll take one of those, please.  Designed by Tim Steward Architects.  Source: HomeDSGN.

We’ve been playing around with ideas for the front entrance and yard.  We needed to make a decision about the floor surface for the patio.  To cut a long story short, we’ve decided on timber decking.  It will match the interior flooring when the front door is open, and will tie in with the deck at the rear of the house.  I showed this stunning picture to my live-in handy man as a model for the patio decking.  Always ambitious, he’s already planning not only the jetty-style path, but the water on either side too.  We’ll see….

You might think it is a little early to worry about the front yard, but with site works commencing in the near future, we wanted to think about how we would deal with the small slope (about 70 cm over 10 metres) from the house to the verge.  So out came the colouring pencils and graph paper.

The front yard plan.

The front yard plan, with plenty of scope for change later.  

I struggled to think how this was going to work in 3D but this is what I’ve surmised:  The driveway will slope from the garage down to the verge.  We will flatten the front yard by dropping the ground level in front of the house and increasing it towards the fence line.  This way we can avoid complicated plans and approvals required for retaining walls over 50cm high and can add interest to landscape in front of the house by including a step down from the patio to the path, maybe even some water.

Looking out from the front of the house, it should look a bit like the next photo, except where the decking is – think of a vegetable garden in raised beds.

Via Pinterest.  Original source unknown.

Via Pinterest. Original source unknown.

Finally, I returned to one of my recurring dilemmas, the front fence.  I eliminated some of my favourite ideas by putting them on the mood board, only to discover they didn’t compliment the house facade at all.  Now, I’m planning a more subtle fence – hidden behind the trees.  At last, I have a mood board for the front facade and front yard that I’m very pleased with.

Front facade and yard.

Front facade and yard.

You can find the colour and material details of this mood board on the Colour Selections page.  If you want more inspiration for your own front yard, check out my ever-expanding Pinterest files:  Outdoor, Front fence, Front yard, PlantsVeggie patch and Driveway.

I can’t wait to get my garden gloves on.

Prestart Meeting Round Up

It has been a hectic and productive few days in Perth for my “pre start meeting” with  our builders.  Here is what I’ve been up to:

Day One:

1.  First meeting with the Webb and Brown-Neaves interior designer to decide on house exterior colours including paint, roofing, garage door and window frames.  (I’ll write a separate post about all my selections, inside and out, next week.)  We also reviewed and made a few small changes to toilets, sinks, tap ware and door furniture.  I selected a rather lovely white porcelain sink for the laundry instead of the standard stainless steel.  I am told the price difference is no more than a couple of hundred, but I will post again when I have a full list of variation prices.
2.  I dropped into EcoOutdoor to check out their cobblestones.  Their show room is quite inspiring for landscaping so I think we’ll be back there again when the time comes for us to make our front garden beautiful.  I asked for help to select a product for the floor of the home entry/patio that would compliment a cobblestone driveway.  The lady on duty recommended a “French patterned” stone of similar colour.

What do you think?  I’m going to make some more mood boards with all the exterior colours together to see how it looks.  The alternative would be wood, to match the decking at the rear of the house.

3.  I visited the Caesarstone showroom to view some large samples of my favourite colours and to chat with staff about the elusive “Calacatta classic” Caesarstone that I have my eye on for the kitchen.
Calacatta Classic Caesarstone.  Source: Caesarstone.
Calacatta Classic Caesarstone. Source: Caesarstone.
This new “colour” is due to be released in “early 2014”.  I can’t yet commit to it because there are no samples available yet and more importantly, the price is not yet known.  The lady at the showroom guesses that there will be a price rise for the latest colour compared to the currently available colours in the same range.  Luckily, we have some time up our sleeve, so this is one decision to postpone.

4.  I picked up some brochures and colour swatches from Solver paints.  Our interior paint colours will be selected from this range once the house is nearing completion.

5.  I met with my “pre start consultant” and an enthusiastic trainee to review and make small changes to the plans and addenda, clarify some questions I had and create an electrical plan for all the powerpoint locations.  The result of this meeting is two lists – a list of potential variations (eg. wooden rail balustrade, a hiding place for a Roomba in the laundry, a cobblestone driveway, ceiling recesses for automated blinds) for our consultant to price up for our consideration and a list of items that I need to follow up, such as the voltage requirements for the pendant lights that I will supply, the dimensions of the gas fireplace that we plan to purchase and the dimensions of our chest freezer to ensure it fits in the laundry.

6.  Collapsed in a heap of sleep.

Day Two:

1.  I visited Myaree Ceramics accompanied by WBN’s interior designer.  Instant relief!  This showroom has plenty of modern tile options AND the exact same tile that I used in my kitchen mood board.  Actually, it is not glass as I had thought, but porcelain.

Splash back tile.  Vogue Grigio $104/sqm.

Splash back tile. Vogue Grigio Gloss $104/sqm.

Within an hour, my no-mucking-about interior designer and I had selected all the tiles for the laundry,  bathrooms and kitchen and had matched them with grout colours.  Phew!

2.  I wandered through Home Base Expo in Subiaco.  It’s a permanent exhibition of local suppliers of building materials and home fittings.  You can pick up brochures, but on a week day at least, it is unmanned by any one with product knowledge.  I wanted to view some gas fireplace options but there were very few there so I’ll have to do some more leg work.

3.  I visited our block.  It was no surprise to find our neighbours making full use of our vacant land for their knock-down-rebuild.  They are progressing nicely but they are going to have to move swiftly now if they are relying on easy access to the rear of their property.

Some one else's building action.

Someone else’s building action.

4.  Collapsed in a heap of sleep.

Day Three:

1.  I had a meeting at Intelligent Homes to prepare plans for television, telephone and data points, intercom to the front gate and home security.  I’m not particularly literate when it comes to technology so I was a worried that I wouldn’t understand the necessary lingo for this meeting but I begged the consultant to tread lightly and he did a wonderful job of explaining what was required for the house to be all wired up for modern technology needs.

That’s almost it!  (I’m going to a fireplace show room on my way to the airport today.)  There is plenty of follow up to be done and I promise pictures of my tile and colour selections soon.

Fence me in.

My personal favourite and probably the least practical, least useful, most expensive, most difficult to maintain!

My personal favourite and probably the least practical.  Photo from Glamour Drops.

The question of front fencing came up.  Firstly, we want to budget for all our house-related costs and secondly, there was a fleeting thought that we could get council approval for the front fence at the same time as the house.  But, in breaking news, council have already granted planning consent, and I’ve since discovered we don’t need council approval for a front fence unless we want to vary from their standards.   In any case, I spent the past week trawling the web and roaming the streets in search of front fence inspiration.

Here’s the situation:

  • We are going to use the front yard as a back yard.  It will host a little veggie patch, the compost bin and space for the kids to play.  It also has to accommodate the usual driveway and front door access.
  • We are thinking of a fence and gate that keeps the kiddies in and strolling dogs out.
  • I love fence designs that include wood.
  • My husband fears years of his life will be dwindled away maintaining a wood fence.
  • The City of Mandurah has somewhat complicated front fence regulations that I don’t entirely understand.  (I’ll include them in the fine print, just in case any of those engineery or drafty-type people are reading and feel like having a go at explaining the details to me.)
    Probably the best match with the landscaping design planned for the canal side of our house.  This garden is designed and constructed by Tim Davis Landscaping.

    Probably the best match with the landscaping planned for the canal side of our house. This garden is designed and constructed by Tim Davis Landscaping.

    Not wood.  Plain and simple, for showing off the garden.  Photo from

    Not wood. Plain and simple, for showing off the garden. Photo from Factory Direct Fencing.

    A lovely and interesting mix of materials, kept low.  Photo from

    A lovely and interesting mix of materials, kept low. Photo from Patrick Gheorghiu Architectural Design.

    A simple fence, glammed up with a piece of metal art and plants.

    A simple fence, glammed up with a piece of metal art and plants.  The work of Sustainable Garden Design Perth, photo from Houzz.


The fine print:

Excerpt from The City of Mandurah’s standards for residential fences:

  • No part of the fence (including footings) is allowed to encroach into the road verge.
  • A front fence that exceeds 750mm in height is not permitted within a 1.5m x 1.5m visual truncation on each side of any driveway where it meets a front boundary. This truncation will not be required provided the driveway and crossover is wider than 6 metres and a footpath is not located within 1.5 metres of the front fence.
  • Any portion of a front fence that is higher than 1.2m must be visually permeable. 
  • The maximum acceptable height of a front fence is 1.8m. Piers/posts (with a maximum dimension of 500 x 500), may be incorporated in the fence up to a maximum height of 2.1m.

And here’s a reminder of how the front of our block will look:

Driveway 4.8 m wide and not much room between the driveway and the neighbour's boundary for the truncated thingermeejig.

Driveway 4.8 m wide and not much room between the driveway and the neighbour’s boundary for the truncated thingermeejig.


While visiting some Webb and Brown-Neaves display homes near Perth, I was impressed by the landscape gardening around the homes.  All these gardens were designed by Tim Davies Landscaping.  Since we think the guys and girls at Tim Davies have great taste, we’ve asked them to design part of our garden too.  (More on that another time.)  Here are some pics of some of my favourite outdoor features.

Plant me a lemon tree, and I'm yours.

Plant me a lemon tree, and I’m yours.

There can never be too many places to sit.

One can never have too many places to sit.

Herbs planted outside the kitchen.  (I love the rusty look, but does it mean iron fortified herbs?)

Herbs planted outside the kitchen. (I love the rusty look, but does it mean iron-fortified herbs?)

Garden layers.

Garden layers.

Pools don't have to be big.  Less to clean, less to heat.

Pools don’t have to be big. Less to clean, less to heat.

Nicely hiding the pool equipment.

Nicely hiding the pool equipment.

A sunken garden at the "Pagoda".

A sunken garden at the “Pagoda”.

What is it about the shape of that pot that is cool?  I will put my succulent expert (A.K.A. the second little pig) to work.

What is it about the shape of that pot that is cool? I will put my succulent expert (A.K.A. the second little pig) to work.