The Nice Wolf and I have been flat out getting at least some of the garden ready in time for the influx of Christmas and Summer visitors. I’ve lost count of the weekends the Nice Wolf has been laying cobblestones. He complains that I get the good jobs and it’s probably true. Planting, painting. Any way, no time to write, but I feel I owe my readers at least some photos of recent progress. I hope you enjoy the gallery:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Snail’s pace is the only way to describe it. The current rate of work seems to be one job per month.
- December- deck.
- January – glass fence
- February- remove scaffolding over pool.
- March- concrete around pool
- April – start tiling, concrete roof of storage area.
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:
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.
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.)
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:
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:
- 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!
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:
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:
- Plant climbers into the ground. Help them with some simple wires.
- Espalier trees. Reticulate.
- Pot plants and use shelves or some kind of structure to layer them up the wall.
- Use a simple pocket system for vertical gardens, with or without an irrigation kit.
- Use a complex vertical garden structure with built in watering system including a pump.
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.
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.
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:
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”.
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”.
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.
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.
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!
This week work on our pool began. I’m told that if we built the house first, deeper footings would be necessary to accommodate the pool so close to the house. The down side is that the builders will have to work around the pool, and for that to happen safely, the pool will be covered by scaffolding. Tim Davies Landscaping (TDL) have designed the pool and its surrounds and have subcontracted Future Pools to actually construct it.
The bare facts about our future pool:
- 6.7 x 3.8 metres
- $45 650 (not including fencing or paving, includes TDL’s fee).
We went backwards and forwards with the concrete versus fibreglass decision. I’m not commenting on this debate because my findings on the subject were inconclusive. However, choosing a fibreglass pool of this size could have saved us $14000. In the end, we went with our “gut feeling”, influenced in part by the historical superiority of concrete pools and the wisdom of my Uncle, who’s occupation is servicing pools.
The basics are organised by TDL:
- Pool construction and finishing.
- Tiled deck.
- Gates and fencing – a mix of glass, aluminium “slats” and modutech screen. (The latter may be replaced at a later date by a “pool/sauna house”.
- Screen for the pool equipment.
We will need to organise:
- Pool blanket and somewhere to keep it when not in use.
- Heating (solar).
- Cleaning and maintenance.
I shall be leaving the finer details of that to he-who-wants-the-pool, however any pool dwellers out there with advice, you know I’m all ears… And while I’m at it, my favourite-neighbour-ever is moving to Perth (yippee!) and is in the market for a new pool. W.A. readers with recommendations for pool installers, please do leave a comment.
And just because I love to daydream about House By The Water, I made a pool mood board.
- Tiles: Marazzi “block” for outdoors in Grey and Silver.
- Finish: Duraquartz in “sky blue” (TBC).
- Trees: Pleached Lilly Pilly trees (or pears/olives/evergreen ash?) and a feature Frangipani.
- Outdoor lounge: Lujo sun lounge.
- House render: Dulux Grey Pebble (shown as background colour).
It’s looking good, if I may say so myself!
Did I just come down in the last shower?
We need retaining walls. They will keep the house from slipping into the canal. We had a provisional sum of $24K allocated to limestone retaining walls. A lot of money. We recovered from this first shock long ago, yet we still held a little hope that the actual cost may be less.
Meanwhile, we’ve had a stylish landscape design drawn up. Some of that design will be constructed by the landscaping company. The retaining walls have been passed on to the builders. The new design is more work than a simple limestone retaining wall – it requires brick work, concrete and render to match the house. For that, add another $18K! (Yes, you read it right – that’s $42K altogether for retaining walls and steps.) I’ve questioned some of the sum – I think there is some doubling up of scope between the builder and the landscapers… but whatever the response, I don’t think we’ll be getting out of this lightly.
Originally, the landscape company quoted $20K for this work, but since we already had $24K worth of retaining wall work allocated to the builder, we thought we wouldn’t need the landscapers to do this. Me thinks I was wrong. (I’m thinking fondly of the days, years ago, when we put in our own limestone retaining wall. We ordered a truck load of limestone blocks, borrowed a cement mixer and provided beer and BBQ to a group of friends for a day’s work. I can’t remember the cost but I’m pretty sure it was under $1000.) Anyway, watch this space.
Another fairly major change to the house plans this week is an increase in roof height to accommodate the air-conditioning. We need an extra 3 courses height in the roof space to fit in the “fan coil” and ducting. Fortunately we are not being charged additionally for this, but it does mean that the plans must be returned to council.
On to lighter things. I’ve organised a gas and electricity account for the new property. I’m quite excited about that. I’m sure that’ll all change once we receive the first bill.
Finally, about that shower. Quite possibly I did come down in the last shower. But if that is the case, it should at least have been a nice one. Here are a few of my favourite outdoor showers I’ve found on the web this week:
We plan to have a shower in the pool area. It will need to be mounted on an existing brick boundary wall or be freestanding. From my quick squiz, prices seem to range from $800 to $2000 (tell them they’re dreaming!) There’s another reason to teach myself to use Ebay or Gumtree/Craiglist.
*Apologies to my non-Australian readers. Quite a few Aussie sayings have slipped into the post this week. This is what talking big bucks does to me.
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.
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.
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:
- Arbor West Tree Farm
- Ellenby Tree Farm
- Josh’s House
- Sustainable Mandurah
- Gardening Australia
- Flemings (Check out their Top 10 tree lists for all sorts of situations.)
Let’s start at the back (canal-side).
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).
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.
- Tolerant to coastal conditions.
- 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….)
- Banksia Integrifolia (pictured at the top of the post in the Houzz photo).
3. Pleached row of trees along poolside wall needs to be:
- not too messy (evergreen).
- Evergreen ash.
- “Designer ash” (Fraxinus excelsior “Nana”).
- Weeping Lilly Pilly.
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.
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.
There are 6 more sleeps until “pre-start”! Well, sort of. There are 4 flights and a 13 hour time zone difference between me and the pre-start meeting, so who knows how many sleeps that will really be. My suitcase is out and the first item packed is my trusty measuring tape. Do I sound excited?
I tried to explain the purpose of my trip to Australia to my language teacher: “It’s like a giant shopping trip!” I’m looking forward to seeing our block again and to meeting with Webb and Brown-Neaves’ interior designer. I hope she’s not going to sigh heavily when she sees all my carefully prepared mood boards. I’m not particularly looking forward to some of the less glamourous parts of the process – negotiating some changes to the builder-supplied paving, sorting out the locations for the techno wiring, making some changes to details I missed earlier (e.g. cheap windows with bars through the middle of our beautiful view) and, gulp, hearing the variation price of the Caesarstone colours that I’ve fallen in love with for the kitchen bench.
I’ve got my little list of things to remember to discuss and my big list from Home One Forum members of things they wish they didn’t forget. I’ve got my addenda and plans to re-read.
I’ve been suffering technical problems lately. No internet, home phone or telly for more than 2 weeks now! So you are on photo rations. However, I couldn’t write a post without adding at least one photo – so I’m showing you my favourite picture of the week. I love this garden. (Actually there’s a better view of it on the front cover of a local magazine.) The wood, water, stone and plant combo is modern, private, and relaxing. I bought the magazine on the basis of the cover because we have been thinking about using cobblestones on our driveway and the lower level of the canal frontage. I was worried that cobblestones were not a good fit for a modern home, but this photo shows it working so well.
See you again soon, when I report from the beautiful land Down Under with plentiful internet!