One year at House By The Water.

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:

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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!

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!

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.

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!

 

First dip into the pool.

Design by Tim Davies Landscaping.

Design by Tim Davies Landscaping.

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:

  • Concrete.
  • 6.7 x 3.8 metres
  • $45 650 (not including fencing or paving, includes TDL’s fee).

Pool plan

 

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”.
  • Lighting.
  • 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.

Poolside at House By The Water.

  • 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!