Dripper irrigation systems are a relatively new introduction to the landscape industry. They were devised in the middle of an Australian drought as a water saving initiative. The benefits were clearly self evident and it soon became law that the old spray irrigation systems were not to be installed in any new gardens, as they were no longer water wise options.
I am constantly asked by my clients which is the better system to install in the garden. My answer is always definitively dripper irrigation. Drippers are 100% effective and efficient, giving your plants the water they need whilst also being water wise. The old spray irrigation systems have had their time. Even in the wettest of conditions, I don’t believe local councils will ever let them be installed again in the future.
Hedges are a bordering and design tools used for dividing spaces. They enclose and subdivide fields, orchards, yards, parks and gardens. They form vegetative walls, garden rooms, gateways, screens and enclosures, within the garden landscape.
It is believed that the Romans may have first planted hedges in Britain however most of the few ancient hedges still around today, date back to Saxon times. This makes some of them up to a 1000 years old.
The Saxons organized ‘strip farming’, in which each community of people would have a field which was divided into sections by grass strips. Each strip was one furrow long (201 metres). People were given a number of strips to farm by the lord of the manor. This system changed in the late Middle Ages when landlords wanted to put boundaries around their property.
The Enclosure Acts in the 18th and 19th centuries allowed farmers to remove the grass strips and delineate there fields using hedge plants. Most of Britain’s 300,000 or so miles of hedges, date back to this time.
In the past Hawthorne (Crataegus monogyna) was the most popular choice of hedging plant in Britain. Hawthorne worked well to mark territory and act as a barrier, containing livestock.
Nowadays hedges are commonly constructed using various plants and are used more for ornamental purposes yet still as a privacy tool. Pittosporum, Waterhousia, Buxus, Boxwood, Privet, Beech, Cherry Laurel, Hornbeam, Holly and Yew are but a few of the more desirous plants used currently for hedges.
There are 5 questions you should ask yourself before you engage a landscape professional to complete any work. Not asking these questions may turn out to be costly.
Landscape Associations are a great place to begin. They continually educate there members with new products and changing techniques in. They also have a strict criteria you must meet before you are excepted into the association. Therefore if your landscaper is a member of an association, you can be assured they have a high standard of work.
If your landscaper doesn’t turn up on time, or at least within 10 minutes of the scheduled time, it tells you everything you need to know about there attitude. I understand that unforseen events are a part of life, at the very least you should expect a phone call to let you know about any changes.
I have spoken to clients over the years who have received a number on a scrap bit of paper from some landscapers. If the quote you receive isn’t typed on a computer with a letterhead, outlining in detail the work to be completed, then think twice.
Some landscaping jobs are large, expensive and can take many months to complete. If you job falls into this category, it is important that you like or feel comfortable talking to your landscaper, especially if there are complications that need to be worked through down the track.
Public Liability insurance is a must. If your landscaper is not covered and a claim is made, you may be liable. If you answer YES to all 5 questions, you will dramatically increase your chances of having a smooth and enjoyable landscaping experience.
Nowadays it seems our gardens and backyards are getting smaller and smaller, especially when property development and sub division is increasingly more common place. The challenge is, how do we get the most from our courtyard areas without feeling claustrophobic.
There are a few techniques you can implement to give the landscape design of your courtyard a feeling of space whilst also maximising efficiency. These can be to build in seating, walled gardens, tall screen plantings, vertical gardens, minimal furniture, light colours and simple design.
When you are out in your garden you should feel relaxed and at peace. Get rid of excessive pots and clutter, stick to one feature colour, one feature tree/pot and remember, less is more. You don’t want your space to feel chaotic. Chaotic is what most people deal with in there everyday working lives. Your garden is meant to be an escape from this.
Another important thing to consider is shade and the direction your property faces in relation to the sun. This should be observed and noted before you start putting pen to paper. The last thing you want, is to position a shade loving plant in the direct hot afternoon sun, this is just a waist of time and money.
This also applies to the position of your BBQ. Your BBQ should be located close to your entertaining area and protected from the sun as much as possible. No one wants be separated from their party guests, standing in the direct afternoon sun over a hot grill.
It can be a daunting and overwhelming task, choosing the right timber for your outdoor area. How will it look? Will it be durable enough? Can we afford it given our landscape design budget? What sort of maintenance does it require?
There are some basic rules to go by – such as always choosing hardwood timber for floors, and timbers like teak for furniture. Hopefully I can give you a quick insight into the timbers available in Australia, and what they are commonly used for.
A native hardwood species. Light brown in colour with a coarse texture. Used mainly for flooring, sleepers and general construction.
Another native species. Its colour varies from rich red to dark brown. Mainly considered a luxurious timber. Commonly used for indoor flooring, panelling and heavy furniture.
An introduced species of timber from Asia. Its colour varies from yellow to deep brown. Kwila is the most widely used timber for decking and is also used to make furniture.
A native hardwood, varying in colour from pale brown to chocolate. This is used for all heavy engineering and construction purposes. Commonly used for high impact such as shovel/axe handles. Other uses include flooring and decking.
Another hardwood native, varying from pink to red in colour. Common uses include weatherboards, panelling and general construction.
A hardwood species not native to Australia. Commonly used for outdoor furniture. Its natural oils make it highly resistant to pests and termites.
An introduced softwood from California. Easy to work with and commonly used for building framework, joinery, decking framework and panelling.
Sleeper retaining walls are not hard to install and can definitely be attempted by any DIYer with a bit of time and muscle.
Sleepers generally come in two types – treated pine or red gum. I would recommend using treated pine sleepers as they’re cheaper, lighter and more sustainable than red gum sleepers. However if that rich red colour is what your after red gum is the way to go. When constructing a wall with sleepers it is important that your sleeper of choice is at least 75 mm thick otherwise over time it will warp.
The first step is to mark out the exact location of your retaining wall, making sure it is square with your house or pool. Using a string-line, tape measure and spray paint makes this process a whole lot easier.
Excavate any weeds or if your wall is retaining an embankment, excavate the soil back – 500 mm behind the front of your wall.
Next we need to mark out the location of your posts. The distance between the posts can’t exceed 2.4 metres.
Example 1: If the length of our wall was 9.6 metres. We would need 5 posts – 1 at either end and 3 spaced evenly at 2.4 in between the two end posts. This gives us 4 bays of 2.4 metres.
Example 2: If the length of our wall was 11.5 metres. We would need 6 posts – 1 at either end and 4 spaced evenly at 2.3 metres in between the two end posts. This gives us 5 bays of 2.3 metres.
Time now to excavate our holes. Everyone I have spoken with over the years has a different method of working out the depth of the post holes. The theory I work on is – half the height of the wall plus 100 mm. For example if your wall is going to be 800 mm high, the holes for your posts should be 500 mm deep.
Time now to concrete your posts into position. Sleeper retaining wall posts come in two varieties – steel galvanized H Beams or a vertical sleepers. Using sleepers as your posts costs about a third of the price of H beams. H beams do have there advantages however, one being that of durability. For the purposes of this blog post we’ll use treated pine sleepers as our posts.
So now its time to set up your string-line, and concrete your posts into position making sure that they are all straight and spaced accordingly. This is generally a quicker and easier exercise with two people, but can be achieved solo. Allow 24 hours for the posts to set.
Now you can construct the wall by screwing horizontal sleepers to the back of your posts. Start by screwing (using 150 mm bugel screws 14g) the entire bottom row of your wall into position. Using a spirit level will ensure that your first row is level. Now just keep stacking the sleepers up on top of one another and screwing them to the posts.
Lastly you will need to place 20 mm scoria behind the wall filling to at least half the height of the wall for drainage purposes.
Most councils in Victoria will only allow you to construct retaining walls up to 1 metre high without a permit. For walls higher than one metre council approval will need to be obtained.
It sneaks up on you – autumn that is. I was paving a client's front courtyard last week, when I saw a deep red coloured leaf fall from an ornamental pear tree. My initial thought was ‘bit early, it's still hot’, but then I realised that it is in fact late March, and that autumn has well and truly arrived.
This then got me thinking about the lovely deep red colours that the leaves turn in autumn. Why is it that they turn such a nice appealing colour? All I could recall about the subject from my time at landscape school, was that it had something to do with the cold weather. The colder the climate the nicer deeper colours the leaves turn. Leaves in warmer climates, such as Sydney, turn paper bag brown before they fall.
So I decided to consult encyclopedia Google, and a quick overview of what I discovered is as follows.
A healthy green growing leaf, contains an abundance of chlorophyll. Leaves that contain chlorophyll will always appear green. Light is needed to produce chloryphyll. As the days shorten in the autumn months, the production of chlorophyll reduces.
At the same time as chlorophyll production is reducing, there is an increased production of Anthocyanin pigments. Leaves containing primarily anthocyanins will appear red. Carotenoids are another type of pigment found in some leaves. Carotenoid and Anthocynanin production is not dependent on light, so levels aren’t diminished by shortened days. Carotenoids can be orange, yellow, or red, but most of these pigments found in leaves are yellow. Leaves with good amounts of both anthocyanins and carotenoids will appear orange.
Temperature does affect the rate at which these chemical reactions take place, so does play some part in leaf colour.
On occasion we meet clients who have a reasonably well-formed concept of what they want in their garden, and all they needed is a quick sketch to complete the picture. In this instance we will usually offer to draw it up for them.
My first question when undertaking such work is to ask the client about their landscape design budget constraints. Ninety nine percent of clients respond with a look of confusion and caution. I imagine that most people don’t know what a garden costs or they don’t know how much they need to spend to purchase a garden that will fulfill their requirements. I understand where they are coming from, however, when you design without a budget in mind, it is easy to get carried away.
Given the huge selection of materials to choose from and the huge differences in price from product to product, it is difficult to design not knowing how much a client has to spend. I think every landscape designer at some stage has designed a beautiful garden, something perhaps worthy of an award, and presented along with it, a quotation for $50,000.00, only to be told by the client there maximum spend amount is $25,000.00. Back to the drawing board or CAD program these days.
For this reason it is important to establish a budget, ideally before a design gets underway. I think that any clients serious about engaging a landscape designer need to get out and conduct their own research, looking at the products available and obtain an understanding of what things cost. That way when your designer asks you what your budget is, at least you will have a rough figure in your head.
Alternatively designers need to be on the ball with their pricing and any price changes, so as to give their clients the best value for money possible.
Budgets are an important part of the landscape design process. Unfortunately, ignoring it and failing to agree on a limit at the beginning of the design process, potentially wastes everyone’s time.
In 2005 the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) passed an amendment to the law, that stated – any work in excess of $5,000.00 needed to be carried out by a landscaper who is a licensed/registered builder. The VBA then created a sub-category to the main Domestic Builder license and named it Domestic Builder Limited – Structural Landscaping.
Any landscape company that is a registered builder is obligated to
I have found that there is some confusion and hesitation surrounding warranty insurance, so hopefully this post can clear things up.
Warranty insurance is only needed if the total cost of the works is in excess of $16,000.00
As I mentioned earlier in this post, as a licensed/registered landscaper by law I need to guarantee all my work for a 6 year period from the completion date of the project.
Warranty insurance is insurance that is taken out by the Landscaper in the clients name.
Let’s say we finished a project today, and in 3 years time there was a problem that needed to be repaired. The client would phone us and we would return and repair the problem free of charge, end of story.
However if in that time period we had either gone into bankruptcy, I was deceased or I had moved to Tibet and become a monk, the client would claim on the insurance and QBE (the underwriters) would pay for other landscapers to carry out the repairs. Warranty insurance is a legal document that can be added to a section 32, and transferred into the names of the new home owners.
Whilst warranty insurance is a great idea and covers the client from all angles, it does add to the cost of the project, and this unfortunately, is where the hesitation comes in.
Winter is just around the corner and while people in Europe generally lock themselves indoors for the winter, the beauty of Melbourne (or Australian weather in general) is that we don’t have to! Implementing good landscape design practices is a fantastic way to ensure your yard is not only utilised during the colder months but is comfortable as well.
So if you’re considering landscaping your garden, there is no better time! Here are our top 5 tips for a great winter landscape design:
When designing your garden, choose plants that are going to survive in all kinds of weather.
Melbourne winters aren’t predictable – one day it could be cold and raining, the next it can be sunny and 23 degrees. You need to choose plants that suit our climate zone and usually that means plants that are frost tolerant.
For large spaces and privacy screening, choose from Evergreens, such as Waterhousia floribunda or Ornamental pears. If you’re after a great hedging shrub you can’t go past Westringia ‘Wynabbie Gem’ while natives such as Grevillea Bronze Rambler or Myoporium are great ground covers.
Australians love to barbecue and it doesn’t matter what time of year it is as long as your yard is ready. A fire-pit is a great way to sit back with friends and family for a feast, while also staying warm. It’s a great enhancement to any landscape design and aesthetically pleasing.
Fire pits are available in a range of sizes and shapes, designed to suit all types of outdoor setting. From round pits to deep ones, shallow pits to square ones; there is a pit to suit all household requirements and budgets.
Not only will a fire pit keep you warm on those chilly days, but also provides a great cooking option for the more adventurous.
If you live more towards the mountains where temperatures are regularly below zero (or you really just don’t like cold weather), you might also consider heating panels around the flooring of your patio or deck, gas stand patio heaters, or ceramic electric lamps to keep things warm. Plastic drop down blinds also help considerably in keeping the warm air enclosed.
In winter the days are shorter, and the sun sets earlier. Enjoying your warm outdoors also comes down to being able to see and experience your garden. Ensure you choose great lighting options for your landscape design.
Lighting ideas could include up-lights beneath larger trees, lighting up pathways with ground level lights or bollards, or choosing to add up/down lights to a pier or column. Garden lighting done right, can make your garden feel warm and inviting.
The final thing you can do to have a great winter garden, is to hire the right landscape designer or contractor to do the work for you. A professional landscaping company will have the right advice, experience and ideas.
Give us a call today to discuss your requirements.
YES - Questions about what you want to achieve with your garden
YES - Questions that will give your designer a better understanding of your taste and style
YES - Some suggestions based on your answers
YES - A fee proposal for producing a landscape design
NO - A complete comprehensive solution to your garden including plant selection
NO - Recommendations or thoughts without first receiving your input
The initial landscape design consultation is like a job interview of sorts. The client or home owner is trying to determine whether the designer is right for them.
It’s important that the home owner chooses the right landscape designer for their style and garden needs. The landscape designer needs to be someone they can collaborate with and feel comfortable working alongside to make the final decisions regarding materials and plants.
The first meeting usually takes place on site, so that the designer can visualise the area they will be designing. The client should expect many questions from the designer such as;
It is not unusual for some designers to request that potential clients fill out a questionnaire prior to the initial consultation outlining the answers to these questions.
Expect the designer to tell you her/his background, where they came from and some of there past achievements and influences. The more you know about someone the better equipped you are to decide if they’re the right designer for you.
Once the landscape designer has viewed the site, they’ll give you a fee proposal for producing a landscape design, tailored to your needs. You should always ask that the fee proposal be in writing, so that there is no misunderstanding later.
Some designers charge for the initial consult others don’t. Always clarify this point prior to the initial consultation.
Once you accept the fee proposal you’ve commenced the process of designing a beautiful well thought out space.
Designing your outdoor space from scratch or renovating an existing space is exciting, but can often be overwhelming. It is a process that takes time, perception, vision and experience to execute correctly. An experienced landscape designer should bring these attributes to your project, helping you create your perfect garden.
Choosing the right landscape designer can be a task. There are literally hundreds of landscape designers out there in the marketplace, each offering a slightly different service. Some are solely designers whilst others offer landscape construction services to compliment design. Some charge a few hundred dollars whilst others are thousands.
Here are some tips to help you choose the right landscape designer for your project.
Don’t hire the first designer you meet. Interview more than one designer. Talk to them about their design experience. Note whether they listen and take on your ideas for the garden. It’s important that their personality is aligned with your own.
After all you may be working with them for sometime, nutting through the finer details of your design, therefore it’s important that you can communicate with them easily.
Having vast experience in the landscape industry doesn’t necessarily make someone the best landscape designer. A young energetic, passionate designer’s creativity, may make up for their lack of industry experience. That said, there are many situations where experience does make a difference, especially on tricky site such as steep blocks.
Websites are king. Any professional landscape designer will have website to showcase their completed projects.
Look at how their finished projects present, are they in line with your own expectations? Viewing a designer’s portfolio should give you some insight into how they view the site and their style of landscape design and can go a long way into helping you decide on which landscape designer is right for your project.
I have personally had an area of bluestone paving curl after I had laid it. Up until that point I had never encountered this before.
I’m hoping this article, will give you some insight into what the term 'bluestone' means, why some bluestone curls and why other bluestone doesn’t, and how to prevent bluestone curling.
Curling Bluestone has become a very real problem in the landscape industry over the past 8 years or so, and has only come about since an increase of imported bluestone from places such as China.
The term Bluestone is not a geological term and refers to different types of stone depending on which Australian state your located - a bit like the common names of plants. The short answer is in Victoria when we refer to Bluestone we mean Basalt. Basalt is one of the most commonly occurring igneous or volcanic rocks in the world.
It is a very popular construction material, used throughout the world for building blocks, cobblestones, statues and of course large format paving (1000 mm by 500 mm) - which presently is very trendy.
The term Curling or Cupping is when the edges of the paver lift before the mortar beneath has had time to set, hence making the paver 'drummy' or hollow.
There are a 3-main factor/reasons that lead to bluestone paving curling:
Example of vesicles or cats paws in a bluestone paver.
The standard thickness of a paver only 10 years ago was 40 mm. Today it is common to see bluestone 10 - 20 mm thick. Obviously purchasing stone this thick has its advantages (less on-site excavation, cheaper to purchase etc.) however stone this thin is more prone to movement and warping.
Importing Basalt from China costs half the price of Australian quarried Bluestone, so it’s not hard to see why importing basalt pavers from overseas has exploded. However, there are some differences in the quality of the stone.
Basalt forms near the surface of the earth and is quarried from old volcanic lava flows. When the eruption of lava flows down the mountain, it traps gases within the flow, causing air bubbles that rise to the surface. Some air bubbles end up getting trapped within the lava and become what are called Vesicles or Cats Paws.
China tends to quarry their basalt shallower or nearer the earth’s surface than Australian quarries, making it softer with a higher porosity or a higher distribution of vesicles throughout the stone.
The more porous the stone the more quickly the underside of the paver will absorb water from your mortar or tile adhesive. When the lower section of the paving reaches saturation point there is what is called a dimensional change which causes the tile edges to warp or curl. When the paver either reaches the point of total saturation or dries out completely the paver (depending on the amount of liquid in your mortar/adhesive mix) will return to its original state. This process happens slowly over a period of 5 - 10 hours. Usually by the time the paver returns to its unaffected state the mortar/adhesive has hardened leaving the edges of your paver unfixed and drummy/hollow.
Mapei Australia have given extensive talks on this subject in the past and recommend the following should you wish to avoid problems with curling bluestone:
Importing bluestone/basalt from China is a relatively modern exercise. The internet has made this much easier for everybody. However, with every new venture there is always hiccups along the way that will eventually be sorted out. Importing basalt from China is no different.
It may take some time but eventually all landscape contractors and designers will be aware of curling bluestone. They will realise that stone less than 30 mm thick is to thin, and that Chinese stone is more porous and therefore softer than its Australian equivalent. They will understand that 10-20 mm bluestone, will undergo dimensional change when it reaches a certain saturation point, and that laying it on a rapid adhesive is the only way to counter this change.
As landscape designers, we need to be aware of these sorts of issues. When we produce a landscape design we often produce a set of specifications that accompanies the design. If we specify 20 mm bluestone laid on mortar, we are leaving ourselves liable and open to potentially legal action, if the paving curls. We need to specify 30 mm thick or rapid set adhesive so that the responsibility then falls with the contractor to install the paving correctly.
Now that we have prepared a good solid base for our pavers, that is we have excavated to the appropriate levels and we have 75 mm of compacted crushed rock/road base in place at approx. 60 mm below our finished height of paving, we can commence laying the pavers.
Firstly, we need to set a string line to the finished height of the paving; preferably along a joint in the paving. Secure the stringline to a metal stake or peg at both ends and pull it as tight as possible. You’ll be using this stringline as a guide for the height of your paving, so the less sag in the line, the better.
Many people lay pavers on sand only or sand and cement, however for a truly professional job that will stand the test of time all paving should be laid on mortar. In a cement mixer or wheelbarrow mix sand and cement together at a ratio of 4 sand to 1 cement. Once the sand and cement are a consistent grey colour, add water and continue to mix. The perfect mortar mix should have the plasticity of moulding clay, without being too wet or dry.
Use a trowel spread the mortar to a thickness of 20 mm and tap your 40 mm thick pavers into position using a rubber mallet. Make sure that one edge of the paver is tapped down to the same height as the string line. A spirit level will also aid you in achieving the appropriate fall toward drainage points if needed. Allow a 5-7 mm grout joint between each paver. Move the stringline along each row as you lay. Once you’ve laid all the full pavers possible you’ll need to mark cut pavers with a pencil and ruler. A brick saw or grinder can be used to cut pavers. It does take practice to become efficient at cutting pavers accurately.
Mix up a strong grout mix of 3-parts sand and 1-part cement. Add coloured oxide if needed. Add water and continue to mix until you achieve a very wet consistency. Spread the grout over the paving and agitate with a foam trowel or squeegee until the mix has filled the 5-7 mm joins between the paving. Sponge the area clean from excess mixture. The area may have to sponged several times to achieve a clean surface, with the water being changed regularly.
Wait at least 7 days after you’ve grouted to give the paving a light acid wash. This will remove any haze makes that can be left behind from grouting. Only a diluted mix of nitric acid should be used to clean pavers not Hydrocloric; it is too strong and will only eat away at your pavers. Once the paving is clean, allow it dry out completely. This can take some time in Winter, especially with frequent rain showers, however it’s important that the area be bone dry before sealing. Seal the pavers using a penetrating sealer, which can be applied by either a roller or sprayed on using a garden sprayer. Always apply two coats and follow directions on the container.
I have seen many people attempt to design and install their own landscapes over the years. Some are successful in their attempts; however, others lack the understanding of what it takes to design and construct a practical, well thought out connected garden. Expertise in many areas of construction and horticulture is essential to the success of any garden, not to mention the time it takes to organise and manage the build. This is where engaging an experienced landscape designer becomes worth every cent.
The following are my top five reasons you should engage a landscape designer before you commence construction.
A landscape designer will give you options that you wouldn’t have thought about. They can tell you the best most cost-effective way to go about things. They will obtain a good understanding of your needs and wants in relation to the garden, and design accordingly to your budget.
Are you aware that in Victoria any retaining wall located on the boundary of a property, regardless of height, requires engineering drawings and a building permit from your local council? Landscape designers have expert knowledge in this area and can help you navigate through the council’s planning and permit process. Alternatively, they can design your space to avoid the need for council permits and therefore ultimately lowering the cost of construction. Either way intimate knowledge of local planning and building is extremely important.
Most people will know something about laying a paver, building a sleeper wall or that Lomandra longifolia ‘Tanika’ is a hardy, lime green Australian native grass. However, a landscape designer will know these things and more. Being an expert in all areas of landscaping is not something that can be acquired through books, it must be studied, practiced and acquired over many years.
It takes a lot of time to successfully design and construct a new landscape. It takes time to thoughtfully consider all the aspects of the garden, it takes time to produce the design making sure that all relevant information is included on the plan. It takes time (usually more than it should) to obtain permits from council, it takes a lot of time to organise materials
The reason some people attempt the design and construction themselves is to save money. However usually the opposite is true. A Landscape designer should save you more money than they charge you. A good design will minimise material wastage and will utilise products that bring the best value for money.
Hopefully this article has given you some insight into what it takes to be a landscape designer, and what a landscape designer should bring to your project.
The cost of a landscape design is influenced by many factors. The three main factors that effect the cost of a design include, the overall size of your property, how detailed you require the design, and the features you want to include in the landscape. These three factors have will effect the amount of time your landscape design will take to produce and therefore the design fee charged.
The overall size of your property is a large contributing factor to the price of a landscape design. The larger your property the more time is needed to measure the site and map out height changes with a laser level.
Generally the larger your property the more features will be to include in the landscape, such as a swimming pool for example. Our design fee is based on a standard sized block of 1000 square metres and is adjusted for smaller or larger properties.
We also deduct our design fee from our construction quote, should you engage us to build your project.
Knowing how detailed you need your design to be will greatly influence the price of your landscape design.
Are you just after a concept plan that conveys an idea of the finished landscape but doesn't have a large amount of detail such as plant species, heights of walls or construction specifications included? Or do you need to adhere to a council planning permit, which will require a vast amount of detail including all materials to be used, footing sizes for walls, and appropriate plant species for your local area?
Council may also require specific drawings that communicate the layout of irrigation and garden lighting. The less time it takes to prepare your landscape design the lower the overall cost should be.
What do you want from your garden? The more features that are included in your outdoor space such as a water feature, swimming pool, privacy screens, front fence, decking, statues etc. the more time it will take to produce your landscape design, and therefore the expensive it will be.
Good quality landscape design is a skill that is practiced and acquired over a long period of time through working with different construction materials and plants. Landscape designers are worth their design fees, a professional well thought-out design will enhance the value and beauty of your home.
Some people I meet, when I’m out and about, seem to get gardeners and landscapers mixed up. Or to be more precise they can’t determine the difference between the two. I often get phone calls from people wanting me to maintain and weed there gardens on a regular basis. When I politely tell them that they need to call a gardener, they often reply “but isn’t that what you are?” The answer is YES and NO. Its a grey area, so let me clear up a few common misconceptions.
Landscaping is a 4 year apprenticeship, 4 days a week of on-the-job training and 1 day a week at TAFE. The landscaping tafe course encompasses garden design, construction and maintenance, with a specific focus on construction.
Landscapers should really call themselves landscape builders, because that is exactly what they are. A landscaper will construct a garden for you, where there wasn’t a garden before. Starting at the beginning they will design your garden, construct it – build retaining walls, decks, pergolas, lay paving, lay turf, install irrigation, install lighting and lastly plant it out.
Some landscaping companies (not all) offer the complete package and will maintain it for you as well, and this is where the lines between a gardener and landscaper are blurred.
Gardening is an apprenticeship also, and is usually undertaken by someone wanting to work in the plant nurseries or maintain parks and gardens. The TAFE course has a strong focus on plants, trees, turf, pruning habits of plants, soil types and the pests and diseases associated with plants.
Gardeners tend to have a better understanding of plants, how they will grow, what position in the garden they prefer etc. than a landscaper, purely because a landscapers education is focused more on the building side of things. That's not to say that there aren’t landscapers out there without excellent plant knowledge.
I hope this has made some clear distinction between what is a landscaper and what is a gardener? If you are looking for somebody to maintain your garden it really doesn’t matter if you choose a landscaper or a gardener as long as they have sound, practical plant knowledge.
Water is very important to humans and all life on earth. It covers approximately three quarters of the earth and is responsible for shaping the landscape – cliffs, riverbeds and caves. It is also one of the most useful tools for creating atmosphere in the garden.
Water features can be installed just about anywhere, from a small courtyard, to a large entertainment area or even incorporated into a swimming pool. Wherever it is placed in your landscaping, the advantages it provides far out way the disadvantages.
Water features enhance unsightly or unserviceable parts of the garden such as dry areas under the roof line of the house. The white noise generated by moving water will block out unpleasant or unwanted background sounds, and create atmosphere in the garden.
The main downfall of a water feature is that they require regular maintenance. If you don’t have the time to maintain a water feature, think twice about installing one. A neglected water feature soon becomes an eyesore and stagnant water breeds mosquitoes.
Decide how much you want to spend on your water feature. Water features range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Stand alone water features are a good place to start. They require little more than a power point for the pump and a flat surface to sit on. They can be installed on a deck, on paving, or in the garden.
Larger custom built features, installed into walls are more expensive, and will need to be installed by a professional. These larger systems also tend to be less maintenance. Water clarity can be maintained by the use of appropriate chemicals which prohibit algae and mosquitoes.
The surface surrounding your feature should also be considered. If water splashes out of the system, avoid placing it on a timber deck. The constant moisture will accelerate its deterioration.
Water features are one of the simplest ways to introduce a high-impact feature into your garden.
Now that the physically hard stuff has been done, its time to prepare the area for laying. The area has been excavated to 175 mm below the finished height of the paving. Its time to get our crushed rock or roadbase into place.
Melbournians calls it crushed rock, Sydney-siders call it roadbase. All I am referring to is a graded material consisting of various sized aggregate particles (coarse and fine) which allow for compaction. It is used as a sub-surface material during the construction of roads, concrete areas and paving.
So 27 square metres multiplied by 0.075 mm of crushed rock = 2.02 cubic metres, lets call it 2 cubic metres. Spread your crushed rock over area evenly, levelling it with a rake if needed.
Compact your area using a plate vibrator (available for hire at any hire shop if you haven’t got one handy) making sure you make at least 2 passes over the area.
Make sure that the finished level of your crushed rock is at least 100 mm below the finished height of the paving.
Now its time to think about the best way to lay your paving. Consider the pavers you have ordered and the pattern that you want to lay. Depending on your space, some patterns will be easier to lay, with less cuts needed.
Lets say you have an area 2 metres by 2 metres and you are laying 500 mm by 500 mm pavers, the most efficient way to lay the area would be to lay stacked bond, 16 pavers 4 by 4, this way there are no cuts.
If you were using 400 mm by 400 mm pavers, you could lay 5 pavers by 5 pavers with no cuts. However if you wanted to lay 45 degree herringbone, you would have a lot of cuts to do. For more patterns visit the Boral website.
Once you have worked out what pattern you want to lay, and the best way that this pattern will fit into your area, with the least amount of cuts, you will need to work out a starting point.
Paving always looks its best if it is laid square to your house, especially if the area is close to the house. If your area is away from the house next to a wall or fence, you should lay it square to this.
It needs to be laid square to whatever it can be compared too, otherwise it will not look right.
We’ll continue on in Laying Pavers Part 4 – Laying Pavers.
We have now measured our area, and have the total number of square metres of paving we need to lay.
The next step in the process is to ‘dig the area down to the right level’. A few things need to be considered at this point:
Let’s say you have an area of 27 square metres, you will need to excavate 175 mm down, below the finished height of the paving. The 175 mm comprises of, starting with the bottom layer, 75 mm of crushed rock/roadbase, then 50 mm of mortar, and lastly the thickness of the paver (I have assumed we are using a 50 mm paver). So 27 square metres multiplied by 0.175mm equals 4.73 cubic metres of soil you will need to remove.
Now the bulk factor is a very tricky thing, and everyone I know allows for it in different ways, however firstly I should explain exactly what it is. The bulk factor is the amount by which the compacted earth bulks up or expands in volume once it is removed from the ground.
If you consider how tightly compacted the soil is in the ground, you will never be able to replicate that same compaction in a skip bin or tip truck. Our 4.73 cubic metres of soil was based on ‘mother natures’ compaction, so we need to allow for half that amount again. In other words we need to multiply 4.73 by 1.5 = 7.1 cubic metres. This is the volume of soil that we need to allow for removal.
Now as a landscaper I have done my time on the end of a shovel. If I had a job that involved removing 7.1 cubic metres of soil, I would use a bobcat and truck, if we had the necessary access. Yes its more expensive but the job will be done in a fifth of the time.
However some properties are limited for space and so a shovel, a skip bin and a lot of sweat is the only option.
Look out for Laying Pavers part 3 – Setting Out
Paving an outdoor entertaining area, patio or driveway is simple if you know how. This series of articles will attempt to take you through the process step by step. Each step is easy, there are just a few of them.
Preparation is the key to paving an area that will stand the test of time. If you take the time to prepare your area properly, then your end result will be of a high standard.
This is the first step in the process. Even though it sounds simple, and it is, if you get it wrong it will impact the rest of process. For example based on your calculations, you will then need to work out excavation quantities, how many bricks/pavers to order, work out quantities of sand and cement.
Getting your calculations correct is crucial.
Most spaces are made up of a variety of shapes, triangle, rectangle, circle and square. Break your space down into a variety of shapes and the work out the area (square meterage) of each individual shape, then add them together.
Square – S squared, where S is the length of one side.
Triangle – 1/2 B x H half the length of the base multiplied by the vertical height.
Circle – Pi x R squared, where pi is 3.14 multiplied by the radius squared.
Rectangle – L x B Length multiplied by breadth or long side multiplied by the short side.
Ellipse – Pi x A x B where Pi is 3.14, A is the longest possible dimension and B is the shortest possible dimension.
Trapeziums – do have there own formula, however to make it simpler, I usually divide this shape into a rectangle and two triangles.
Once you have calculated the total size of the area you intend to pave, you can begin to estimate the total cost of the project.
You now have enough information to work out how much your chosen pavers will cost you, the volume of soil you will need to excavate and potentially the size of the skip bin you will need to hire.
Keep reading - Laying Pavers Part 2
As landscape designers in Melbourne, we are passionate about gardens that are green and lush. Our dedicated team of Landscapers will work alongside you to create an outdoor space that is stylish and tranquil and that fits into your existing spaces. Beautiful, functional gardens provide you with an outdoor space where you can unwind and relax with family and friends.All landscape and garden designs we produce are based on the understanding of the physical space of our clients brief and budget. All of our garden designs are functional with their own unique creative flair.