Monday, August 29, 2011

Up The Garden Path - A Potted History

Linking house and garden is the primary consideration for contemporary garden designers and a quick look back through garden design history gives us some important precedents to follow.

Persia is the commonly accepted birthplace of the concept of the garden as a designed space. Shut away from the harsh outside world, the Persian garden became a private oasis, a place to walk in comfort and safety, shaded by trees, cooled by water and adorned with pleasure pavilions. The Persian garden was a place for 'secret and voluptuous enjoyments', a paradise on earth.

The Romans enjoyed a happy blend of crisp order and verdant tranquility. Porticos and promenades encouraged walk and conversation, while outdoor rooms invited alfresco dining. The Roman garden, most usually a central courtyard, where water in the form of a pool, fountain or channel was an important element, was designed to refresh the spirit.

The Middle Ages saw the rise of neat, geometric knot garden beds. These gardens were formal and dignified, often with a central fountain symbolizing the conjunction of God and man. By the end of the more austere Middle Ages gardens had re- evolved back into the notion of a pleasure garden, a place for dalliance and knightly pleasures, where there were arbours, pergolas, ornamental fountains and singing birds.

In the wealthy Renaissance  era , where visible signs of wealth and status were displayed, the garden began to stretch out beyond the walls and the strict formality of  parterre gardens and grandiose man-made lakes stretched as far as the eye could see. The Palace of Versailles in France is a magnificent, living example of this style.

In England in the eighteenth century strict, formal gardens gave way to the freer garden designs of the English Landscape School with landscaped parks surrounding the grandiose mansions of the wealthy. Eventually the style evolved to encompass the idea of sequence, thus laying the groundwork for the appreciation of Chinese and later Japanese garden design, where each part becomes integral to the overall harmonious composition.

The pendulum of garden fashion continued to swing between formal and informal during the following centuries, however by around the 1920's the pattern of modern garden design was beginning to emerge, a blend between the formal and the informal, underpinned by sound structure.

History is a great teacher and provides us with rich examples to adapt and utilize in our modern twenty first century gardens. Whether we have a small balcony garden, city courtyard or more expansive suburban garden the elements of contemporary garden design - alfresco living, pools and water features, sculpture gardens, vegetable gardens, clipped formal hedges and much more can be traced back to their historical origins. Really we are no different to our ancestors, with the lure of the garden still a powerful force in our contemporary lives.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The 'Wow' And 'Woo' Approach To Garden Design

There are broadly two approaches to garden design - the instant, unsuspected 'wow' factor of immediate impact and the more gradual, subtle 'woo' approach, where the appetite is whetted and the curiosity aroused as we are lured on a journey of discovery.

The essence of the 'wow' approach to garden design is that the 'wow' feature should remain unsuspected for as long as possible. When first seen it must stop us in our tracks. This heart stopper may be a magnificent view, an inspired blend of colour or texture or a fabulous plant, striking in its form, flower display or heady perfume - a little piece of paradise, which through its planning and design can utterly transport us.

The subtlety of the 'woo' approach is more difficult to achieve but by careful garden design the viewer's step can be anticipated and manipulated. We are gently lured by the half hidden, the heard but not seen, or the tantalizing scent from an unseen source. We glimpse features through a window or open door, through a half screening trellis, hedge or fence. Sometimes our curiosity is aroused by the seduction of a path, curving mysteriously, or from stone pillars or columnar, sentinel trees, positioned either side of a gap in a hedge or gate which invites exploration, or even from the distant murmur of water.

Whether we implement the 'wow' or 'woo' approach however, good garden design relies upon order and discipline. The essence of garden design, the principles of transition, linkage and proportion have evolved over many centuries. These principles are the basis of any modern garden, large or small, formal or informal and the garden design traditions of history are still a rich source of inspiration for garden designers today.

Today changing social and economic factors have brought about increased lifestyle expectations and altered how we live in our houses and apartments and utilize our gardens and outdoor spaces. But one thing hasn't changed. There are few of us who do not respond to the 'wow' and 'woo' of garden design and delight in the simple pleasures that a garden, however small brings into our busy lives.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sydney Landscaping Tips For Water Wise Garden Design

In Sydney landscaping companies are looking for creative garden design solutions to make the most of the rain that falls to the ground on our properties.

Although this year in Sydney we have had record rainfalls, this is not the norm. As we move through the regular rain cycles however, dryer times will return to challenge us. Sydney's average rainfall is normally about 1200mm and as a result of previous stringent Level 3 water restrictions Sydneysiders have become more conscious of avoiding wasteful over use of water in the garden despite our dams returning to record high capacities.

In Sydney, landscaping design strategies need to create opportunities for residential garden designs that allow the maximum water absorption benefit for our gardens and lawn areas by slowing down the runoff from paths and driveways to take advantage of every precious drop when it does rain. Instead of the traditional 'let's concrete the side paths and the driveway' these areas should be considered as potential areas for water absorption.

When designing garden paths excavate into the soil sub grades and install agricultural pipes, immersed in gravel and flowing to the lawn and garden areas. With many of  Living Colour Landscapes' landscaping projects in suburban Sydney we have then installed sandstone treads or large scale pavers with decorative pebbles and native violets to add softness and colour.

For several smaller Sydney properties where there is only a car stand at the front of the residence we have followed the same landscaping procedure as in the pathway method but have excavated to a deeper level so that there is a greater depth of gravel. The sandstone slabs need to be 75mm thick and a reasonable size, say 600mm x 400mm and can be placed on a screeded bed of washed river sand and laid as tracks only, so that there is plenty of room left for planting.

When it does rain the water does not flush into the gutters but makes its way through the stone gaps and plants and into the gravel, reducing runoff and allowing more water to be absorbed over a longer period, well after the rain has ceased.

Go to our website at to discover more of our landscaping ideas.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Using Colour Therapy In Garden Design

Sight is our most immediate physical sense. The kaleidoscope of colour in our environment has an instant effect on how we feel and experience the world around us. Colour influences our thoughts, our actions, our health and even our relationships. Amazingly it has been noted by researchers that many colour energies are so powerful that even the visually impaired can sense their vibrations and recognize a colour by sensing the density of air that surrounds it.

Colour therapy is an ancient approach to healing that has been used since the earliest times. The aim is to restore harmony and stimulate our inner resources. Colours can profoundly affect our mood and often have a measurable effect on our emotional and physical behaviour.
So how can we incorporate colour therapy into garden design? Each colour has many meanings and effects and can heal a wide variety of conditions. The usual rules of garden design still apply though and the scale and size of the garden, colours of the house materials and location are still a major consideration. Of course it is not only flowers that can provide colour in the garden. Plant foliage, furniture, garden pots and accessories are also a rich source of colour to play around with.

Red is the colour of love and fertility and is a great energizer. It keeps you alert, helps you cope with the demands of life, removes negativity and provides courage. Red is the boldest and most eye catching colour in the garden, providing vibrancy and making areas seem smaller than they really are, due to its advancing nature. Red has an ability to increase appetite so it is a great choice around eating areas or gardens visible from the inside dining area.

Orange is the colour of joy and provides a feeling of well-being by relieving the worries of everyday life. Orange is warm and welcoming, optimistic and sociable, it is bursting with energy and acts as a stimulant. Orange provokes change, creates opportunity and is the colour of enthusiasm and freedom. Orange is a great colour to lift us out of depression and instil a dose of optimism and fight our unknown fears. Orange is also a great colour to use around eating areas and an excellent choice for an area to enjoy a cup of tea in the morning sun.

Yellow is the brightest colour in the spectrum and is an excellent aid to concentration and study. Yellow energy provides intellectual and inspirational stimulation, encourages agility of mind, aids precision and helps to sort out difficulties. Yellow also brings feelings of optimism and self worth. Yellow is a powerful colour and will attract and dominate, drawing the eye toward it and increasing the feeling of space. Yellow will bring a feeling of well-being to the garden even on a dull day, evoking the spirit of spring.

Green is the colour of nature, a balanced hue which is neither warming nor cooling and brings a sense of harmony in garden design. The greenness of young seedlings represents regeneration and fertility. Green is believed to bring about change, create new routes in life and encourage hope. Restful and relaxing, it offers sanctuary from the outside world and spreads a feeling of peace. It is useful for meditation as it encourages a purposeful state of mind. In the garden, in all its myriad hues, green appears to enlarge space and will have a calming influence. Green enhances appetite, allays anxiety and brings a sense of peace and well-being.

Blue encourages relaxation and tranquility in garden design. It is a good colour for contemplation and is very conducive for meditation, inspiring patience and calm thought. Blue makes you aware of the need for rest and denotes a desire for peace and order. Blue is a cold hue and has a  cooling and cleansing effect which quiets the mind and soul. Exposure to blue can reduce blood pressure, pulse rate and brain activity. Blue is the perfect colour to reduce stress and anxiety in our busy lives and will reduce insomnia and help to combat nervousness, tension or fear. Blue reminds us of clear skies and creates a feeling of spaciousness.

Violet is a rich, regal colour which has been used throughout the ages to indicate knowledge, self respect, spirituality, nostalgia, dignity and wealth. Violet brings feelings of self-worth and is a good colour to use if you need to learn to love yourself. Violet is a difficult colour to use in garden design and needs plenty of contrast in texture, form and tone. For example Lavender has beautifully contrasting silvery foliage as a foil and many violet flowers have striking, contrasting centres such as the climber Clematis.

So now that we are armed with an insight into the effect of colour therapy in garden design we can manipulate space, form, colour and light in our gardens. We can create wonderful swathes of soothing singular colour, lifted by textural interest or mass plantings of complimentary colours. For example blue and orange stimulate the eye and make each colour appear even more intense than it would if set against any other colour in the spectrum. We can calm our nerves in quiet spots in the garden designed for relaxing with blues, greens and neutral whites, or turbo charge our eating areas with vibrant reds and oranges.

Colour is an integral part of our lives and its positive effects on our well-being in a well designed garden are immeasurable. So what are you waiting for? Its time to start re-evaluating your garden as a rich source of healing energy.

Healing Gardens, Romy Rawlings

Monday, July 11, 2011

Create Your Own Private Sanctuary

Most of us are looking for ways to find relief from the stresses of our busy everyday lives. We crave time and space for relaxation and our homes and gardens should provide this sanctuary. Our gardens, regardless of their size can play a vital supporting role in providing a refuge from the pressures of the outside world.

Sitting in a garden brings you into contact with the healing power of nature. In your own garden you can indulge all your senses, choose plants that appeal to you for their colour or shape, their scent or texture or delight in the sounds of rustling leaves, swaying grasses or melodious birdsong.

When planning a garden design, the garden should be visualised throughout the year to exploit the diverse glories of each season. Spring brings an explosion of colour, through the greens of young foliage and a multitude of bulbs and shrubs in a dizzying array of colours. In summer there is another burst of colour until autumn, when we get the full explosion of fiery shades of rich reds, oranges and russets. The winter palette is generally more muted but the showy display of camellias in brilliant shades of reds and pinks through to soft yellows and stunning whites provides a counterpoint to the bleakest winter day.

Gardens should be stimulating environments, both mentally and physically, and can be designed to provide a rich sensory experience. Sight usually dominates our senses but if you close your eyes and wait for your other senses to be aroused you can gain a new understanding of the touch, smells and tastes that surround you.

Foliage can be sharp, smooth, bold, feathery, sticky or quilted. Flowers play their sensuous part in the garden, from the tiniest and dainty headed through to the big and bold, providing us with glorious sweet smelling carpets of colour or striking architectural specimens. Pleasing sounds in the garden can provide a refuge from the daily stress of the unwelcome noise of the cacophony of sounds in our city environments. The sound of rain, wind chimes and bubbling water, the hum of bees and the song of birds, the movement of the wind through trees and shrubs can be almost hypnotic, providing a calming influence and panacea to the day's stresses.

Whether your garden is large or small, a courtyard or a balcony you can create your own private sanctuary, filled with wonderful shapes, textures and scents to rouse your senses and provide an escape, if only momentarily from the outside world.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Revisiting a Favourite Sydney Landscaping Project

One of our favourite landscaping projects is a large Killara garden located on the North Shore in Sydney. Over the years and through several different owners the garden has been lovingly nurtured and tended, and has grown towards maturity to fulfill the original vision.

Stephen and I spent a delightful late afternoon wandering around the garden with the new owners, marvelling at the play of light on richly coloured autumn leaves, swaying grasses and clipped box hedges. Autumn is when this garden is at its most colourful with bronzes, blazing clarets, yellows and oranges, set against a tapestry of greens.

The landscaping was redesigned around the original house, designed and built in the 1940's by a prominent Sydney architect of the day. The house design lent itself to a classical and romantic format, with sweeping hedges of box and topiary planting at strategic points along the pathways. Beautiful, established Eucalyptus trees and exotic deciduous trees added a cathedral like presence to this large North Shore garden and formed 'the bones' of the garden design and landscaping.

Outdoor rooms were created with taller hedging plants such as Syzigium and Murraya to echo the home's architectural elements and to create backdrops for colourful, sculptural plants and a wide variety of native and exotic grasses, that the original owner had a particular passion for.

This wonderfully photogenic landscaping project has been showcased on television in Hot Property and featured in Belle magazine and continues to delight both us and the new owners as it grows towards maturity in this established garden suburb.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sculpture In The Garden

Since Venus, God of love and beauty, was hailed as the presiding deity of gardens by the Roman poet Varro she has been blessed with a long and prosperous reign and sculpture in the garden has continued to be an important ingredient in garden design throughout the history of constructed landscapes.

Many contemporary sculptures still explore the ideal of Venus through the female form. The voluptuous sculptures of powerful female forms by Gaston Lachaise in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery in Canberra are a wonderful contemporary example of 'figures' in the landscape.

The gardens of Renaissance Italy were outdoor museums, in the original sense of 'homes for the muses'. Classical sculptures, excavated from the ruins of Greece and Rome, were displayed in gardens and considered to be an aid to contemplation, and a taste for placing classical statuary spread with the Renaissance to northern Europe. Henry VIII of England placed sculpture in his garden at Nonsuch, begun in 1538 and Louis XIV assembled a vast collection at his grand palace at Versailles.

Today sculpture has once again enjoyed a renaissance in garden design and with a dazzling selection and price range to choose from, there are sculptures to suit every garden, courtyard or balcony. From classical or modern stone and bronze statuary to contemporary pieces in steel, stone, timber and a multitude of materials, the choices are limited only by the artist's imagination.

This collection of images is from Sculpture at Peppers, located in the magnificent, historic gardens of Craigieburn Peppers, and features the work of Stephen Oatley, Thomas Buchich and Stephen Coburn, who were invited to exhibit large scale sculptures as part of the Southern Highlands Festival of Wine, Art and Roses in November last year.

We don't all own grand garden estates like Craigieburn but sculpture can be incorporated into the garden design of any outdoor space to create a dramatic focal point or quiet area of contemplation. Just as the classical sculptures in ancient Roman gardens nurtured the ideals of love and beauty so too can sculpture in our gardens today create that same sense of love, beauty and contemplation

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Berry Nice Place To Visit

I was singing that great Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid song, "Raindrops keep falling on my head" as we pulled up to the gate of our good friend's property perched high on Bundawallah Mountain, overlooking the very picturesque township of Berry, the Shaolhaven River and heads to the south, and north to Gerroa and Gerringong. What a beautiful vista!

Even though it was raining it still provided that wonderful feeling of bliss, this is my time, my time to be inspired by the beauty that surrounds me. There is rain forest at the western edge of the property with mid aged Australian cedar trees, deep green, fanning canopies that provide a haven to the many varied local native birds, with ferns and bracken at their feet and tree ferns towering into the green.

Down on the southern edge a vista straight from the Sound of Music opens up - lush green, grassy paddocks fall away to the south, mountains and mist, clouds and distant paddocks and cattle grazing with the occasional Mmmhh breaking the quiet of day.

To the north, a couple of neighbour's dwellings huddle into the deep folds of the land, with silvery wisps of smoke rising upwards in the cool air. A little closer to the fence and the view opens out to a herb and vegetable patch, the size of a tennis court. Rows and rows of delicious green vegetables ready to be picked right now.

As I walked to the back deck of the farmhouse the view to the east opened out, Mount Coolangatta, a mountain of dark and bright greens, shaped like a pyramid resting quietly against a grey blue patchy sky.

Silver serpentine, adorned with she oaks, swamp mahogany and port jackson figs, the Broughton Creek wends its way through quiet dairy paddocks, disappearing and then reappearing through a copse of tall, broad Eucalypts and reflecting the river banks as it flows its 20 kilometre journey to the mighty Shoalhaven River.

Tilled and fertile fields lay in earthen browns and russet reds, while flaxen crops lay in wait to be harvested into bales, shimmering in the afternoon light. The patchwork of fields with their demarcations of neatly planted pines, she oaks and fruit trees criss cross the rolling plains and hills, rolling onto the horizon to meet the uplands, the last land formation before the sparkling sea.

All day the south and north bound traffic flows along the black grey ribbon of road, with tall golden poplar trees flanking the shoulders of the road. No sound is heard other than the breeze sighing through the wattle trees and the occasional chatter of Fairy Wrens, that dart and flirt along the fence line.

Timber, stone and copper spires of churches and administrative buildings and a railway station, two storied mansions and turn of the century shops set the mood of Berry, first occupied by the Wodi Wodi people.

Berry, a town founded in the early 1800's is reminiscent of a Victorian era township, complete with a railway line to Sydney, a mill, a dairy, a bakery, a butchery, stables and blacksmith, a constabulary and courthouse, a tannery, a boat builder, a post office, two hotels and a phalanx of well to do homes, all of which have added to the romance of this enchanting south coast scene.

Fully inspired by this wonderful environment and with sketch book in tow, this was a great opportunity to spend a wonderful weekend drawing and painting this merry scene. Great landscape design ideas came to mind for recreating miniature aspects of this glorious scene laid out before me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rainforest Songs

Speckled greens and stocky, catcalling from high in the treetops and flitting down to the mossy patch worked paths, a Cat Bird cries in the beauty of the day.

Liana highways stretch to the canopy of the green skyscrapers of the forest. Orchids and ferns cling and festoon the crooks and out stretched branches of this green tapestry.

Tree Creepers hop vertically, clawing into the fissures of the bark and peck for grubs and insects.

Stop, and the song of the forest is sweet to the ears, a mixture of bird calls, bees buzzing, insect wings fluttering and humming, and a soft zephyr sighing through the trees and rustling the leaves.

Orange fungi decorates an ancient fallen log with a zillion new born baby trees nurtured in the cool, moist, moss carpet.

Black feathered, with a wattle of sun yellow and rich red, a Brush Turkey searches the littered floor, foraging, raking and feeding, scraping back the rich fertile layer, gardening this emerald track of land.

Coolness descends and the air is moist, rain droplets pitter patter throughout the myriad of leaves, dripping mini waterfalls, splatter and plop as  the droplets fall and land in puddles of warm fresh rain.

Rufous rumped, with a fan of wispy grey whirling and twirling, calling to its shy mate, calling the songs of all the birds of the forest, the showy ground dweller runs through a routine of whirring, buzzing, laughing and soothing melodies of small shy birds.

Yellow Robins whistle in the rain, flicking their feathers to dry their backs and wings.

The soft rumbling of the storm passes by, and the light shards gleam through the cathedral like wetness. The days magnificence is heralded by the hoo hoo hooing of an Emerald Dove, running and bobbing along the tracks in the glen, stopping, bobbing, turning, bobbing and hooing, then disappearing behind a garden of rhubarb and lime coloured Rasp ferns.

This is a slice of the magnificence of an Australian Sub Tropical Rain Forest.

We may not be able to experience all of the wonders that are present in these vast worlds but a slice of this can be created in our own backyard. Imagine your very own habitat, native bird attracting, abundant with green an textured leaves, and a canopy to cool the summer heat. Water still and flowing, enticing Dragon Flies, Lady Birds, frogs, tadpoles and pond skipping insects. A happy home in the vastness we call the city.

The song of the forest can be shared by you and your friends in your own garden environment.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Create Your Little Piece of Paradise With Tropical Garden Design

I'm up here in gorgeous Port Douglas in Far North Queensland and it truly is a tropical paradise brimful of fabulous tropical garden design at every turn.

The lush tropical rainforest of the Daintree and the glorious stretch of white sand known as Four Mile Beach form the geographical backdrop to Port Douglas, set between the tropical waters of the old, historic sugar port, rimmed with mangroves and the Coral Sea.

Port Douglas is home to some of Australia's most luxurious residences and lush tropical garden design, many designed around airy pavilion style architecture. Just take a walk down any street and there is an abundance of colourful, tropical plant life spilling out along public footpaths, balconies and private gardens.

The resort gardens are fabulous, combining lush and colourful interplays of foliage and flowers. Beautifully manicured, the gardens give off heady perfumes of frangipani, ginger, gardenia, jasmine and michelia. The street planting and residential gardens add to the scene and combined with generous swathes of lush green grass create a garden paradise.

The essence of tropical garden design is the combination of fragrant flowers and lush, colourful, sensuous foliage, punctuated by the bold trunks and sculptural leaves of the myriad palm varieties. Tall palms and rainforest trees form a cool canopy for an understorey of plants such as ferns, colourful crotons, cordylines, gingers, jasmine and rohea.

With its mild sub tropical climate Sydney gardens are well suited to tropical garden design and with some clever planting design can work well with our water restrictions. Grouping plants with different water requirements is a clever way to reduce water usage and creating a micro climate with canopy planting will help keep the shaded understorey moist if well mulched.

Timber decking and stepped timber platforms in combination with natural stone paving and pebbles form a perfect structural backdrop to tropical garden design and are particularly suited to pool settings. Finishing touches include large feature garden pots, low water bowls with water plants and fish and garden sculpture. A large carved stone sculpture in combination with a water bowl, set amidst lush foliage can look particularly stunning.

Garden lighting creates the drama at night and the perfect backdrop for outdoor entertaining on warm balmy Sydney night.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Potted Cactus For Cool Contemporary Looks

Potted cactus gardens look stunning in contemporary environments and are the easiest plants to keep alive and thriving for even the most green thumb challenged amongst us.

Cacti come from the family cactaceae and have a number of adaptations which help them to survive in dry climates such as vascular systems which store water and nutients. This handy little adaptation means that it is pretty hard to kill a Cactus. In fact you and your Cactus will bond beautifully if you don't water them too often!

Cacti come from dry or desert environments but can be grown in a wide variety of environments. Cacti are also very cold hardy as they have to deal with the extreme cold of the desert at night. They can also cope with wet climates as long as grown in well drained soil.

Cacti come in a wide variety of shapes, colours and sizes and can do equally well outside or indoors as long as they're in a very light or sunny position. Indoors, position them where they'll get plenty of natural sunlight and be sure to let them dry out completely before giving them another drink. Overwatering is just about the only mistake that will kill them. How easy is that for all you time poor would-be gardeners, who'd like to share your life with a little plantlife.

To make a striking statement try positioning your potted cactus garden as a feature on a central coffee table, dining table or on a console in front of a mirror. Outside, position it on a table or plinth amongst a group of feature pot specimens. A block of sandstone would be perfect.

We've got some striking cactus gardens now on display in our Redfern showroom so pop in and have a look and find your perfect match.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Feng Shui Of Water Gardens

Feng Shui stands for water and wind and when water is activated by wind there is a flow of well being through your life.

A simple water bowl at your front door can create balance, harmony and prosperity in your environment. When placed to the right of your front door entrance your water feature can bring you good luck.  And we could all do with a bit more of that!

A simple and eye catching water bowl with water plants and goldfish is not only good feng shui but a striking design feature when grouped with several feature pots and plants. The goldfish create darting flashes of bright orange as they weave through the waterplants and are a soothing panacea to the day's stresses.

We've got several water bowls on show in the courtyard at the moment, complete with water plants and fish so drop into our Redfern showroom at 1/748 Bourke Street to discover how you can bring a little good luck into your life.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

HOT SUMMER SALE 20% off all floorstock at Living Colour Landscapes

Wondering what sort of plants manage in a harsh Australian Summer? We've got a beautiful range of potted succulents in a range of sophisticated pots perfect for terrace gardens, city living, or to enhance areas of your existing garden. LIVING COLOUR LANDSCAPES has 20% off all showroom floor stock until the end of February. Drop in to 1/748 Bourke Street Redfern 2016 Mon-wed 10am-5pm thurs-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm TEL: 9310 3561