The last few weeks we’ve had landscapers here doing some major work. While the front garden will pretty much take care of itself, with a regular mow, the back had drainage issues, a rotting retaining wall, and an abundance of weeds.
I’ve never bought a house that didn’t have a neglected garden and/or need some landscaping. At my first house the cut made into the back yard for a verandah became a sloped herb garden and paving. At my second house I had 14 tree stumps removed and planted a small vege and herb garden, but couldn’t afford more. The last house flooded twice, so required a lot of expensive drainage, and the extension made such a mess that most of the garden was wrecked. It was almost completely redone. (Including the much-more-expensive-than-planned replacement retaining wall between us and the neighbour that I paid for entirely – but let’s not go there.)
We knew the new house needed work and budgeted for it. We braced ourselves, too, because landscaping always throws up unexpected and costly surprises. I’ve split it into three stages based on what was urgent and what could be done later.
Stage One was mostly about drainage and retaining walls.
Stage Two will be mostly about restoring the eroded embankment at the far back corner, plants and fences.
Stage Three will be mostly about paving and raised garden beds for the kitchen garden.
Stage One started a few weeks ago. Day one of the work the landscapers hit shale – clay that’s been compressed to the hardness of rock:
(It’s the pale yellow under the orangey clay.)
All our plans of moving the retaining walls a little back into the slope to get more space had to be abandoned. We couldn’t have sleeper walls, either. The posts for the old wall barely penetrated the shale, and digging post holes deep enough to properly support a wall would require expensive equipment.
So we had to upgrade to a recycled brick wall in the middle, where space is tight. After seeing the time and care that goes into a simple brick wall, I am never going to regard them and brick laying in the same way again. So much skill and time. I love the colour and variation in the recycled bricks, too.
We used big colac rocks in the kitchen garden. It’s much less formal than I’d intended, but I can work with that. The upper area will be planted with roses, herbs and flowering plants, taller at the back and ground covers spilling down the rocks. Well, that’s the plan. The big challenge is the soil, which is very poor. It’ll all be mulched, but for every plant I put in I’ll need to dig a big hole and fill it with new, good soil.
The three citrus trees are the only survivors in this area, and the lime took a nasty scrape down its trunk from the excavator. I’m going to plant two more citrus trees on either side of the row. Maybe two limes, maybe a lime and orange – or mandarin.
The flat lower area was going to remain as grass for a year until I had the raised vege beds put in, but the excavators turned it all to mud. I’m now going to cover it in mulch. Trying to reestablish grass at the beginning of summer in Melbourne is a waste of seed, water and time.
I’d only put five plants in since moving in and they all had to be removed. Three were pumpkins, so I’ve planted them outside the laundry door into some compost. I’ve never grown pumpkin before, and I’ve been impressed at how resilient they’ve been, continuing to grow in the pots and even flowering.
There was a pond next to the deck that had to go, but we weren’t all that keen on it. We kept the rocks, though. The plants that had to be removed were divided and replanted around them. I want to keep this as a greener area but without creating a high water demand – you can get a rainforest look without plants that require lots of water if you choose carefully.
The drainage issues were bad and for a while it looked like we might have to replace the whole storm water pipe system. Fortunately the cause was found and wasn’t as bad as it first appeared – one thing that didn’t cost us more than expected!
Stage Two will happen next autumn, but there are a couple of projects Paul is in charge of that may happen before then, like the new driveway. A few plants will have to be removed or transplanted. And friends have been taking these…
… and using them as Christmas trees. They look fabulous, too!