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Garden clocks: outdoor timing for my street and local community

garden clocks on street

My garden clock faces the street. And its all to do with the sheer frustration of designing public landscapes.

Public areas are political. And political spaces are a nightmare for any designer.There are so many stakeholders and so many opinions that often the most skilled design team will create yet another blah blah space. Perhaps the mayor intervenes and removes a crucial design element or the maintenance team don’t care that the garden beds are left to invasive weeds or maybe there is no maintenance budget.

Whatever designing for the public is hard.

As a result of political shenanigans  my dear old streetscape lacks greatness. It could be so much better but alas my local council has spoken: upgrade 10 years time.

And who knows what the upgrade will really create?

With all this said I look at my front garden and wonder can I possibly upgrade the street NOW.

Can I create a design within my property boundary that contributes to the community space in some way.  Am I able to ‘lift’ the streetscape? Will others respond?

The older generation of my street are first generation Greek, Italian and Macedonian. Gina and a few others spend a lot of time in the street. The new ‘yuppies’ are out and about as well – they have been having babies. We all seem to chat.

Can my front garden contribute to the social happenings?

Well lets see.

Over the next few posts I will talk about the various design features and how each will contribute to the community.

But really I am not that altruistic. I am having fun and am exploring ideas. And of course my design also meets some of my day-to-day issues. I will talk about that too.

How nice is it to be your own client? No need to please anyone but yourself.

Stage One: Garden Clock . Adding a clock to my garden is a cheap and sure way to get the community dependant on my space. Running late for work,  no watch? No worries – check the streetscape clock. OO how good would it be to hear  ‘Lets meet at the house with the clock’.

It’s also rather handy for me too – my car clock is always wrong.

Next post: Stage two.

Did someone forget to water? Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show 2011. Warning I was at Chelsea last year.

I so can not help comparing Chelsea 2010 with Melbs Garden Show 2011 . Here it goes.

Comparison one: there was a fab little idea for wall planters tucked in a corner of a Melbourne show garden and the plants (strawberries) were drooping with thirst. Its only Day 2 in Melbourne   – Chelsea plants do not know the horror of  ‘The End’ until the last gate shuts firmly.

Comparison Two: Designers in Melbourne took the podium with gusto and confidence (one chopped designer above). They explained what inspired them without a hint of embarrassment. Told us what life is all about. Hellaleuja brother. I felt the awaken earth mother spirit leap with  joy.  The quiet pause ridden modesty of the British designer perhaps aint very Australian.

Comparison Three: Children. None at Chelsea. Guess how many lost children announcements I heard today at Melbourne’s International Garden Show? Four in 3 hours.

Children exist. And its them who cause visual havoc in our gardens. Children was not a strong topic for Chelsea 2010. It was more about gardens for someone who has no kids in their life at all. Not even once a year.

So me was very happy to see the above cubby houses looking funky and somewhat under polished. Very suitable for my oh so terribly ordinary child centred life.

Comparison Four: Garden Design. Both Chelsea and Melbourne have great design and some rather less great. The main difference is Chelsea has way more budget to flaunt its design possibilities. In turn the finishes and detailing at Chelsea are often exquisite. Whilst there was some great finishes in Melbourne there is less of a high polished concrete satin glean.

The Flemings sponsored design was one of the few Australian designs at Chelsea 2010. Fleming’s Chelsea design was reproduced at Melbourne’s show  but on a lesser scale. Does that says something about Australia? ….Would Kylie Minogue spend less money on her Aussie tour than Europe? I wonder?

By the way Flemings created a great design in both countries, nevertheless designing a spectacle complete with bikini clad chicks, and your oversized frontage, does little for raising the awareness of Australia’s design maturity.

Fake grass, granitic sand, earth, death, the full moon and friends




I think I have realised what is wrong with fake grass.

This morning at 7.15am on the banks of the Yarra River in the most beautiful eucalypt landscape ever my dear friend’s ashes were scattered. The moon was its fullest on the west and the sun was rising like always over there on the east. Oh and lets not forget the most larrikin call of the sulphur crested cockatoos.

Two months ago I was on the underground tube in London. On the train I was convinced I would use fake grass in my back garden upon my return to my home in Australia.

I got off the underground and headed home to Australia.

I arrived in time to hang out with Mirabai on her balcony prior to her passing.

Her balcony is amazing – it sits in Eucalyptus heaven.

The landscape has NOT a drip of formality. Its sun bleached, dry and visually wild. Sharp contrast to my past  years in manicured grass-green London.

If Mirabai was a train station she would have been called Healing Central. As a result I have been very lucky to be involved in some beautiful ceremonies since her passing one month ago. I am not normally one for such tribal carry on – but I get it.

It’s great to feel the earth, play with the ground, swim in the rivers and get naked every once in a while.

Driving home in the car this morning I decided that fake grass has merit but it’s not right for my home.

When I launch myself out of the car and walk to the front door – i want crunch, an occasional puddle and gravel residue leading across my Italian terrazzo porch.

I think I need to enter the house and walk straight out again to my backyard where I can feel the earth. Fake grass has been scrapped .

So here I am now at the age of 40  giving major importance to the ground-foot connection. Jeez I think had forgotten about all that earth connection stuff -

I am sure in my early 20s  I use to have that high on my design agenda?

Hey you …thanks for reminding me …amongst many many other things…

So you want something designed? always look at previous experience

Garden Beet has re-learnt a very very old lesson. If you are going to engage a designer or anyone for that matter- always always do your homework on the professional’s BUILT experience.

It is so god damn easy for people to say ‘YES’ i can do that. People do that don’t they?

You can do anything as long as the client is willing to pay.

But guess what sunshine? You just dont know what you dont know.

And if there are problems – when are the problems going to surface ? Well after the designer has hot footed away. Its hard pinpointing liability 6mnths down the track . And then try 5 years.

Yes there are insurances.

But jeeze major headaches and pains could be saved if people were willing to be less ‘ego’ and more thoughtful. Gosh its not hard to say I dont know.


Gardens [NOT] Illustrated. The 2011 Welsh Border Collection is Slightly Strange.

Welsh garden

Veddw aint on the 2011 Gardens Illustrated Welsh Border Garden tour?

How odd – it’s on the border of Wales and England and it truly impressed me and several others including Stephen Anderton (The Times)

Only rarely does one come across a garden so ambitious and successful as the one at Veddw House.

In 2004 Germaine Greer gave Veddw  a wrap of applause for its ‘expression to contemporary sensibility about conservation’.

It’s even weirder that the tour guide for this year’s Welsh Border Collection, Noel Kingsbury, has previously stated that this

.. is a garden that is very ambitious: it is intellectual and experimental, occasionally provocative, but for the most part beautiful and relaxing

For further weirdness please refer to the following link  –  Veddw Review (Noel’s detailed Veddw review, published in the November 2006 edition of Gardens Illustrated).

The designer Anne Wareham is a self claimed bad-tempered gardener. Wareham is known to insult the sensibilities of some garden designer circles.

Now I am taking a leap here but I am thinking perhaps her garden is not part of the Welsh Collection in 2011 for her outspoken comments?

Umm….. are cultural collections being edited on the grounds of an artist’s personality? Or perhaps something an artist has said?

Gardens Illustrated would you like to make comment?

Coming Soon: Anne Wareham becomes a pin up girl for Garden Beet

Water tanks, walls and water harvesting

Image : Landscape Tanks

Given that water is a valuable  resource it seems sensible to incorporate water holding features into building projects wherever possible.

The retaining wall above  incorporates a water tank plus accommodates a planting bed on top.  The holding tank is constructed from concrete.

Whilst the image above is not terribly inspiring be aware that concrete is a versatile material. The finish could be any colour and have a variety of textures. Or could be clad with other materials such as timber or sheet metal.

Another water harvesting device that could also be used as a wall is a  slimline water tank (Waterwall) made from polyethylene. Image below.

This product has been used in  Australia since 2004 however the tank is no longer manufactured in Australia and is now only available in the USA.

Garden Beet is interested to know of any projects that incorporate water harvesting into various landscape elements such as retaining walls or boundary fences. Please add a comment if you are in the know.

water tanksImage: Patrick Franklyn

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