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chinese pagoda Kew Gardens

Chinese Landscaping and Melbourne Gardens

Chinese Landscaping (中国园林) is well known for its use of decorative design elements and the use of the concept of the “ideal miniature” as a landscape design tool.

The Chinese garden culture has more than three thousand years old design tradition. It is a unique phenomenon in landscape architecture and human cultural history. It is the oldest continuous garden and landscape concept in the world, dating back to the Shang dynasty in the 2nd century B.C when the transformation of natural landscape arrived at the phase where gardens for pleasure, recreation, happiness, and laugher could appear.

豫园 Yù Yuán /yoo ywen/ 'Happiness Garden'

Yu Yuan (豫园) Gardens or Happiness Gardens , Shanghai, China. These gardens are thought to be more than 400 years old and may date back to the Ming Dynasty.

The Yu Yuan Garden (豫园) is compromised  of six different scenic areas. These are the Inner Garden, Sansui Hall, Wanhua Chamber, Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, and the Yuhua Hall. These gardens are a great example of the Chinese landscape design concept of the idealised miniature,

Amongst the many highlights of the garden are; exquisite sculptures, classical Chinese architecture and beautiful chinese carvings.

The Chinese garden converted and improved natural landscapes with deep symbolism. The level of garden spaces is strictly bound, giving substantial importance to hills, rocks, and water.

Suzhou chinese garden

The Suzhou Chinese garden. According to UNESCO, “The classical gardens of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China date back to the 6th century BCE when the city was founded as the capital of the Wu Kingdom” The Chinese garden design seeks to recreate natural landscapes as an idealised miniature and the Suzhou gardens are a great example of this.

The Chinese garden emulates a deep understanding of nature and its procedures. They are composed of a series of landscape portraits, a picture from individual points from window frames along corridors of a set of buildings. Chinese landscape is an idealised miniature, which is meant to express the harmony between man and nature.


The planting design of traditional Chinese gardens does not apply to a wide variety of ornamental plants. Not so much in the variability, but the decorative appearance and the deep symbolical meaning are forefront in Chinese planting design. Trees with the irregular arrangement, meadow or pasture, but huge water surfaces instead, always with lotus plant cover representing purity and admired in the Buddhist philosophy.

A typical Chinese landscape is enclosed by walls and includes:

  • One or more ponds.
  • Rock works.
  • Trees and flowers.
  • An assortment of halls with the garden provides a carefully composed scene to the visitors.
Landscaping with rocks, paths and gravel.

Landscaping with rocks, paths and gravel.



Feng Shui is a system of the earliest Chinese practises that aim to increase the happiness and comfort of the human inside a home, an office, or a garden. It stimulates the good flow of energy in that space. Chi is a term used in Feng shui to refer to the universal energy present in and around us. Feng shui aims to direct the flow of Chi within our space to contribute to a good flow of Chi inside ourselves as well. Because due to this energy, humans connect to the area.

Feng shui means knowing how to choose the right colours and decorative elements and use them in the specific areas of your home to bring about nourishing energy to your space and the different areas of your life. Feng shui is not an imposition of strict rules because no strictness breeds a healthy flow of energy. There are five elements of feng shui: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These five elements’ correct position and placement in our space can stimulate Chi and promote our wellbeing.

Feng shui 5 elements

The five elements of feng shui: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These five elements’ correct position and placement in our space can stimulate Chi and promote our wellbeing.


The wood element withstands vitality, health, and growth. Wood is also an element of abundance. The use of wood encourages wealth and prosperity. It is expressed in green and brown colours. Decorative elements that add wood to your space are lush and healthy plants, green pillows, and vegetation. The element fire brings energy from the sun and with it a sense of joy and creativity. It is also an element of love, romance, and passion. To add this element to your space, use candles of different colours, fire images, yellow lampshades, etc. The element earth stand for nourishment, protection, stability, and support. It provides us with an inner sense of ground and space. It is a crucial element to add to our hectic and stressful modern lives. This element is expressed in beige, sandy, and taupe colours. The fourth element of Feng shui is metal. It brings discipline, structure, productivity, and efficiency. Metal eliminates distraction and helps in creating a sense of clarity, calm, and lightness. Its colours are white and grey. Use the metal to balance out overly warm and sensible places, but don’t overuse it. The fifth and final element of Feng shui is water, one of the most important and influential elements. Water brings the refreshing energy of ease and harmony. Water provides us a sense of renewal and flow. It is also a symbol of abundance and is always used in Feng shui to cultivate wealth. 

Advantages of Feng Shui 風水 in Chinese Landscaping

Feng Shui plays a crucial role in enhancing wealth. Many businessmen used it to attract clients. Proper Feng shui can greatly improve your health. It is used mainly for sickened and older people and is trusted to have potential health benefits. Feng shui principles boost mental health. By adding flowering and decorative plants, your mental health will be improved. The accidents and unwanted events can be reduced by Feng shui.


The natural garden style proved to be the symbol of liberal philosophy and the enlightened way of thinking. The modern landscape garden, which can be seen as an idealised view of nature, is inspired by classical landscape painting and the classic Chinese gardens, which European travellers have described. The interest in Chinese culture, architecture, and garden design spread around the British island and inspired talented gardeners and designers. The gardens created in the chamber made a new section in the picturesque landscaped gardens. In these so-called anglo-chinoiserie gardens, eastern, mainly Chinese architectural motivates garden elements have been used in most cases without integrating the Chinese nature philosophy. These first, more or less formal effects of Chinese garden design on modern landscape architecture were written by garden designers and horticulturists during the gardens period, where great variety in plant design was taken into the focus of landscape architecture.

The uniqueness and exoticism of Chinese art and architecture in Europe were managed in 1738 when the first Chinese house was constructed in the English garden (Stowe House Garden).

Chinese house was constructed in the English garden (Stowe House Garden)

Chinoiserie garden pavilion called the Chinese House. Thought to be the work of architect William Kent (c. 1685-1748), commissioned by Sir Richard Temple, Viscount Cobham (1675-1748), by 1738. Enclosed wooden rectangular structure, painted with chinoiserie designs, with latticework windows and with a gabled roof with lead covering and two gilded fish finials.Due to William Chamber, who lived in China from 1745-1747, the style became more popular . He built a Great Chinese pagoda (A Chinese house) in London (Kew Garden). After that, Chinese pagodas began to appear in other English gardens. Subsequently, the term Anglo-Chinese garden for this style of landscaping.

chinese pagoda Kew Gardens

The Chinese Pagoda Kew Gardens.

In the 19th century, the gardening interests of the west had turned towards the display of rare and exotic plants. Plant collectors discovered a paradise in China. Garden borders and woods started to blossom soon with species of azalea and rhododendron, which are found in the wild foothills of the Himalayas.


From 1970, the Chinese traders were visiting the north coast of Australia. After the British settlement (1788), many Chinese people came as workers, prisoners, and fee settlers. After that, the Chinese arrival to Australia was not significant until the Victorian (the 1850s) and New South Wales gold rushes. From the Victorian gold rush, the number of Chinese people in Australia reached 50,000.

Melbourne’s Chinatown has a long and memorable history starting from the Victorian gold rush in 1850-51 when the Chinese immigrants came to Australia for the gold rush in search of gold. In late 1854, the first Chinese lodging houses were created in Little Bourke Street and Celestial Avenue. This specific place was considered suitable for the settlers, as it was a staging post for new Chinese colonists and supplies en route to the goldfield. It is known to be the oldest Chinatown in Australia. The goldfield ultimately diminished, which caused a shift from rural living and the arrival of people migrating into metropolitan Melbourne.

chinatown melbourne

Dating back to the gold rush era, Chinatown in Melbourne is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world.

After the fading of the gold rush, when the mining of gold became far less profitable, market gardening became the subsequent most common Chinese occupation, especially in Victoria. Up until the 1900s, almost one-third of the Chinese population in Victoria was involved in market gardening. Even during the goldfield era, the Chinese grew their vegetables, in many cases earning more money than mining in the goldfield. In Melbourne, there were market gardens along Merri Creek and in Suburbs such as Brighton and Caulfield. Chinese used handmade tools for work gardening work.


China is known as the “mother of gardens.” Being marginally larger in mass than the United States, the number of native species of higher pants of China is close to 30,000, of which 7000 are trees around one-eighth of the world’s total. The majority of the garden around the globe possibly comprise at least one plant originating in China, more likely many. Following are the five best Chinese plants.

1)   DOVE TREE (Davidia involucrate)

The dove tree, also known as the handkerchief tree, belongs to the family Cornaceae. The dove tree is native to Chine but can also cultivate in other parts of the world. This tree has come to be a famous decorative tree in gardens in Australia. This plant is temperately fast-growing. The height of this plant ranges from 15-20 metres.

Davidia involucrate handkerchief tree DOVE TREE

Flowers of a dove tree or handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata .

The leaves of the dove tree are small and heart-shaped. Its flower cannot be seen easily and has two attractive and big white bracts suspended from the stem-like handkerchief. Ta’s why this plant is also known as the handkerchief plant. The flower is located between these bracts. This plant requires a temperate and cold climate. Dove plants grow well in full sun or semi-shade. This plant requires Well-drained and rich soil.

2)   CHINESE PISTACHIO (Pistacia chinensis)

The Chinese pistachio is a lovely small and medium deciduous tree used as an ornamental shade tree. This tree is drought tolerant and has a neat hemispherical appearance. Chinese pistachio grows well in full sun to partial shade on moderately fertile, well-drained soils. This plant provides good Autumn colour, with leaves turning beautiful shades of orange and red.

Chinese Pistachio

The Chinese pistachio This plant provides great Autumn colour for your Melbourne garden, with leaves turning beautiful shades of orange and red

The Chinese pistachio produces panicles of greenish flowers in April and May. The female tree of the Chinese pistachio attracts birds by bearing small white flowers.

Chinese Pistachio (Pistacia chinensis)

Chinese Pistachio (Pistacia chinensis) is drought tolerant and has a neat hemispherical appearance. Chinese pistachio grows well in full sun to partial shade on moderately fertile, well-drained soils.It also produces small round orange to red drupes that ripens in October. The bark of growing Chinese pistachio is grayish brown and, if peeled from the tree, reveals a shocking salmon pink interior.

3)   Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo, also known as maidenhair tree, is a deciduous tree native to China. Since ancient times, this plant has been planted in Chinese and Japanese temple gardens and is now valued in several parts of the world like a fungus and insect-resistant ornamental plant. This plant can tolerate cold weather and also can survive in adverse atmospheric conditions of urban areas.

gingko tree, maidenhair tree

Ginkgo biloba tree in yellow , golden leaves of Ginkgo Biloba autumn colours (gingko tree, maidenhair tree)

The ginkgo tree is pyramidal in shape with a sparingly branched trunk up to 30 metres tall. Ginkgo has been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Ginkgo, also known as maidenhair tree, is a deciduous tree native to China

A young Ginkgo Tree, also known as maidenhair tree, is a deciduous tree native to China.

At the end of the 20th century, the extract of ginkgo was used for its supposed memory-enhancing property. Many varieties are also available for landscape use, including columnar types and others favoured for better growth habits, fall colour, and other desired qualities.


Bamboos are a woody perennial plant that belongs to the true grass family Poaceae. The plant size is different from species to species, from giant timber to small annuals. Bamboo species are mainly divided into two main types such as runners and clumpers. Running produce shots several metres away from parent plant whereas clumpers trees grow into a slowly expanding tuft. Planting bamboo in the ground requires minimal preparation of soil. Just dig the soil and plant the clunking varieties.  Bamboo grows best in well-drained soil. Bamboo is a versatile plant but choosing a suitable variety is essential when growing it in a garden.

5)   CHRYSANTHEMUM (Chrysanthemum indicum)

Chrysanthemum is a member of the Compositae family and is available in a wide range of brilliant colours, shapes, and sizes. Chrysanthemum is first cultivated in China as a flowering herb back in the 15th century B.C. The chrysanthemum flower ranges from dazzling whites to dep bronzes, and the plants are highlighted with full dark green leaves.


Chrysanthemums have been bred to produce flowers in a range of beautiful colours.

Chrysanthemums prefer full sun therefore, keep them away from shady trees and large bushes. It requires well-drained and evenly moist soil. This plant does not like standing water and will quickly rot if lifted too wet. This plant is a heavy feeder and should be fertilised monthly. Sprinkle a balanced fertiliser at the rate of 10:10:10 around the plant. Maintain good air circulation around the plant. Stop fertilising when the flower bud emerges.




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7 Great Salvia plants for your Melbourne Garden

The Salvia plant is available in a huge range of colours and sizes for your garden. It is not really that surprising when you consider there are more than 950 species to choose from. The salvia is a member of the mint family (lamiaceae), which means it is related to some of the world’s favorite culinary herbs rosemary, basil and mint as well as the Mediterranean garden favourite, the lavender. From a distance some varieties of Salvia, resemble their cousins in the lavender world.

Whilst they are attractive garden plants, many members of this genus are also important for culinary purposes such as flavouring, teas and food crops.

Many Salvia species are native to tropical America. Wagner’s Salvia also known as chupamiel (Salvia wagneri), is probably the most spectacular of these. This shrub is really more like a tree are as it can grow over 4 metres tall in ideal conditions. Not only is this a huge shrub, but the 300mm long flowers appear as scarlet spikes with magenta calyxes.

1. Salvia Farinacea or Blue Salvia,

In the hills of southwest of North America Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea) displays its bright blue flowers after rainfall.



2. Mexican Chia (Salvia Hispanica)

Salvia hispanica, more commonly known as Mexican Chia, is one of the most important food crops from the mint family. The seeds of this annual herbaceous plant are known for being high in omega 3 fatty acid and fibre. Salvia hispanica is native to the desert regions of Mexico which makes it a very drought tolerant plant.


3. Salvia leucantha or Mexican bush sage.

S.leucantha or Mexican bush sage an Autumn flowering perennial which can add colour to your Melbourne garden in early May. Salvias are generally drought tolerant and can handle subtropical as well as temperate climates. This makes them a good plant for temperate climates like Melbourne with its with warm to hot summers, mild and sometimes balmy springs and autumns. This plant is a favourite amongst Melbourne Gardeners and is also great for dog friendly gardens.


"salvia will add depth to your small garden. ‘Tricolor’ is a spreading evergreen sub-shrub with oblong grey-green leaves variegated with cream and flushed with purple on the youngest growth; light blue flowers open in early summer.

Variegated Varieties

A variegated variety will add depth to your small garden. ‘Tricolor’ is a spreading evergreen sub-shrub with oblong grey-green leaves variegated with cream and flushed with purple on the youngest growth; light blue flowers open in early summer.

For striking gold varigated leaves, the herb ‘Icterina’ is a evergreen dwarf shrub with aromatic, oblong leaves 3-6cm long, greyish, variegated with gold yellow and pale green. Two-lipped pale purplish-blue flowers 2cm long, in terminal racemes provide great colour contrast.
For striking gold varigated leaves, the herb ‘Icterina’ is a evergreen dwarf shrub with aromatic, oblong leaves 3-6cm long, greyish, variegated with gold yellow and pale green. Two-lipped pale purplish-blue flowers 2cm long, in terminal racemes provide great colour contrast.
Purple Sage is an aromatic perennial herb with purple grey foliage It grows to a height of 60 cm and will spread to around 45 cm. Plant in well-drained soil in a sunny sheltered location.
Purple Sage is an aromatic perennial herb with purple grey foliage It grows to a height of 60 cm and will spread to around 45 cm. Plant in well-drained soil in a sunny sheltered location.

Landscaping Ideas with Salvia


Pet Friendly Gardens

As with most culinary plants, salvia will not generally be a problem with your pets. The good news is that you are unlikely to need any snail pellets to protect your salvias. A good variety for snail resistance is s.superba.

Garden ideas for Saliva

These versatile plants are great for commercial landscapes, residential landscapes and coastal and beachside gardens. The plant can be used as either garden beds or borders as well as vegetable gardens. Most importantly, the salvia is also a must have for any ornamental garden Australia wide.

Salvia is great for garden borders and garden beds.
Salvia is great for garden borders and garden beds.

Garden Care for your Salvia

Salvias, like many Australian native plants, have evolved to grow in fairly poor soils. Apart from the alvia Uliginosa or Bog Sage, soil needs to be reasonably well drained.  Apply a soil conditioiner like a very dilute solution of Neutrog Seamungus occasionally.


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More information on the sage genus.


Cambridge Blue


Jerusalem Sage




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Lavender in a herbaceous border along a path.

5 ways lavender is ideal for the Melbourne garden

Lavender or lavendula is a very hardy evergreen aromatic shrub which is grown for its scent as well as its flowers.

Lavender Flower Structure

Lavender Flower attracts butterflies, honey bees and bumblebees. A honey bee sips nectar from a lavender flower.


There are many species to choose from as the genus Lavandula has more than 30 known members. The family to which the they belong is Lamiaceae.  The Lamiaceae is a huge family is well known for its aromatic volatile oils and includes plants like the Rosemary, thyme, oregano and mint. It is in fact these oils which makes the plants in the mint family so useful as medicinal and culinary plants.


English or French Lavender


The so called English version can live up to 25 years whereas the less hardy French or Spanish lavender will only live to around 5 years old. The fatter flowers of the Spanish and French varieties tend to be a little more flamboyant.


Where does Lavender come from?


The lavender grows naturally around the Mediterranean and was taken to Britain by the Romans. The Roman legions and their Greek doctors took medicinal herbs with them on their marches.

What is the origin of the name?

There are two possibilities for the origin of the name “Lavender”. Possibly it comes from the Latin “lavare” meaning to wash. It has been used since before Roman times as a bath perfume and to scent washed fabrics. The other possibility for the source of the name is the Latin “lividus” meaning blueish or livid.


Landscaping Melbourne with Lavender

This is an ideal plant for creating the authentic Mediterranean garden. It will also thrive in sunny locations in your Melbourne garden provided the soil is well draining and not too acidic.

Lavender or Lavandula with a terracotta pot

Lavandula with a terracotta pot. This is a great combination for a Mediterranean garden. The complementary colours also look great together.

Growing Lavender in pots

If you do not have enough sun, you can plant them in a terracotta pot and move them to get some extra sun. The blue and violet flowers of the lavender will be complimentary to the rich earthy colours of the terracotta.


Where is it best to plant lavender?

Lavender plants thrive in full sun and can grow well in raised garden beds and containers. They can even be used in hedges and make a great herbaceous border along a garden path.


How do you take care of a lavender plant?

  • Cut back the flowers as they finish.
  • Do not be afraid to prune twice a year with one pruning after flowering has finished.
  • Lavenders that are not pruned regularly will become spindly.
  • Replace plants that have become too woody.
  • Do not over water.
  • Very little fertiliser is required.
  • Soil must be well drained to avoid root rot.
  • Annual light application of garden lime in acidic topsoils.


Potential Diseases and Pests


Grey mould or leaf spot can appear. Prune your plants to allow good air circulation and move plants to a sunnier location in the garden. Plants can also be attacked by frog hoppers, so look for signs of frothy “cuckoo spit”.


Lavender Varieties


Varieties for essential oils

Old English Lavender (Lavandula spica) is often grown on farms for the harvesting of the fragrant essential oils. This is a tall variety that can grow to around 90 centimeters, so it will need plenty of space.


Lavendula Augustifolia (English Lavender)

Despite being known as English, this plant originates in Southern Europe near the Mediterranean. It is a bushy shrub to around one metre tall and quite wide. In mid to late summer the long unbranched stalks will produce deep or pale purple dense fragrant spikes of flowers.

English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote'

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’


Popular varieties and Colours

Lavender Farms

These plants are often grown on farms where the plants are harvested to make essential oils. Often the distillation process takes place on the farm itself. The farms are also a great tourist attraction drawing visitors to experience the aroma and the beautiful sea of purple that stretches into the distance.

Lavender farm for essential oil manufacture

Lavender farms like this one in the Cotswolds are great tourist attractions and are also used for essential oil manufacturing.


Visiting the farms

Lavendula Swiss Italian Farm is around 120 north-west of Melbourne and has over 40 Hectares of lavender farm to explore.

In the UK there is a farm just near the National Trust property of Snowshill in the Cotswolds Area on Natural Beauty, where many of these photos were taken.


Landscaping with Lavender

The hardy and versatile lavender has hundreds of uses in landscaping and garden design. As a border it can give the violet or blue design theme continuity through a landscape. When used as a border opposite a long blue swimming pool it provides visual balance to the garden.


Lavender border opposite a swimming pool

Lavender border opposite a swimming pool. The lavender provides continuity as well as visual balance.


Lavender in a herbaceous border along a path.

Lavender in a herbaceous border along a path. The lavender border looks great against the earthy tones of cottage path.


Lavender field in the monastery of Saint Paul de Mausole in France.

Lavender field in the monastery of Saint Paul de Mausole in France. Mass plantings like this always create a stunning effect.

Agricultural uses for lavender

In agriculture lavender also has a wide varieties of uses. Home gardeners can learn a few tips from these. Some varieties are grown for the cut flower industry for fresh and dried bouquets.The flowers of these plants are very high in nectar and many varieties have a long flowering season. This has made them a great plant for attracting and feeding bees. The quality and the quantity of honey produced from hives close to lavender plants is well known in the industry. Attracting bees is important too for the orchard industry. Lavender is a useful companion plant as the aroma repels some pests as well as attracting pollinating insects. The main agricultural use is essential oil manufacturing.


Essential Oil Distillation


Lavender essential oil distillation process schematic

Lavender essential oil distillation process schematic

To make the essential oil on the farm, the cuttings have steam passed through them. The steam collects the oil and takes it to the condenser. The oil steam mix condenses and is them separated into the pure oil and floral water.

Uses of the essential oil

The essential oil has a wide variety of uses including helping with sleep and anxiety. It also has been used to treat fungal infections and to repel insects. The main uses however are in the cosmetics industry where it is used in fragrances, soaps and shampoos to help purify the skin. It is also used in the food industry, but concentrated oil should never be ingested as it can be toxic in this form.


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Further Reading

Gardener’s World


How to distill Essential Oils


Country Life Magazine


Welcome to Provence


Cotswolds Farm 


How to propagate from cuttings.

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Australian yellow kangaroo paw flower (Anigozanthos pulcherrimus) in front of a grasstree

5 tips for Xanthorrhoea and Anigozanthos landscaping

Xanthorrhoea and Anigozanthos are great companion plants for several reasons.

Xanthorrhoea and Anigozanthos as companion plants.

  1. Both Xanthorrhoea and Anigozanthos prefer sandy well drained soil.
  2. Both of these Australian native plants will die if given too much phosphorus.
  3. The watering needs of these plants are similar.
  4. Both Xanthorrhoea and Anigozanthos need a sunny position in your garden.
  5. The Anigozanthos flowers look great with the contrast of the dark trunk of the Xanthorrhoea behind it.

When designing your garden always group plants together that have similar requirements for sunlight, water, fertiliser and shade. This will make the maintenance of your garden much easier.

Xanthorrhoea and Anigozanthos main articles

We have more information in the main articles on each of these plants in the links below.


Xanthorrhoea The Australian Grass Tree


Landscaping with Anigozanthos Kangaroo paw



Xanthorrhoea is a icon of the Australian bush and the Australian coastal garden.

Whether you are designing a small garden, a medium sized garden or a large garden, the Australian Grass tree or Xanthorrhoea is a great choice. For a small garden, it is a great focal point with its dark charcoal coloured truck its green leaves and its beige cream coloured flowers. The impact can be even greater when lite with some well designed garden lighting.

Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos)

Anigozanthos are tufted rhizomatous evergreen  perennials that are members of the bloodwort family.

Kangaroo paws have co-evolved with native birds, the structure of the inflorescence attracts indigenous birds to aid with pollination and seed distribution. They are another “must have” sustainable Australian  native plant to incorporate into the eco friendly Australian Garden. If you are the person who enjoys colours, textures and unique then the kangaroo paw  bush pearl is the plant for you.

Anigozanthos Bush Pearl

Anigozanthos ‘bush pearl’ also known as Pink Kangaroo paw.
Native to Western Australia, Anigozanthos ‘bush pearl’ are lovers of harsh dry arid conditions. Kangaroo paw are notorious for struggling with humid conditions , they tend to turn black, rot and die off during the winter months. Despite these disadvantages,  these plants have proven their versatility in sandy soil and coastal gardens.


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Hedge designs for landscaping

Creating a hedge and tree pruning are gardening techniques which can be used to great effect in any virtually any size of garden. These techniques can be used to control and direct the size, shape and direction of plant growth. When combined with plant supports, such as trellises and other plants, an interesting garden effect can be created. Of course, pruning is also used to encourage fruit tree growth and to improve plant health by encouraging air circulation. The use of hedge planting and pruning has been a feature of mediterranean gardens and English classic garden design for centuries.

If shrubs and trees are allowed to grow uncontrolled, they may become to large for the space in your garden. Often branches are left at an awkward height near pathways that can result in safety issues. It is often the case that a tree of shrub will become misshaped through natural growth and some pruning is required to improve its aesthetics.

For flowering shrubs and trees, the correct pruning technique will encourage new growth of younger shoots and in some cases more flowering in the longer term. Annual pruning of fruit trees will often result in better quality and larger fruit as well as a reduction in fungal diseases.

Keeping your garden hedge well maintained in the first place, will save you money and add value to your property. A hedge that is not well maintained may not only lose its shape, but will leave bare patches of hedge when it is finally shaped with the trimmer or saw.

Originally developed in Europe to grow fruit trees in a microclimate, a warm wall was used to provide heat and support to the plant. Later, trellises were also used to support espalier plants.

Supports for espalier plants now include wooden, metal and wire supports as well as stone, brick and even glass walls. Espalier is a great technique for improving the look of a fence or wall especially in the case of a small garden.

Pleaching is a great technique for creating a screen for garden privacy. Pleaching can be applied not only in a straight line, but also as a circle or rectangle.

Pleaching is a great way to create a green privacy screen in your garden. It can also be used to create an impenetrable hedge which can be used as a fence. It makes a nice alternative to a wire fence in rural areas.

If you would like a qualified horticulturist to take a look at your hedging needs contact us.

Click here for more Landscaping Ideas

Click here for more of our garden design blogs.

Click here to take a look at our own Melbourne landscape construction and garden maintenance.

For mored advice on how to trim hedges ;

check the Stihl garden trimmer site;

Contact Experienced Landscape Gardeners

For all of your garden maintenance needs or help with the design  and development or your landscaping ideas, contact one of our experienced Landscape Gardeners. We can help with small garden design all the way up to  Commercial Landscape design.  Our specialities include fast growing screening plants, plant health as well as horticulture, garden lighting  and outdoor pool landscaping ideas.


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Landscaping Melbourne with Climbing Plants

Climbing plants can transform a dull wall or grey fence into a colourful and spectacular feature of your garden and enhance garden privacy. If your garden is so small that you do not have room for a tree, then a climbing plant will give you the vertical dimension to help create interest in your garden. Climbing plants can create a harmonious transition zone from the interior to the exterior of the home and help to develop that feeling of the garden as an extension of the home. Many climbing plants will also bring fragrance to your garden and most will bring privacy to your backyard and swimming pool areas.

wooden pergola

An Urban Rooftop garden with a wooden pergola and potted climbing plants.

Climbing plants also make a great feature when growing on a a wooden pergola. This can be used with great effect on rooftop garden installations to hide unsightly buildings or provide shade for an outdoor entertaining area.

What are the best climbing plants?

The best climbing plants for your garden will depend on a number of factors including the amount of sun and shade on the wall or fence you are covering.  Even then, there is a large choice depending on your personal taste and garden design style. There is a wide range of colour and fragrance available.



What are the best climbing plants for trellis?

Most climbers will require some sort of support to grow on. There are a few that do not require support, including climbing hydrangea and ivy. For most climbing plants, trellis is an ideal support, but make sure you use trellis that is strong enough to support both the weight of the plant and any wind loads. Tensioned wire supports and trellis are the two main types of support.


Our best climbing plants for trellis;

  1. Clematis Hybrids for full sun or part shade, but keep the roots mulched or in shade. 2-3m.
  2. Honeysuckle (Lonicera) for partial shade to sunny with scented flowers. 2-6m.
  3. Climbing Rose for full sun, but they will require strong supports. 2-5m.
Climbing Plants Humulus lupulus, jasminum azoricum ,rhodochiton atrosanguine, passiflora white passion, gloriosa rothschildiana, Ipomoea purpurea, CLIMBERS

Climbing Plants Humulus lupulus, jasminum azoricum ,rhodochiton atrosanguine, passiflora white passion, gloriosa rothschildiana and Ipomoea purpurea climbers.




Clematis belong to the family Ranunculaceae which also contains delphiniums, anemones and buttercup. The name comes from the ancient Greek word κλῆμα (klema) meaning vine branch. The clematis flower does not have petals and this makes it unusual in the plant world. The sepals, which in most plants cover the emerging flower, have evolved to fulfil the role of petals and it is these that make the wonderful colours. You will se in the photographs below that the stamens have in some cases, also taken on the look of petals.

Clematis are are mostly grown as climbing plants, but some varieties can also be grown successfully as ground covers. There is plenty of choice with over 325 species and these grow naturally in nearly every part of the world and also there are the the many hybrids and cultivars to consider.

Clematis climbing plants on display.

Clematis climbing plants on display. (Floyds climbers and clematis.)


Clematis have been cultivated in the gardens of Europe for centuries. In the 1500s two significant varieties were introduced into Britain. These were the Clematis Integrifolia and the Clematis viticella. More varieties were introduced later. These included  the herbaceous Clematis recta, and the Clematis flammula and Clematis cirrhosa.

The age of the Plant Hunters

In the 1600s demand for new plants soared and consequently plant hunters began bring back plants from the Americas. However the most significant  introduction was those introduced from China. These species included Clematis lanuginosa and Clematis patens and a variety of Clematis florida with double white green flowers was also introduced.

Climbing Clematis

The Hybrids

The first hybridisation was the crossing of Clematis Integrifolia and Clematis Viticella and this resulted in Clematis Eriostemon. It was the hybridisation of the original three Chinese species which created all of the large flowered hybrids.



Clematis varieties to look for.

Climbing Clematis

Clematis Amethyst Beauty. A stunning climber that will grow to 2m tall. It will flower from summer into early autumn. Beautiful flowers reddish purple coloured flowers with a wavy margin.






Clematis Arctic Queen a medium-sized deciduous climber. A plethora of 150 mm double flowers from early summer to early to mid autumn.

Clematis Arctic Queen is a medium-sized deciduous climber. A plethora of 150 mm double flowers from early summer to early to mid autumn.


Climbing Plants - Clematis ‘Shimmer’ is a large-flowered Group 3 clematis. It has huge blue-lilac blooms up to 180mm. It’s the perfect climber to grow up a wall or fence. 

Clematis ‘Shimmer’ is a large-flowered Group 3 clematis. It has huge blue-lilac blooms up to 180mm. It’s the perfect climber to grow up a wall or fence.



Clematis Samaritan Jo is medium-sized, climber growing up to 1.5m high. It has with dark to mid-green leaves. Samaritan Jo has large star shaped flowers with a purple edged silver white colour up to 150mm in diameter. Distinctive flower stamens are pink-purple with yellow tips. Flowers are produced  in a long flowering season from early summer all the way to late autumn.

Clematis Samaritan Jo is medium-sized, climber growing up to 1.5m high. It has with dark to mid-green leaves. Samaritan Jo has large star shaped flowers and with a purple edged silver white colour up to 150mm in diameter. Distinctive flower stamens are pink-purple with yellow tips. Flowers are produced  in a long flowering season from early summer all the way to late autumn.





Climbing Plants - Clematis Viennetta

A Clematis Viennetta is a climbing clematis that grows up to  to 2.5m in height. It has absolutely stunning multi coloured flowers . The massive purple stamens contrast with the creamy white flowers.  You will see these lovely flowers from  early summer to mid autumn.






Clematis 'Taiga' is a great climbing plant which grows to around to 2.5 metres.

Clematis ‘Taiga’ is a great climbing plant which grows to around to 2.5 metres and has purple / blue flowers with greeny white tips on the frilly tepals. From Summer to Autumn these open up to become stunning fully double flower rosettes.


What are the 3 types of clematis?

There are 3 different pruning regimes for clematis and consequently 3 different types. They are either not pruned, lightly pruned or heavily pruned. Always check with your local plant nursery when buying.

Frequently asked questions about clematis

Is Clematis easy to grow?

Clematis is very easy to grow, but they prefer slightly alkaline topsoil with the roots in the shaped or covered by a mulch of well rotted manure..

What is the best time of year to plant a clematis?
Does clematis need full sun?

Lonicera (Honeysuckle)

Honeysuckles are available both as shrubby varieties and as climbing plants. Honeysuckles can grow up to 6 metres and so make great for covering bare walls. Do not plant these vigorous climbing plants if you are in one of the Melbourne bushland suburbs, because they can escape into the bush and become a weed. There are some shade tolerant varieties, but these tend to have lower levels of scent.

Lonicera Japonica

Climbing Plants Japanese honeysuckle Lonicera japonica is a vigorous twining large evergreen climber

Japanese honeysuckle or Lonicera japonica is a vigorous large evergreen climber

Lonicera japonica is a vigorous twining large evergreen climber with dark green oval leaves. The highly fragrant, white-yellow  flowers are up to 40mm long and result in black glossy berries.


Fast growing climbing plants Lonicera periclymenum or common honeysuckle..

Lonicera periclymenum or common honeysuckle.

The common honeysuckle is woody climber with oval leaves that are opposite in pairs. Flowerheads are long white and yellow trumpets that appear in summer, and are consequently followed by clusters of red glossy berries.

Climbing plant honeysuckle Kamchatka stunning bright blue berries.

Climbing plant Honeyberry Lonicera caerulea var. Kamchatka stunning bright blue berries.

The honeyberry fruits look and taste very similar to blueberries and similarly can be used in jams or eaten raw. They are also high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

Climbing Rose

The climbing rose is the best choice for hot dry conditions and therefore most Melbourne gardens with a sunny aspect. In garden design they are a great choice for small gardens because they can give a garden vertical height. Climbing or rambling roses can be grown on a fence or wall, but they also have great impact as a climber over a pergola or arbor. This garden design feature will take your eye up and over and back down and also create a pleasant fragrance to greet visitors to your garden.


Red Climbing rose on a pergola.

Red Climbing rose on a pergola.


A pink climbing rose on a brick wall.

A pink climbing rose on a brick wall.

Garden Arbor or arch with climbing plants.

Garden Arbor or arch with climbing plants over a brick garden path. A pink Climbing Rose will bring beauty and fragrance to your garden. The arbor will also create vertical interest in your design.

What are the fastest growing climbing plants?


Climbing plants like Morning Glory and Lonicera are very fast growing but will very quickly become a weed in your garden or in native bushland. Choose clematis or climbing roses instead if this is a risk. Fast growing climbers are therefore suitable for small  inner Melbourne gardens, but not bushland gardens.

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© Red’s landscaping Melbourne



More Reading on Clematis

Royal Horticultural Society

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Kangaroo Paw ( anigozanthos )

Landscaping with Anigozanthos Kangaroo paw

Anigozanthos are tufted rhizomatous evergreen  perennials that are members of the bloodwort family.

Bush Pearl

Anigozanthos ‘bush pearl’ also known as Pink Kangaroo paw.
Native to Western Australia, Anigozanthos ‘bush pearl’ are lovers of harsh dry arid conditions. Kangaroo paw are notorious for struggling with humid conditions , they tend to turn black, rot and die off during the winter months. Despite these disadvantages,  these plants have proven their versatility in sandy soil and coastal gardens.

pink flowered kangaroo paw

Pink flowered kangaroo paw.


Planting your Anigozanthos

With correct planting in well draining, sandy loam soil and the use of low phosphorus organic fertilizers, kangaroo paws will flower year round in warm climates.

Anigozanthos humilis Kangaroo Paw

Anigozanthos prefer sandy well drained soil. Anigozanthos humilis also known as catspaw is also endemic to southern Western Australia.

Kangaroo paws have co-evolved with native birds, the structure of the inflorescence attracts indigenous birds to aid with pollination and seed distribution. They are another “must have” sustainable Australian  native plant to incorporate into the eco friendly Australian Garden. If you are the person who enjoys colours, textures and unique then the kangaroo paw  bush pearl is the plant for you.


Landscaping with Anigozanthos

Adding some Anigozanthos  into your garden will dramatically increase the colour vibrancy and brighten up any landscape garden design, especially since they perform so well on in coastal gardens. These beauties will be sure to out live any other plant in your garden, and they look amazing in pots for on your outdoor decking or entertaining area. Another great advantage of having kangaroo paw in your garden is the entertaining show that the native birds and honey eaters will put on as they feed on the plant, so be sure to place the plant in area that you are able to observe nature do it’s thing.

Australian yellow kangaroo paw flower (Anigozanthos pulcherrimus) in front of a grasstree

Australian yellow kangaroo paw flower (Anigozanthos pulcherrimus) in front of a grasstree (Xanthorrhoea).


Frequently asked Questions about Anigozanthos

How do you take care of a kangaroo paw plant?

It is important not to over water or over fertilise your kangaroo paw. These plants have evolved in well draining poor soils.

What can I plant next to kangaroo paw?

Anigozanthos should be planted next to other plants that love sandy soil. We recommend planting with xanthorrhoea 

The Xanthorrhoea has similar needs to the Anigozanthos with both preferring sandy, well drained soils. The Anigozanthos flowers will make a great contrast with the black trunk and green leaves of the xanthorrhoea.

Why are my kangaroo paws turning black?

Kangaroo Paws will turn black or get black spots due to a fungal disease known as Ink Disease or Ink Spot. Ink disease is thought to be caused by the fungal pathogen Alternaria alternata. It is usually a slow growing fungus that plants survive, but ask your local plant nursery for a fungicide if it starts to take over. The best treatment is to cut off the leaves affected and ensure the plant has plenty of sun and good air circulation. Encouraging vigorous plant growth by adding trace elements like dilute liquid seaweed may help. When selecting new plants, ask your local plant nursery for the best plants for humid conditions. A good variety to choose to avoid ink disease is Anigozanthos Flavidus.

Alternaria alternata or Ink Disease on a Kangaroo Paw.

Alternaria alternata or Ink Disease on a Kangaroo Paw.


Anigozanthos Flavidus.

A. flavidus kangaroo paw is more resistant to Ink Disease.



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© 2020 Reds Landscaping and Civil – Quality Melbourne Landscaper


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More information on Anigozanthos

Pests and Diseases




Ink Disease


Native Plant Diseases

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Bee collecting pollen and nectar

Neonicotinoid Pesticides Banned by Bunnings and the EU

Bunnings announced in 2018 that pesticides based on Neonicotinoid would be phased out by the end of 2018. On the 27 April 2018 the European union has banned the use of the three neonicotinoids on open ground. This is an expansion of the moratorium introduced in 2013 on the use of these pesticides on flowering crops.

 Usage of Pesticides

Pesticides are often coated onto seeds to protect them from soil pests. The Pesticide is absorbed when the seed germinates and then spreads through the plant as it grows finding its way to the pollen and nectar. This is where the honey bees and native bees as well as other pollinators are exposed to the poison.

Pesticides based on Neonicotinoids

Neonicotinoids are believed to be part of the massive dying off of bees and other insects that has occurred in Europe in recent times. The three neonicotinoids banned on open grounds are thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid.

Neonicotinoid Pesticides Banned by Bunnings and EU due to harm to bees.

Neonicotinoid Pesticides Banned by Bunnings and EU due to potential harm to bees.

Study of neonicotinoid pesticides by York University.

A study by York university in Canada showed that long term exposure to neonicotinoids resulted in a reduction in the health of bees whose hives were near the cornfields being studied. Simiarly, earlier studies have shown that large amounts of neonicotinoids in pollen and nectar are fatal to both honey bee queens and workers. Smaller amounts have been shown to reduce the health of bees by inhibiting the bee’s natural foraging as well as adversely affecting the bees tolerance to other farm chemicals.
Whilst other studies have produced mixed results, the situation for insects in Europe is now critical. The earth has survived without these pesticides for millions of years, but pollenating insects like bees are vital to life on earth. If you are buying pesticides for your garden, avoid those with thiamethoxam, clothianidin or imidacloprid in the ingredients. It is not worth the risk to vital pollenating insects.


Fortunately the retailer Bunnings has already decided to remove neonicotinoid pesticides from their shelves by the end of 2018 as a precaution. If you are a gardener or a landscaper working in garden maintenance, review your pesticides use and avoid thiamethoxam, clothianidin or imidacloprid on open ground.

Related Landscaping ideas from Red’s Landscaping

Coastal Garden Design


National Eucalypt Day


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© 2020 Reds Landscaping and Civil – Quality landscaping Melbourne


Red’s Landscaping YouTube Channel


Red’s Landscaping Pinterest Board


More Information on Neonicotinoids

Bunnings to pull pesticide allegedly linked to bee deaths


Beekeepers call for a ban on neonicotinoids.


European agency concludes controversial ‘neonic’ pesticides threaten bees


Read more
Lavender border opposite a swimming pool

13 Best Pool Landscaping Design ideas

Pool landscaping design provides some challenges for the horticulturist as well as for the hard landscaper and landscape designer.

Plant selection pitfalls

The landscape designer should choose plants that will not shed too much material into the pool which would consequently result in a mess in the pool. Garden plants and trees that shed a large amount of material into the swimming pool will consequently  create a lot of pool maintenance headaches for the swimming pool owner and may lead to pool pump damage if the skimmer box is blocked. A blocked skimmer box can also result in cavitation at the pump impellers leading to costly repairs. Another important factor to consider is the tree roots. If you need some shade over your pool to escape the hot Melbourne sun, consider a pergola installation or using shade cloth.

Consider the plant root system

The root system will be a similar size to the plant branches and leaves, so fast growing plants could have root systems invading the swimming pool plumbing. For this reason, root barriers should be used between the larger plants and the swimming pool plumbing.

What are the best trees to plant around pools in Australia?

Planting around your Pool. Our top 8 plants.

One of our favourite planting scheme for planting around pools and also for rooftop gardens is the tropical look garden. This landscape design theme will result in a luxuriant exotic look therefore enhancing the feeling of tranquility. The plants for this design theme can be frost resistant hardy plants therefore ideal for the Melbourne climate.

Dicksonia Antarctica


Ferns like Dicksonia Antarctica are great for garden and pool privacy.

Ferns like Dicksonia Antarctica are great for garden and pool privacy and can give the pool area and exotic pseudo tropical look.


Dicksonia Antactica with hostas, azaleas and irises.

Dicksonia Antactica with hostas, azaleas and irises.



Dicksonia Antartica

Dicksonia Antartica underplanted with hostas and smaller ferns. This creates an exotic look and a great privacy screen.

Dicksonia  antarctica is an evergreen tree fern that grows naturally in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne, which also means it is ideal for the Melbourne Garden.


It grows naturally in the damp shady gullies which also means you will need to keep it well watered at the crown. For this reason, we recommend a drip irrigation system. Underplanting with smaller ferns and hostas will also add to an exotic tropical effect in your garden.

Blechnum gibbum

The miniature tree fern or Blechnum gibbum usually grows a truck like e tree fern.  The fronds can grownup to 1 metre long.

Blechnum gibbum

Blechnum gibbum or miniature tree fern



Cycad gives a garden an exotic look.

Cycads covered the earth during the time of the dinosaurs. These plants are great for creating the exotic tropical look in your Melbourne garden.

Chinese Windmill Palm

The Trachycarpus Fortunei is a very hardy, frost resistant palm. Also known as the Chusan palm, it is salt tolerant which also makes it a good choice for coastal gardens.


Chinese Wind Mill Palms with Cordylines at Kew Gardens.

Chinese Windmill Palms with Cordylines at Kew Gardens.


Cordyline are a slow growing palm like tree. The cordyline indivisa will eventually grow to around 3 metres.

Cordyline indivisa

Cordyline indivisa. . indivisa is a slow-growing, evergreen erect tree reaching heights of 3m or more.



Hosta a herbaceous perennial. Attractive foliage sometimes variegated.

Hosta a herbaceous perennial with attractive foliage sometimes variegated. Flowers in early summer. – Chelsea Flower Show 2018

The hosta has  stunning large spade shaped foliage in an amazing range of colours. For this reason, hosta is a garden favourite the world over with both gardeners and flower arrangers. Hosta will thrive in the moist shady conditions under the ferns or near a pool or pond.

Banksia Robur

Screening privacy plants like the BANKSIA ROBUR or swamp banksia have large leaves and will therefore help with privacy around your swimming pool. This banksia  is an attractive and hardy plant ,suitable for low hedges and pots. Growing to a little over 2 metres, the flower spikes appear usually in autumn and winter initially as bluish green but these will turn to yellow-green brush type flowers as they bloom.

Banksia Robur is also know as the Swamp Banksia

Unsurprisingly, given its name Swamp Banksia, it doesn’t mind badly draining soil. It might be the plant you are looking for to plant in a damp spot in your garden. It has even been used as a root stock for less hardy varieties of Banksia. If you are in one of the frosty suburbs, it will tolerate a little frost now and again. Suitable for sun or part shade it will produce beautiful flowers in both. As an added bonus in your garden it will attract birds, bees and butterflies. Like most Banksias, it is an important source of nectar for both insects and mammals.


Banksia Robur Poolside

Banksia Robur Poolside

Bansia Robur’s Natural Habitat.

The leaves are large and have serrated edges. This Banksia occurs naturally in swampy or sandy conditions along the East coast of Australia from Southern New South Wales all of the way up to Gladstone in Queensland. This makes it an ideal plant for the coastal gardens. Take care not to let it dry out too much, especially when it is first getting established. For this reason, an irrigation dripping system is a good idea.

Banksia Robur in a planter box by a swimming pool.

Banksia Robur in a rendered concrete block planter box by a swimming pool.

Another plant to consider is the banksia coccinea or red Banksia.

Kentia Palm (Howea fosteriana) by the pool

If you are looking for swimming pool landscaping ideas, the Kentia Palm (Howea fosteriana) makes a great plant for creating a luxuriant garden by the pool. It also provides a little shade as well as softening the look of the landscape. Amongst the palms, it is one of the easier ones to maintain.

(Howea fosteriana) Kentia Palm by a swimming pool.
Kentia Palm by a swimming pool.

The Kentia Palm from Lord Howe Island can create a tropical look in Melbourne

Also known as the Forster sentry palm or the flat palm, the Kentia Palm has solitary stems bearing large pinnate leaves on long stalks. This evergreen palm is native to Lord Howe island. The Kentia is tolerant to partial shade, and will grow to around 2 metres tall in your poolside garden or pot. This makes it a great plant for creating a little shady spot by the side of your pool. It prefers well drained sandy loam with a neutral to acid PH. It is also a popular indoor plant, so it is a palm you can grow both in an outdoor or indoor pot.



For a splash of colour in your pool garden, why not plant some Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise.  This South African native will help to create interest in a tropical look garden.


Pool Plants to avoid

Plants to avoid around swimming pools are fast growing plants with invasive root systems and plants that shed a lot of material into the pool. Plants to avoid include Birch, Wisterias and Figs.

Pool Landscaping Design Project Melbourne

A well designed outdoor space should function as extension of the home itself. For our new pool landscaping design project in the leafy southern suburbs of Melbourne our aim is to make this outdoor space an integral part of the home itself. The design of the swimming pool landscape should be done at an early stage of the pool design rather than tacked on later. This will usually result in a better design outcome.

Pool Design Concepts explored using Trimble Sketchup Pro.

The initial swimming pool design concepts are explored using Trimble Sketchup Pro. This 3D design tool has a great range of landscape garden plants that can be downloaded and added to the CAD model. This is a great way to do the initial planning of the swimming pool design and landscape design package.


pool landscaping designs Computer Model

Pool landscaping designs using computer aided design. An integrated outdoor space. that looks good from every angle.

The pool landscape design features a sunken outdoor eating area with fireplace surrounded by a formal hedge. Tall fences provide a privacy screen whilst still allowing some light through.


pool landscaping designs sunken outdoor entertaining area.

Sunken outdoor entertaining area by the swimming pool.

The green formal hedge creates a soft border between the sunken eating area and softens the look of the concrete. The cushions in the seating area could be coloured to match the garden plants or left as a neutral grey. Grey will go with most colours in the garden but some coloured cushions would help break up the grey.

How do you build privacy around a pool?

Privacy around a pool can be built with fences, trellises and smart plant selection. Using CAD (Computer Aided Design) the privacy aspects of the design can be checked from any angle and agreed with the client.




By using computer aided design to create a computer model of the bespoke pool design enables the fine details to be worked out in advance. One of the great advantages of this type of landscape design is that the view can be checked from every angle. Privacy can be built around a pool using screening plants, then checked from the viewpoint of your neighbour.

Sunken outdoor entertaining area with fireplace

The sunken outdoor entertaining area helps to improve garden privacy whilst making it easy to keep an eye on kids. This type of design using garden levels as a design feature also makes the garden appear larger. This is also a great design technique for small garden design.

Sunken Garden Design - Chelsea Flower Show.

Design inspiration Sunken Garden Design with Buxus hedge – Chelsea Flower Show 2018. Note the use coloured cushions to match the flowers. The sunken concrete pavers provides a repetition theme throughout the garden.

Bespoke Swimming Pool Design. The next Steps.

After the approval of the initial concept, the swimming pool design moves into the next phase. The 3D cad model is then processed to create photorealistic scenes to finalise the pool and landscaping packages. Autocad from Autodesk used for linework and scale. The final visualisation including the vegetation was done in Twinmotion from Unreal Engine. Which is great for 3D architectural visualisation. Using these design tools, the client can be shown how the pool will look when viewed from the pergola or from the balcony or even from a neighbour’s window.

Swimming Pool Detailed Design Drawings

For the swimming Pool Construction detailed 2D drawings need to be produced for the landscapers to begin excavation and to obtain the required local government approvals.

pool and landscaping packages

Checking the view from the pergola.


Checking the view from the balcony

Checking the view from the balcony

Finalise the pool design ideas

Once the pool and landscaping package design phase is complete, a fly-through of photorealistic model is produced for the customer and to confirm all of the finer details of pool and landscaping design. Details like pool plumbing and pool and garden lighting are checked.


The fine details of Pool and Landscaping Design

Exposed Aggregate Concrete around your Swimming Pool.

Exposed aggregate is a great choice for swimming pool surrounds but choosing the right mix is important. Larger aggregates will provide better drainage and grip, but will be uncomfortable to walk on. According to the Swimming Pool and Spa Association (SPASA) the areas around the pool must be a low slip surface. For exposed aggregate concrete around swimming pools, a 5mm pebble aggregate should be used.

The Outdoor Shower as part of your Swimming Pool Design.

If you are living one of the Melbourne seaside suburbs like Brighton or Elwood, an outdoor shower is a great addition to your  Garden Design. The outdoor pictured below features matching pool tiling, copper pipe and brass shower head.

Tiled Outdoor Shower

Tiled Outdoor Shower under construction. The outdoor shower is great for coastal gardens like Hampton or near the swimming pool for washing off the chlorine.

An outdoor pool shower. A practical solution for coastal gardens.

Outdoor pool showers are very practical solution especially in coastal gardens where swimming pools and beach access are part of our Melbourne beach lifestyle. The outdoor pool shower is a good way to avoid having beach sand taken through the house. It is also a handy way to quickly remove salt or pool chlorine and other chemicals from your skin and hair.

Outdoor Shower Under Construction

Concrete block Outdoor Shower Under Construction

Outdoor Pool Shower Design

The design of the outdoor shower involves more than just the part you can see above the ground. Consideration must be given to the appearance of the shower from every possible angle therefore plumbing to and from the shower should be integrated into the initial design.

Plant Selection near your outdoor shower

The garden and landscape design in the immediate area of the shower need to be able to cope with the added humidity, water splash and pool chemicals, therefore plants which are prone to fungal diseases should be avoided. For example, the common staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) will also soften the design and create a natural look, but may need regular maintenance to protect it from fungal diseases. Consider using Foxtail Palm trees (Wodyetia bifurcata)

Giant Bromeliads, (Alcantarea), crotons and White Spider Lilies .  A well designed outdoor pool shower should also create a feature piece in the garden.

Consideration should also be given to easy access to the shower without having to walk over slippery surfaces. The safety of the customers should always should also always be considered with any garden design. The shower wall itself needs to be well secured into the foundations in order to keep it vertical and ensure safety and design requirements are met.

Red’s Landscaping and Civil

Red’s Landscaping and Civil can provide design and build solutions which also includes design with 3D visualisation,  construction and landscaping.


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© 2020 Reds Landscaping and Civil quality commercial landscaping Melbourne


Further Reading on Landscaping


Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) Fern Study Group


More information on decorative concretes

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Soil Profile showing showing the topsoil layer.

Melbourne Topsoil – 9 Great Money saving tips.

Topsoil in Melbourne

Topsoil in Melbourne is heavily dependent on the underlying geological material, if there has not been a history of topsoil ameliorations or importation of topsoil from other locations. According to the Department of Agriculture, topsoils of Melbourne can be divided into 9 distinct types. In some parts of Melbourne, the importation of topsoil will be a bigger factor than the geographic and climatic range. Knowing the type of your natural topsoil can help you save money when deciding on what topsoil amelioration is required. Some Melbourne clay topsoils will benefit greatly with the addition of gypsum, but for others the only benefit of gypsum will be the addition of calcium to the soil.

Sporting grounds, in particular, will normally have a thick layer of imported friable topsoil so if your garden is built on one of the closed Melbourne racetracks like Richmond, Cheltenham or Braeside your topsoil could be different to your neighbour across the street.


What is Topsoil?


Topsoil is the layer of soil just below the surface layers. The surface layers are the layers containing the litter of plant residues as well as accumulated organic matter with some mineral soil and most of the soil life.

Typical Garden Topsoil

Typical Garden Topsoil


Nine types of Melbourne Topsoil


1.    Red Loam Topsoil

This could be the best natural topsoil in the whole of Melbourne as they are well structured deep and friable. These topsoils can be mildly acidic like most topsoils in hilly wooded ranges. They can be a little poor in plant nutrients, so regular amelioration with organic matter will be of great benefit to the soil. On lawn areas a light annual application of garden lime will help. Farmers know that red earth is great for farming.

The red loam topsoil will mostly be found to the East of Melbourne in the upper Dandenong ranges and in the hills between Monbulk and Silvan. This type of topsoil will normally suit a wide range of plants as is has excellent drainage, and a good soil structure for plant root development.

Red sandy Loam topsoil.

Red sandy Loam topsoil.

2.    Brown Loam topsoil over Clay

These topsoils formed over the older basalts on the southern Mornington Peninsula. This is the brown-grey loamy friable topsoil naturally occurring in places between Main Ridge and Flinders. For best results in your garden, ameliorate with manure and organic matter. Take care not to cultivate too deep and bring the clay to the surface.

Brown Sandy Loam Topsoil

Brown Sandy Loam Topsoil similar in Colour and texture to Main Ridge Topsoils on the Mornington Peninsula .

3.    Dark grey sand topsoil over clay

These topsoils are found over a large part of Melbourne. The flat and undulating land between Kew and Mount Waverley as well as deeper topsoils in Tyabb, Balnarring Frankston and Mornington. This topsoil is also over a huge part of the Melbourne suburbs within a triangle from Dandenong to Cheltenham and over to Toorak. After long periods of heavy rainfall, a watertable may occur over the clays. It is important for Melbourne Landscapers to take drainage into account when landscaping on these soils. As with other Melbourne loam over clay soils, ameliorate with manure and organic matter. Take care not to cultivate too deep and bring the clay to the surface.


4.    Light Grey loams over clay

A light grey loam with some gravel and small stones found in the suburbs to the North East of Melbourne. These soils will be found around a strip from Rowville to Bundoora and from Croydon to Kew. At the boundary of the topsoil and clay layers large angular stones occur which makes digging drainage difficult for residential landscapers. Generally, these soils are deficient in humus and nutrients. Melbourne landscapers should dig in organic matter and manures to ameliorate these soils. As the clays here are generally reactive, an application of gypsum can help drainage and soil structure. A small amount of garden lime can be added to correct acidity.


5.    Gritty light grey loam over clay.

Topsoils formed over parent granite at Mount Martha and Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula as well as Hallam, Lysterfield and a few other places. The sandy loam is generally ok for drainage but has poor water holding capacity. The abrupt transition between the sandy loam and the mottled yellow brown and grey clay can lead to water logging on lower slopes in winter and spring.

If this is the case, landscapers should consider subsoil drainage systems. As the soil has poor water holding capacity, landscapers should dig in plenty of organic matter as well as install an irrigation system with a dripper. Generally, this soils are only mildly acidic.

6.    Dark Loams Local Sands and Clays

The parts of Melbourne which were previously swampy or flood plains like the Melbourne Suburbs close to the Yarra. These Melbourne suburbs include Banksia Park near Heidelberg and Bulleen. The frequently flooded Yarra floodplain of the lower-middle yarra river and tributaries were once covered in Manna gum, swamp gum and river red gum with swamp paperbark in the wettest areas. These are a mix of topsoils and it can be difficult to draw conclusions on drainage. Landscapers should ameliorate with manure and organic matter.


7.    Deep Sands free of Lime

This is the natural topsoil in coastal gardens between Black Rock and Brighton and along the coast of Port Phillip Bay all the way to Rye. Some of the land previously used for market gardens in Langwarrin and Cranbourne have this soil. These soils are generally very deficient in nutrients, so landscapers should dig in plenty of manure and organic matter to improve the soil. Annual applications of garden lime will help to neutralize the acidity.


8.    Deep Sands with Lime

The topsoil between Sorrento and Cape Schank in the coastal sand dune areas is a whitish grey sand occasionally over a hard lime base. These soils can be either acidic or alkaline, so if your plants are not thriving a soil PH test may be required. Landscapers should dig in plenty of manure and organic matter as well as install an irrigation dripper system. The coastal plant selection for these soils needs to be particularly salt, wind and lime tolerant.


9.    Heavy clay topsoil over basalts

The suburbs to the west and north-west of Melbourne are well known for their heavy clay soils. This area stretches all the way from Richmond to Broadmeadows and Altona to Thomastown. These soils are characterized by a thin loamy topsoil over dark reddish-brown heavy clays. Often outcrops of the basalt can been seen on the ground surface. The soil structure can be improved with the addition of gypsum and landscapers should dig in plenty of organic matter. For lawns and other gardens sandy loam soil will need to be imported. For the home landscaper, the digging of the requires drainage trenches can be difficult.



Landscaping poor draining topsoil

For your backyard or frontward lawn, the ground can be sloped a bit more to aid with drainage. Depending on the usage and the makeup of the layers below, you could probably get away with as little as 100 to 150mm of topsoil for your garden lawn. For example green couch Cynodon dactylon, the roots will penetrate the ground up to 1.5 metres deep with much of the root mass at around 600mm deep. For this reason the layer below the top soil needs to be suitable for root growth if you want your lawn to be drought tolerant.


Will gypsum help?


Clay soils


Gypsum is the most widely used calcium additive for garden. If you need gypsum, you can save money by buying it in bulk from your landscape supplier. If the subsoil has a hard clay layer the moisture and the roots might not penetrate or your lawn and you could have poor drainage. Some clays will respond to the addition of gypsum. This will be the case if the clay you have is a flocculant clay. Clays like montmorillonite with high levels of exchangeable sodium will generally be improved by digging in some gypsum. You can perform a simple soil test your clay by putting it in a jar with some pure water, then stirring to create colloidal mix. The mix will appear cloudy.You then add some Epsom salts or gypsum to the mix and watch what happens. If the clay then forms flocculant, or larger, particles that sink to the bottom of the jar leaving a clear layer of water, then your clay is flocculant. Individual clay particles are made up of fine flakes smaller than 0.004 mm. Depending on the type of clay, the fine particles are held tightly together by either weak bonds in the case of kaolinite or stronger bonds if the clay contains positively charged metal ions such as sodium, calcium or potassium. The negatively charged clay particles will repel each other but the individual flakes will bond to each other.


Negatively charged clay particles repel each other.

Negatively charged clay particles repel each other.



In the heavy flocculant clay topsoils of Melbourne’s western suburbs, gypsum can help to displace sodium and improve the soil structure.


Saline soils


If your garden is near Cape Schank or Sorrento, or if you have a windswept coastal garden, then you might have some soil salinity to contend with. This could also be the case if you are by the sea in Biggera Waters, Runaway Bay or Hollywell and get sea water spray on your lawns and gardens. With saline soil, gypsum will also help as the calcium in the gypsum will remove sodium from the soil.


The disadvantages of gypsum

After an application of gypsum, you should follow up later with slow release fertiliser like Neutrog. Upsurge. Nutrients such as Iron and Manganese can be leached from the soil by the addition of gypsum. Applying excessive gypsum to sandy soils can result in the plants transportation system for zinc, copper and phosphorus being affected.


Agricultural lime

Agricultural lime may be a combination of calcium and magnesium carbonates if it is made from dolomitic rather than calcitic limestone deposits. Use on acidic soils to increase the PH.


Soil Testing

Soil testing kits can be used for simple PH checks of your garden soils. If your plants are not thriving despite all of the care and attention, then samples of your soil can be taken to a laboratory for analysis.

Soils can be tested in a laboratory for salinity or contamination.

Soils can be tested in a laboratory for salinity or contamination.

Buying Landscaping soils

When buying landscaping topsoil, always check that you are buying a high-quality product that meets the Australian Standard for topsoil. Soil should also be free of weeds and other contaminants. For lawns, your topsoil needs to be very free draining. The best soil for top dressing lawns is a very sandy soil. For garden beds a little bit of the natural clay soil mixed in will help water retention.

The soil is an indispensable ingredient for the life of humans, animals and ,of course, plants. The soil supplies nutrients and raw materials, storage and filtered water. The soil can degrade harmful chemicals but healthy soil should not be taken for granted. If we allow our soil to be overused, or allow a hard crust to form, then the soil will require amendments to replenish the nutrient store and to make the soil friable. Water will tend to run-off taking some of the soil and nutrients with it.

A healthy soil will contain a great deal of life. Not just microorganisms like bacteria and fungus, but also earthworms. Many of these will form a symbiotic relationship with your plants.

In Melbourne we a lucky enough to have some great resources to improve and maintain the health of your soil. First of all, you should be using a layer of mulch. Mulches such as pea straw and sugar cane mulch will decompose relatively quickly and bring your soil to life. This is especially true when used with an organic fertiliser. If you are after a different look to the sugar cane mulch, you can always use a different mulch over the top. Take care not to mulch up to the truck of trees or shrubs, as this can lead to collar rot. If using a mulch like pea straw, make sure it is weed free. Secondly, consider using a soil tonic to improve your topsoil.


Commercial Landscaping Topsoils

For commercial landscaping the topsoil needs to be high quality soils to the Australian Standard.  AS 4419-2003 is the standard for soils for landscaping and garden use and specifies requirements for general purpose soils, top dressing soils, topsoils and landscaping mixes for both domestic and commercial use. The standard also provides guidance on the use and selection of soils. For example low density soil, which is often used in commercial landscaping for large landscape containers and rooftop gardens.

One very important requirement for topsoil for the commercial landscaping of public spaces is the soil cleanliness. Soils use must be free of all hazards and contaminants and also free from any weeds.



More Information on Topsoil


Why you should look after topsoils


Related Landscaping News from Red’s Landscaping Melbourne.

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