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.
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.
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.
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.
A new lawn can add a great deal of kerb appeal to a new home landscaped garden, as well as providing a recreation area for kids and dogs.
It is often a dream of home owners to have a beautiful patch of bright green lawn in their backyard. There is a lot that can be learned from professional landscapers and professional turf managers that can help make this dream a reality.
In some cases you can apply professional landscaping techniques to your backyard lawn, but there are important differences.
New Lawn in Public Spaces.
In commercial landscaping, lawns in public spaces are often subject to heavy pedestrian traffic. For this reason there is a lot of effort put in to make the lawn area free draining. Usually public spaces like sporting grounds will have the benefit of full sun, whereas you backyard might not. Also resources like plentiful supplies of recycled water and a large maintenance budget might not apply to your backyard lawn. There are still some techniques the home gardener can apply which will result in a great looking lawn.
Planning a New Lawn
The first step with any garden project is the planning. Sketch your garden on a piece of paper include any large trees and shrubs. Plan out where the drainage and irrigation will be installed as this will be the first step in the construction of your garden lawn. Check the area after rain to ensure the water drains away freely.
Plan the level you want the finished lawn to be and any lawn edging to be used. Decide the direction where you want the surface water to drain towards. New lawns will require regular watering, so if possible avoid planting in summer. It is also important to plan the irrigation system at this early stage.
Take note of any areas of the lawn that have only a few hours of sunlight. These areas may require a shade tolerant grass or may be unsuitable for lawn. If you have high traffic areas which will result in wear patches in the lawn, use some pavers. Permeable concrete pavers are good for this application.
Should you consider the alternatives to lawn?
If your yard is steep or very shady, consider using a non mowing solution instead. This might mean using mulch, pebbles or gravel.
Pebble are a great eco friendly alternative to lawn for shady areas.
Another solution is to use low growing ground covers or succulents.
Two native Australian sustainable alternatives to lawn grasses are Dichondra repens and the Native Violet, Viola hederacea.
Some exotic herbs can also be used such as mint, thyme or chamomile. If the area is difficult to access with a mower, or if it is too steep for even the Honda self propelled mower, then the alternatives should be considered.
Dichondra repens is a great low maintenance alternative to lawn grass.
Viola hederacea has small mauve and white flowers. Like viola Banksii it is native violet that creates a dense ground cover with flowers for most of the year.
Topsoil for your new lawn
Sporting grounds will normally have a thick layer of friable topsoil with a thick drainage layer underneath.
The grounds are usually quite flat so sub soil drainage is very important. For your backyard or frontward lawn, the ground can be sloped a bit more to aid with drainage. Depending on how well you can cultivate your subsoil, you might be able to get away with as little as 100mm of friable topsoil.
Cultivating the subsoil
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. This can be achieved by cultivating organic matter into the subsoil and, in some cases, adding gypsum.
Organic Matter for the subsoil
It doesn’t matter whether your soil is acid or alkaline or if it is a sandy soil or a clay soil, organic matter will help. If you are digging in organic matter for a lawn, make sure it is really well spread. We have done this in the past with a rotary hoe. If your organic matter is in pockets in your soil, it will rot down over time and leave dips in your lawn. Try to keep the extra organic to less than 20% for this reason. Some sources of organic matter would be mixed animal manures, cane mulch, a manure crop or stable manure. You can even use potting mixes. Ideally the organic materials will be well composted before applying. Applying organic matter will help to reduce water usage and feed your lawn grasses. You will not see much use of organic matter on sporting fields as the priority is to create a safe even surface.
Soil Profile showing showing the topsoil layer.
Levelling the topsoil
If the lawn is not reasonably flat, mowing will create bald patches on your lawn. Once a friable sandy loam topsoil has been laid, it can be levelled out using a pine retaining wall sleeper with a rope attached with screws.
Aim to level the topsoil around 12 millimetres below the edging to allow for the height of the grass. The actual allowance will depend upon the variety of grass and whether it you are using a roll out grass or growing lawn from seed.
Sowing the new lawn
Lawn-grass from seed.
Following the aeration, lawn seeds can be spread over the parts of the lawn requiring repair. Look for grass seeds species suitable for your location. In South east Queensland like Green couch or Bermuda grass Cynodon dactylon or Queensland blue couch Digitaria didactyla. These varieties will take about a month to grow.
In Melbourne look for a selection of grass seeds that includes couch grass. Fast growing Rye grasses can be used if you are planting in shady areas in the cooler months, but generally cool season grasses will not be a long term drought tolerant sustainable solution.
Top dress the lawn with a sandy loam. For smaller areas, a fine potting mix makes a good lawn top dress. The lawn can then be fertilised with chook pellets like Neutrog Rooster Booster or with Neutrog Seamungus soil and plant conditioner. Is necessary, top dress with some gypsum. Water with a fine mist using a soil wetter or a soil conditioner like Neutrog GOGO Juice.
Roll out Lawn
For instant effect, a roll out lawn can be used. This should be rolled out on even topsoil as soon as it is delivered. Start with laying the lawn along any straight lawn edges you might have in your garden design. Take care not to stretch the lawn rolls and push each roll firmly together without gaps.
Top dress after rolling with a sandy loam or sand. A lawn roller will help to even the surface and keep the lawn roots in good contact with the soil. Another advantage of the roll out lawn is that you can use drought resistant hybrid varieties that cannot be grown from seed.
A lawn roller will help flatten the lawn and keep the seeds in good contact with the soil.
For large commercial landscaping projects, or large residential landscaping, hydroseeding is often used. Hydroseeding is a method wher a mixture of water, fertilizer and grass seeds are sprayed over the area. Some local councils have seen problems with grass taking off with this method, so it is probably best to do this in Autumn.
Your new or repaired lawn will need watering every day for a month. To save water use a soil wetter to minimise run off. Water in the evening to reduce losses due to evaporation. A liquid fertiliser high in nitrogen and iron will keep your lawn looking green.
5 steps to creating the perfect new lawn
Plan the area and note the drainage, irrigation and shade.
Urban wetlands are now recognised as an important part of the landscaping of public spaces. Landscaping urban wetlands and surrounding areas can be a challenge for landscapers not least of which is controlling the runoff from the landscape work. For example, exposed aggregate concrete etching can create acid runoff which can pollute nearby wetlands, groundwater and streams. The landscaping contractor needs to be mindful of that and ensure runoffs are controlled or adequately diluted. One solution for this is to use sandbags to direct the water runoff from exposing concrete to where the next crossover is being constructed. This is not just eco landscaping, it is responsible landscaping.
Balwyn Community Centre Urban Wetlands redevelopment
For our recent landscaping project at Balwyn Community centre, the design by landscape architects, ACLA, included a few landscape design changes to the urban wetlands. These were aimed at improving the safety and amenity of the urban wetlands, whilst preserving their character and biodiversity. This type of landscape design is essential where there is a wetland close to a public space like Balwyn Community Centre.
Balwyn Urban Wetlands Landscape Construction
One of the major changes to the landscape involved reshaping the wetland with an excavator. The pool was made also made shallower and a rock beach using 70mm river pebble was added. This landscaping work required draining the wetland and letting it dry out enough to safely use the excavator. Draining a wetland like this requires a permit from the EPA to avoid any pollution problems in the stormwater system. For the safety of children using the Balwyn Community Centre playground, a childproof fence was constructed around the wetlands. Making the pool shallower with a pebble beach also improved the safety of the wetland.
The Yoga mat in the tranquil settings of Balwyn Community Centre Urban Wetlands
A fallen tree trunk becomes part of the urban wetlands project.
Late into the project a large eucalyptus tree fell onto the fence and destroyed part of it. As with native bushland, fallen tree trunks create habitat for insects and native fauna, so Boroondara City Council and the landscape architect, ACLA decided to keep the tree trunk inside the wetland.
Refilling of the refurbished wetlands was by natural runoff from the landscaped area.
A fallen tree truck becomes new habitat by the urban wetlands of Balwyn Community Centre
Why do we put this effort into preserving urban wetlands and Coastal wetlands?
Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the entire world, providing a range of benefits for both people and the environmental. Wetlands are defined as an area of land where the soil is covered by water for either all of the year, or only certain times of the year. They may be man-made or naturally forming and the water itself may be static or free flowing, fresh, brackish, or saline. Examples of wetlands include lakes, lagoons, billabongs, swaps, marshes, mudflats, mangroves, peatlands, and even coral reefs.
The conservation and restoration of these ecosystems is essential for protecting biodiversity, water quality, flora and fauna, and areas deemed to be of cultural significance. Below we explore these reasons in further details:
Maintaining and improving water quality is one of the most important benefits that wetlands can provide. Wetlands have the capacity to act as filtering systems, removing sediment, nutrients, and pollutants from water. They do this by slowing down water flows from upstream, reducing erosion, and preventing sediment from being transported downstream.
Soils and the vegetation in urban wetlands can capture, process and store both nutrients and contaminants. In addition to this, they can reduce harmful bacteria and pathogens in the water prior to it being returned to groundwater.
Providing Habitats For Aquatic Animals
For many aquatic animals, inland wetlands are the only habitat in which they can survive. The wetlands provide all the food, water and shelter that aquatic animals require. Wetlands provide a safe habitat for feeding, spawning and nursery sites for native fish such as Freshwater Catfish, Blue-spot Gobi, and Long-finned Eel. Overall, healthy wetlands sustain healthy wildlife and fish populations as they contribute to large amounts of nutrients, ultimately resulting in better high-functioning ecosystems.
Store Stormwater And Floodwaters
With the rise of urban development across major cities, the management of storm water is a cause of great concern. Excessive stormwaters and floodwaters caused by the increase in non-porous or impervious grounds can cause significant economic burden and damage to infrastructure. However, urban wetlands are nature’s detention basins, providing a space for floodwaters to be temporarily stored, retained long-term, or even returned to the water table. Urban wetlands that are in positions downstream in residential areas are valuable at controlling localised floods. The preservation and restoration of wetlands are a natural alternative to expensive dredge operations and levees.
Maintain Surface Water Flow During Dry Periods
Water supply in wetlands is constantly changing; it can be filled by rainfall, or drained by groundwater. In Australia, water flows are highly variable both within and between years. Wetlands have the ability to reduce water flow velocity with densely populated water vegetation. Wetlands have a rich biodiversity of plants that have evolved to suit these varying conditions. This ensures that, during the drier months, the wetlands can maintain surface water flow to sustain the habitat for both the vegetation and animals.
Protect Our Shores From Wave Action
Coastal wetlands, such as estuaries and marshes, are an integral part of shore protection schemes as they can provide suitable protection from wave action along with creating species diversification. Coastal wetlands provide a buffer zone that is biologically diverse, which ensures that the exposed shoreline vegetation is maintained. Erosion is also prevented by absorbing wave energy.
Provide Habitat For Plants
Wetlands contain a wide diversity of life, supporting animals and plants that are often found nowhere else. In fact, in Australia thousands of plant species grow in wetlands, ranging from mosses and grasses to shrubs and trees. Wetland plant communities are often protected as they contain flora that is endangered under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Some common plants found in wetlands include lignum, the common reed, and river red gums.
Provide Habitat For Animals
The biodiversity of animals in wetlands is also well documented. Huge numbers of birds, frogs, mammals and reptiles spend all or part of their life cycles in wetlands, which provide habitat and food sources for them to survive.
Common wetland birds include the Australasian Grebe, Pacific Black Duck, and Great Egret. In relation to frogs, the most common species found in wetlands are the Striped Marsh Frog, Brown-striped Grass Frog, Spotted Grass Frog, Green Tree Frog, and Red-eyed Green Tree Frog. Of the mammal species, the Swamp Rat, Platypus, Fishing Bat, Common Planigale, Common Blossom-Bat, Eastern Chestnut Mouse, and the Pale Field Rat all live within wetlands. Many different species of reptiles also thrive in wetland environments, including turtles, water skinks, and snakes.
A grebe in an Urban Wetland near Cranbourne. (Photo Shane Borham)
A Black fronted dotteral, a type of plover. enjoys the mud at this urban wetland near Cranbourne. (Photo Shane Borham)
Are Culturally Significant
It is important to acknowledge that wetlands are also culturally significant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Wetlands have Aboriginal cultural and historical significance, and are important for science and education.
Ability To Absorb Pollutants
Due to the nature of drainage within urban areas, stormwater is often directed to wetlands. This water is often polluted with sediment, microorganisms, phosphorous, and nitrogen. A healthy, biodiverse wetland has the ability to ‘absorb’ these pollutants. The wetlands can filter these pollutants, reducing the load through processes in aerobic and anaerobic ecological conditions.
A wildlife corridor is any area of native vegetation that is located between two or more larger areas. It is a ’stepping stone’ for migrating animals to use in-between native landscapes. Wetland wildlife corridors provide this function for many waterbirds, allowing them to safely migrate while providing shelter and food. In addition to providing a refuge for migrating animals, wetland wildlife corridors also enable interbreeding and colonisation of plants native to the local area. Significant wildlife corridors close to Balwyn Community Centre include the anniversary bicycle path through Deepdene and East Kew as well as the chain of parks along the Yarra river. These parks include Burke Road Billabong Reserve and Hays Paddock in East Kew as well as Bellbird Park in Kew.
Many coastal and inland wetlands are popular for tourism and recreational activities such as swimming, hiking, boating, fishing, camping, and birdwatching. They are places of beauty that can be a great source of relaxation and recreation.
Early Spring in Melbourne and this black swan is raising cygnets in urban wetlands near Cranbourne. (Photo Shane Borham.)
A Chestnut teal swimming in wetlands near Cranbourne. (Photo Shane Borham)
Wetlands recharge groundwater when they become so clogged with water that the soil can no longer retain it and the water leaks down into the aquifer. This is important as the process of leaching not only recharges the groundwater, but in doing so it also absorbs the bacterial loading of the excess water, ensuring that the groundwater is replenished with less contaminated water.
Landscaping with Urban Wetlands
A trend we are seeing is that landscape architects, local governments and developers are preserving and even adding wetlands to landscape redevelopments. Private developers are now creating wetlands and pools to provide a tranquil place for employees and visitors.
Related Landscaping Ideas from Red’s Landscaping and Civil
Acreman, M. and Holden, J. (2013). How Wetlands Affect Floods. Wetlands, [online] 33(5), pp.773–786. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13157-013-0473-2 [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
(2018a). Plants in wetlands. [online] NSW Environment, Energy and Science. Available at: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/water/wetlands/plants-and-animals-in-wetlands/plants [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
(2018c). Why wetlands are important. [online] NSW Environment, Energy and Science. Available at: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/water/wetlands/why-wetlands-are-important [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
(2019). Plants and animals in wetlands. [online] NSW Environment, Energy and Science. Available at: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/water/wetlands/plants-and-animals-in-wetlands [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
(2020). Mammals in wetlands. [online] NSW Environment, Energy and Science. Available at: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/water/wetlands/plants-and-animals-in-wetlands/mammals [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. (2016a). Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. [online] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/water/wetlands/publications/factsheet-wetlands-water-quality#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20important,nutrients%20and%20pollutants%20from%20water. [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. (2016b). Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. [online] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/water/wetlands/publications/factsheet-wetlands-water-changes [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. (2020). Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. [online] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/water/wetlands/about [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
Healthy wetlands, healthy fi sh populations What are wetlands? (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.mdba.gov.au/sites/default/files/archived/mdbc-NFS-reports/2200_factsheet_Fish_and_wetlands.pdf [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
Melbournewater.com.au. (2017). Animals of the wetland | Melbourne Water. [online] Available at: https://www.melbournewater.com.au/media/1401 [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
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Shore Erosion Control Guidelines Marsh Creation Maryland Department of the Environment Wetlands and Waterways Program. (2006). [online] Available at: http://ccrm.vims.edu/livingshorelines/documents/Promotional/shore_erosion_bosch.pdf [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
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US EPA,OW (2015). Why are Wetlands Important? | US EPA. [online] US EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/why-are-wetlands-important [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
Vermont.gov. (2020). Wetland Functions and Values: Surface and Ground Water Protection | Department of Environmental Conservation. [online] Available at: https://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/wetlands/functions/water-quality [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
World Wetlands Day – celebrating wetland biodiversity (2010). World Wetlands Day – celebrating wetland biodiversity. [online] IUCN. Available at: https://www.iucn.org/content/world-wetlands-day-celebrating-wetland-biodiversity [Accessed 1 Sep. 2020].
Concrete is without a doubt it is one of the most versatile used materials in landscape construction. From in situ concrete walls to pavers to fence posts it has a wide range of uses. What are the different types of concrete and its uses? To properly decide on which mix to use, it is important to understand what it is and what factors affect its physical properties.
Commercial Concreting Melbourne. Reds Landscaping Melbourne using a boom pump to pour architectural concrete walls
What is Concrete?
In technical terms, it is a structural material consisting of a hard, chemically inert particulate substance, known as aggregate that is bonded together by cement and water. It is a composite material as it consists of both a binder and a filler.
What is difference between concrete and cement?
The binder most commonly used is known as Portland Cement. This is a mixture of finely ground limestone (CaCO3) and shale or clay which has been combined together at around 1500℃. In this process, water and carbon dioxide are removed from the mixture (calcination), then calcium silicates are formed. A small amount of gypsum (CaSO4•2(H2O)) is added to regulate the setting.
Concrete with exposed aggregate.
The aggregate, that is the part of the mix made up of several smaller ingredients, will generally be the sand and gravel. The gravel itself will usually be hard stones of a certain size range. Fine aggregates are below about 10mm in size and are often used in small bags of cement mix or for smaller landscaping work. Larger stone aggregates range from 10 to 40mm in size and are commonly used in construction. It is the stone aggregates that give the mix its compressive strength. As the aggregate is around 70% of the mix, it provides much of the bulk and contributes to its dimensional stability. The rougher the surface of the aggregate and the greater the area in contact with the cement paste, the stronger a concrete will be.
Rounded particles like river pebbles or beach sand will result in lower strength than crushed aggregates. Larger size aggregates lead to relatively lower strength. Where extra strong mix is needed, a little less aggregate can be used.
A key ingredient is of course the water. When the water is combined with the cement as paste is formed which binds the aggregate together. Concrete does not harden by drying out, it hardens by a chemical reaction know as hydration. In this reaction, compounds in the cement react with water molecules to form strong chemical bonds. Ideally, the water should be as pure as possible to prevent the occurrence of any side reactions which may weaken or interfere with the chemical reaction taking place. Even small quantities of organic soil compounds result in chemical reactions that seriously affect the strength. In Melbourne access to good quality water is not usually a problem.
Loading the Concrete Mixer the correct materials in the correct ratios is essential for making strong concrete. The water needs to be as pure as possible.
The other important point for the landscaper is to get the ratio of water to cement correct. The ratio of water to cement is critical if strong concrete is required. If too much water is added, the strength of the mix will be reduced. Excess water above what is required for the chemical reaction will result in pores on the concrete which will reduce the strength especially the tensile strength. Too little will make the it difficult to work, to fill spaces, or create a good connection to the reinforcement. Accurate measurements and thorough mixing of the cement and water will help prevent these problems.
Concrete sets with a chemical reaction not by drying.
It is set by a chemical reaction and not by drying. This means that it will even will set under water. It is important to remember this fact during the curing stage. The two main hydration chemical reactions from the calcium silicates are as follows;
Tricalcium silicate + Water—>Calcium silicate hydrate+Calcium hydroxide + heat
2 Ca3SiO5 + 7 H2O —> 3 CaO.2SiO2.4H2O + 3 Ca(OH)2 + 173.6kJ
Dicalcium silicate + Water—>Calcium silicate hydrate + Calcium hydroxide + heat
2 Ca2SiO4 + 5 H2O—> 3 CaO.2SiO2.4H2O + Ca(OH)2 + 58.6 kJ
Both of these reactions are exothermic, that is, they release heat. This heat will dissipate quickly in thin sections. In thicker sections, the internal temperature is transferred to the outside much more slowly. As the outer surface of the concrete will cool much more rapidly than the inner core, there can be a difference in reaction speed. This can lead to tensile stresses that can crack the surface as a result of this uncontrolled temperature difference across the cross section. For this reason, concrete should not be poured in very cold temperatures. In cases where thermal cracking does occur, it will be at early ages of curing. The heat can also cause moisture to evaporate from the surface of the concrete, making it weaker. This will be the case if there is insufficient water for the chemical reaction. For these reason excessively thick sections should be avoided in a single pour. Wooden formwork and damp hessian covers can help the curing process. Giving your concrete a very light spray of water as it is curing will often improve the strength.
What is the correct mix for concrete?
When mixing concrete for footings or foundations use a mix of 3 parts coarse or sharp sand and 3 parts aggregate with 1 part of a high quality cement.
History of concrete
What have the Romans ever done for us? The Romans are widely credited for the spread of building technologies including concrete throughout Europe. It was the Roman’ Empires’s engineering abilities that enabled them to built an enormous empire throughout Europe and through parts of North Africa and the Middle East. The concrete architecture of the Romans is famous amongst fans of history.
Durable Roman Concrete has lasted centuries.
The Roman formula for quality concrete
It was know to the Romans as “opus caementicium”. Opus meaning a fortification, composition or a piece of work and caementicium meaning quarried or unhewn stone. The Romans developed their recipe in the third century BC. The ingredient the Romans used was volcanic dust known as pozzolana. This volcanic dust included fine particles of alumina and silica which created the chemical reaction enabling the setting. To this they added a mixture of lime or gypsum, brick or rock pieces and water. Usually the mix was a ratio of 1 part of lime for 3 parts of volcanic ash.
The Pantheon in Rome was constructed entirely in concrete.
Concrete Dome of the Pantheon in Rome.
Roman Waterproof Concrete
Roman builders discovered that adding crushed terracotta to the mortar created a waterproof material which could be then be used with cisterns and other constructions exposed to rain or water. Recently, it has been found that the Roman mix used in seawall construction has better endurance to seawater than the modern stuff. This was mostly due to one of the minerals of the volcanic rock phillipsite, reacting with the seawater to form aluminous tobermorite which reinforced the concrete over time. After the fall of the Roman empire the technology for making concrete was lost for many years.
Assyrians Babylonians and Egyptians.
Among the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians, clay was often used as the bonding material. The Egyptians developed a substance more closely resembling modern concrete by using lime and gypsum as binders. Lime (calcium oxide), was derived from limestone, chalk, or (where available) oyster shells. (Pozzolans are actually a broad class of siliceous or siliceous and aluminous materials.)
In 1824 an English inventor, Joseph Aspdin, burned and ground together a mixture of limestone and clay. As the chemistry of concrete was not fully understood at the time, the proportions of the ingredients were developed by trial and error. This mixture, called Portland cement, has remained the dominant cementing agent used in concrete production. It is named Portland cement as it is an attempt to imitate the limestone from Portland in Dorset on the jurassic coast of England. Portland Limestone formed slowly over the last 150 million years or so as tiny grains of sediments and clays infused the limestone grew and compacted. This gives it both its unique physical properties when grown up for cement, but also its attractive appearance. Portland Limestone has been used in many of the iconic London buildings such as Saint Paul’s Cathedral and the palace of Westminster. As a building material Portland Limestone was popularised by architect Sir Christopher Wren.
One of the drawbacks of concrete, despite its great compressive strength, is its lack of tensile strength. This is largely due to its natural porosity. Plain unreinforced concrete does not easily withstand stresses such as wind action, earthquakes, and vibrations and other bending forces and is therefore unsuitable in many structural applications. Low tensile strength also means low strength in bending or when used as a beam.
The Strength of Steel
Steel when compared with concrete has great tensile strength. The solution is to embed the steel into the concrete. This is usually achieved with the use of steel mesh reinforcement. The reinforcing steel, normally takes the form of rods, bars, or mesh. The reinforcement bars are often coined along the surface to give them a good connection to the concrete. The addition of tightly bound reinforcement bars makes the concrete section into a true composite beam. For this reason, the reinforcements must have good overlap.
Commercial Concreting Melbourne. Concrete retaining wall footings with steel reinforcement.
Reinforced concrete is usually attributed to Joseph Monier, a Parisian gardener who made garden pots and tubs of concrete reinforced with iron mesh.This was patented in 1867. In reinforced concrete, the tensile strength of steel and the compressional strength of concrete render a member capable of sustaining heavy stresses of all kinds over considerable spans. Despite the strength of reinforced concrete, efforts should be make to minimise the loads on garden retains walls. This can be achieved by adequate agricultural drainage near the wall. It is important to remember that a cubic metre of water weighs a tonne. Plant selection near the retaining wall is also important plants should be chosen that do not have an invasive root system. For your existing trees, consider the use of a tree root barrier.
Related Landscaping information from Red’s Landscaping and Civil
Landscaping is a word that is often used but can mean different things to different people. If we study the history of landscaping we can learn how these different interpretations of landscaping came about. Historically, architecture and landscaping are concepts that are very much intertwined, as are sculpture art and painting. Why is there confusion over the word landscaping? Who were the most influential landscapers of all time and what influenced them? To find out we look at the history of landscaping and landscape design, but first a few modern definitions.
What are the different types of landscaping?
The broad term Landscaping can refer to any of the following disciplines.
Soft landscapers are usually qualified horticulturists. They are skilled in areas of plant health and plant cultivation. Horticulturists are also trained in design and other aspects of landscaping construction.
Hard Landscaping as the name suggests is related to installation of the structural elements of the landscape design. Examples of these are exposed aggregate concrete paths, insitu concrete retaining walls and pergolas.
Garden maintenance is often referred to as landscaping.
Landscape design usually involves the use of CAD to layout both the hard landscaping and the soft landscaping designs. Modern landscape design also involves creating photorealist computer renderings to help the customer visualise the finished design. The use of 3D CAD is now a common part of the landscape design process. Sometimes this service is provided as a landscape design only service. The final outcome is usually better when it is a product of landscape by design rather than just moving materials around the worksite to achieve the desired look.
Landscape architects study at university to learn the theoretical skills required to design public spaces using CAD. Landscape architecture encompasses the knowledge of the physical materials, living systems and human factors. Landscape architects have both plant knowledge and strength of materials knowledge to design an effective public space by CAD. Landscape architecture also includes the environmental planning, urban design, and site planning for a landscaped site. The understanding of the main concepts of civil engineering is vital for this role. Even in the 18 century landscapes were made to detailed drawings by landscape architects like Lancelot Capability Brown and Humphry Repton.
The history of landscaping
The earliest surviving detailed garden design plan dates from circa 1400 BC. It is surprising how much of this design style is still in use in modern Mediterranean garden design. The garden was for a highly ranked official in the Egyptian Court at Thebes. The home had a main entrance with a pergola with vines growing. The garden design also included self-contained walled enclosure, rectangular water features and garden paths with tree lined avenues.
The Persians, Babylonians and Assyrians
These gardens are described in the old testament as pleasure gardens. The gardens were designed to enable cool water and shade to be enjoyed in private. The landscaping also included man made hills with terraces planted with shrubs and trees.
Greek Gardens of the Classical Period
Sport and public places were both big parts of Greek culture. Sports grounds developed into the academy and the lyceum and people gathered in these places. The public spaces in Greek life included groves of shade trees which is essential in a Mediterranean garden. Also included were some porticoes, spectator seating and the exercise ground itself. It was around this time that a courtyard garden design with rows of columns supporting roofs over covered walkway became part of the urban lifestyle. This garden design became known as “peristyle” from the Greek word “peri” meaning around (as in perimeter) and “style” which means column. It is thought that this style of architecture originated in temples like the Temple of Hera at Samos and was then adopted for domestic buildings.
Greek Gardens of the Hellenistic Period
The death of Alexander the great was the start of a new age in Greece where the country was less Athens centric. New luxurious gardens or pleasure grounds had sprung in the Greek colonies. Notable amongst these were the gardens at Syracuse and Alexandria. These gardens were more influenced by gardens in the east. Under Alexander the great Macedonia had formed a huge empire stretching from Macedonia to parts of India. Within the empire the spread of people brought architecture and landscaping to different cities. After the death of Alexander, the empire was divided, and the various kings spent money on gardens and architecture to impress their guests.
What have the Romans ever done for landscaping?
Many of the southern cities of the Italian peninsula were founded as Greek Colonies. The area was known to the Romans as Magna Graecia and to the Greeks as Megale Hellas meaning “Great Greece”. Starting with Naples in 327 BC all of the Greek cities in Magna Graecia were absorbed into the Roman Empire. The Romans adopted the Greek peristyle landscaping with small enclosed town gardens and with Roman villa gardens. Some examples still exist in the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum which were previously very much Greek cities. An example of the adoption of this style can be seen in the Villa Adriana which is Hadrian’s grand villa near Tivoli. Another example is Nero’s Golden House in Rome. As Christianity began to spread through Europe in the later part of the Roman Empire, the peristyle courtyard garden evolved into the cloistered abbey garden and courtyard.
Roman Landscaping. Villa Adriana near Tivoli Italy
One of the reasons that some of the Roman building can still be seen today is the Roman use of concrete in building construction. Unlike bricks or stone construction, the concrete buildings are difficult to recycle into newer buildings. For this reason many of the buildings of ancient Rome were just left in situ with some of the concrete crumbling or becoming submerged by the increasing ground level.
The Pantheon in Rome was constructed entirely in concrete.
Roman concrete was made more durable by the addition of volcanic ash. This has meant that many Roman buildings have survived into modern times and the became an inspiration for architects and landscapers on the Grand Tour, They were also an inspiration for High Renaissance architects. One architect that was greatly inspired by this building was a goldsmith named Filippo Brunelleschi who built the dome for the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy. Brunelleschi had spent several years in Rome studying and sketching the ancient monuments.
Roman Heated Swimming Pools
The engineering abilities of the Romans extended to more than temples, villas roads and aqueducts. The Romans also invented the heated swimming pool. It was built by Gaius Maecenas in the first century BC near Rome.
Islamic gardens or Paradise Gardens are well known for their water features. Water was precious to the desert dwelling Arabs of North Africa who we part of an empire that stretched all the way to India. Their garden designs were greatly influenced by Persian gardens. Symbology was important in these gardens with the gardens divided into 4 sections by mini canals each representing a different aspect of life. These are known as quadripartite or Charbagh and the canals represent four rivers running with water, milk, wine and honey.
The word paradise comes from the old Persian language pairi dez and means enclosed or surrounded by a wall. An outer perimeter wall or an enclosure of buildings is often a feature of these gardens. When Spain was captured the Moors, “paradise garden” became a common garden theme in the wealthy homes and public spaces of southern Spain. Therefore many of the gardens in southern Spain have the theme of four rivers and the garden divided into four parts. To create the illusion of depth in the shallow canals, dark blue tiles are used as a lining of the canal.
Islamic Landscaping. Paradise Gardens at the Alhambra in Spain. The Patio of the Lions.
Another part of the symbology is the square ponds representing earth and the round fountains representing heaven. These were combined to represent the meeting of heaven and earth. The colonnade courtyards surrounding the gardens also had symbology in the surrounding columns with designs showing date palms. Some examples of this type of Islamic landscape architecture include the Alhambra in Granada.
The Island of Sicily
The Islamic influence also spread to another colony in the Mediterranean. The island of Sicily had parks built by the Saracens using the Islamic garden themes. When the Normans conquered the island in the 11th century, they maintained the gardens much as they were with walled enclosures containing canals, lakes and citrus groves. It was not just the gardens which came into the Norman hands, there was also a wealth of knowledge recorded in Arabic and Greek texts. This transfer of knowledge in the fields of mathematics, science, astronomy and medicine, which occurred in Spain, Sicily and the Levant, helped to spark the 12th century renaissance. One enduring legacy of the Islamic garden is the garden patio.
Italian Renaissance Gardens
The Italian garden renaissance began in the 15th century near Florence. Medieval enclosures that were earlier necessary for defence began to open up into a system of villas with a coherent house and gardens. In Rome, the design of Italian renaissance gardens on the hillsides became the role of architects. Famous renaissance architect, Donato Bramante, designed a significant garden linking the Papal palace with the Villa Belvedere. The villa had been built by the previous pope as a place to catch summer breezes during the hot summer in Rome. Bramante had studied painting prior to studying architecture and was skilled in the use of perspective. The hard landscaping for this design incorporated a system of stairways and garden stairways and was named Belvedere meaning beautiful view. The Belvedere garden also revived the Roman tradition of adorning the garden with ancient statues. Bramante is probably better known as the architect who designed St Peter’s Basilica in Rome we see today and for his disagreements with sculptor Michelangelo. To finance the building of St Peter’s, the church began to sell papal indulgences which in turn lead to the Reformation and years of war and religious persecution in Europe.
Vatican Gardens in Vatican City. Donato Bramante divided this area into three new courtyards: the Cortile del Belvedere, the Library Courtyard and the Cortile della Pigna with the landscape design of the Renaissance.
Bramante was really a central figure in High Renaissance Architecture. This style of architecture is characterised by its use of proportion and symmetry and most notably for the influence through the study of antiquity. Bramante’s work that first ushered in the High Renaissance was the Tempietto which is designed as a circular temple inspired by the remains of the ancient Temple Vesta.
Il tempietto is an example of Bramante’s High Renaissance architecture.
Another influential architect of the High Renaissance was Andrea Palladio, who was chief architect of the Republic of Venice. Palladio was greatly inspired by the architecture of Greece and ancient Rome. His teachings in I quattro libri dell’architettura (The Four Books of Architecture) extended his influence to most of Europe and covered everything from materials to Town Planning. William Kent, the British architect and landscaper was heavily influence by Palladio’s books.
Villa La Rotonda near Vicenza by Palladio. The symmetrical design has 4 facades.
Palladio’s Rural Villas
Palladio’s design of rural villas for the Venetian nobility with a strong centre and symmetrical side wings became the design theme for Italian villas and for the country estates of the British nobility. This style of architecture which strongly adheres to the principles of classical Roman architecture, became known as Palladian Architecture.
The landscaped gardens of Villa La Rotonda.
Rome and the gardens of the Cardinals
Between 1550 and 1600 there was a huge increase in garden construction in and around Rome. The most powerful people in Rome at that time were the cardinals, who each though of themselves as a potential pope. The pope was one of the most influential persons throughout Europe.
New popes were chosen for their culture, influential and wealth. The way to demonstrate this to the other cardinals was to create an inspiring and remarkable garden. Geometry, order and harmony were key features of these garden designs. The aim was to demonstrate the influence and cultured sophistication, not just of the cardinal but of the cardinal’s family dynasty.
Symbology in Renaissance Gardens
Symbology, such as family crests, and control of water flow was nearly as important as the aesthetic beauty. The cardinals employed the best architects in an attempt to outdo each other and to increase their influence.
Symbology in renaissance gardens including rare garden bulbs were part of these gardens during the renaissance period, but this is less noticeable today. Jasmines, crocuses, lilies, box topiary but these became overgrown when this style of garden was out of fashion. The shortness of the flowering seasons for the flowers that were available then, meant that flower beds could not be relied upon to be the principle garden feature. Trimmed herbs, box, lavender and rosemary were used to divide garden beds into geometric compartments. Decorative contrast was given to stonework and brick walls with the use of ivy. Laurel, cypress pine and ilex.
The Canopus. The ruins of Hadrian’s Villa near Tivoli has influenced landscapers and architects for centuries. The Pool is a metaphor of the Mediterranean.
Hadrian’s Tivoli Villa Adrianna the inspiration for Renaissance gardens
Outside Rome, the ruins of Hadrian’s Tivoli Villa Adrianna was an inspiration that lit the spark for renaissance gardens. Hadrian travelled more than any other emperor and was inspired by gardens throughout the Roman empire,
The Canopus with its columns was visited by the renaissance architects visited to discover how to create water flows into pools. They also learnt about how an aqueduct carried water and the design ratios and the use of symbolism within the garden. The garden is a metaphor for the Roman empire with Greece represented by the row of caryatids on the right. These statues are replicas of the statues forming the Porch of the maidens in the Erechtheum in Athens. A statue of a crocodile represents Egypt.
Villa d’Esti in Tivoli
Nearby in Tivoli the garden Cardinal Desti created a garden with fantastic use of water. Villa d’Esti.
Landscaping with Water features. Aerial view of the iconic Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy
Pirro Ligorio created these incredible water features by taking a third of the town’s water supply. The use of water in this garden is astonishing and is achieved without using any pumps. Symbology and coded messages are embedded throughout this garden . Within this garden, Ligorio created a model Rome in his palace garden complete with a statue of Romulus and Remus. The dramatic and theatrical were now starting to replace the peace and harmony of earlier gardens. Surprise and delight were not the aims of renaissance architecture. Power culture and wealth were demonstrated by the creation of gardens that are really in your face.
The French Gardens of the 17th Century.
Once again it was conflict and invasions that drove the interchange of cultures. This time it was the French who invaded Italy towards the end of the 17th Century that were influence by the gardens of the conquered. The Italian wars 1494 1559 were a series of violent wars that had a massive impact on Renaissance Europe. These wars were fought largely by Spain and France, but there were other armies involved. In 1494 French king Charles VIII invaded Italy, which triggered the wars. After 64 years of sporadic fighting the French just managed to hold the fortresses at five Italian cities. An early example of the Italian influence on French gardens and architecture was the Château of Anet in the Loire valley (Département of Eure-et-Loire). Little remains of this building as it was mostly destroyed after the French Revolution, but it was used in the filming of the James Bond movie Thunderball.
French Baroque Gardens
The baroque gardens of the French were based on the Italian renaissance gardens, but were flashier and with even more emphasis on complex geometry. French landscape architect André Le Nôtre later designed a garden at the château Vaux-le-Vicomte south west of Paris. The garden is regarded as an early example of the baroque French classical style.
Vaux-le-Vicomte Baroque Renaissance Landscaping.
The Garden that left a deep impression on the King
The château and gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte were so impressive that King Louis XIV confiscated the house and threw the owner in jail. Le Nôtre then went to work for the king and went on to work on the design of the gardens at Versailles. Some of the other notable landscape designs include Sceaux, Saint-Cloud, and Chantilly. Fontainebleau, Tuileries and the Grand Trianon. In his art collection André Le Nôtre had a sculpture by Michelangelo, so there is a good chance he was a fan of the Italian renaissance. On both Versailles and the château Vaux-le-Vicomte he had worked with painter and designer Charles Le Brun who had design the classic statues for Versailles. Charles Le Brun had spent several years in Italy as part of his artistic development.
Dutch Gardens of the 17th Century
The conflict sparked by the reaction to the reformation lead to the arrival of Protestant refugees into the Dutch republic. The arrival of skilled craftsmen from other parts of Europe helped to start the Dutch Golden Age. In 1685 King Louis XIV made Protestantism illegal in France which lead to a further 200,000 Huguenots fleeing France. Amongst these refugees was Daniel Marot from Paris. He was a skilled designer, engraver and architect and soon found himself working at the Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn.
Het Loo Dutch baroque gardens.
Het Loo was owned by Willem Hendrik Prince of Orange who through his marriage to Mary Stuart later became King William III of England, Ireland and Scotland. The design of Het Loo was inspired by the work of Charles le Brun and Jean Bérain at Versailles. When Prince Willem Hendrik became King William III, he took Daniel Marot with him to London and appointed him as a court architect and Master of Works.
English Baroque Gardens
Charles II spent most of his exile at the palace of Versailles south of Paris. His long stay there would have influenced his choices after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. In the short time Charles II was King, he helped to revive English tradesmen’s skill as put into place new measures aimed at the preservation of excellence in the arts.
French and Dutch influences in English Landscaping
Charles and his architects introduced French and Dutch influences in an attempt to produce new architectural order to England. It was during this time that architect Christopher Wren spent a long time in Paris to learn from the achievements of modern French Architects. During his time in Paris, Wren met with Italian sculptor and architect Gianlorenzo Bernini, who was the leading sculptor in the baroque style. Bernini was in Paris to complete the palace of the Louve. Wren also met with Francois Mansart, who introduced Italian classicism into baroque architecture. Mansart’s architectural designs, where he integrated the landscape and the building in harmony were an influence on garden designer André Le Nôtre. Wren’s trip to Paris and meeting with the great architects of the day were to have a profound influence on his later architecture. This can be seen in the design of St Paul’s in London with a renaissance style large central cupola.
St Paul’s in London. Large central cupola by Christopher Wren.
William and Mary Gardens
After the Glorious Revolution William and Mary ascended to the throne of England. They brought with them to England skilled craftsmen and architects from the Dutch Republic and Europe. The furniture from this period is known as “William and Mary” style. Many of the finest buildings in England were commissioned during this time. These include Greenwich Hospital, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace.
Hampton Court Palace gardens
Wren was commissioned to remodel and extend Hampton Court Palace with a new courtyard and apartments for the King and Queen. The great fountain garden was created by architect Daniel Marot, who had been brought over from Het Loo.
English Formal Gardens
There are many English gardens of this style that are open to the public. The photographs below are just a few of what is on offer.
English Formal Garden at Cliveden. This garden shows the influence of earlier renaissance style.
Formal Garden at Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire.
Italianate Garden Blenheim Palace Oxfordshire.
Formal Landscaping. The Italian garden at Blenheim Palace.
Restored English Formal Garden Hanbury Hall near Droitwich
Landscaping Georgian English gardens
The Georgian era was one of great change in Europe and in England in particular. The huge growth in international trade and the emergence of middle-class wealth were chief amongst these. This led to more people wanting lavish landscaped gardens and the rise of the Grand Tour as a sort of gap-year for mostly young wealthy men. Starting in Dover, the Grand Tour would set out for Italy often via Paris. The trips could be as long as 3 or 4 years and the main destinations were the great Italian cities of the renaissance as well as the excavations of the Roman civilisation at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The influence of the Grand Tour on the young aristocrats of Britain often left them with architectural tastes for Neoclassical, based on the remains of ancient temples or Palladian base on Palladio’s interpretation of a Roman villa construction.
The taste for Neoclassical architecture that was brought from the grand tour was a hit for public buildings all around the world and the influence lasted for many years. Many well-known buildings in Melbourne were designed in this style including the Victorian State Parliament house in Spring Street East Melbourne. Some other great examples of this architectural style include The State Library of Victoria in the Melbourne CBD and the Shrine of Remembrance in King’s Domain close to South Yarra. Other noteworthy Melbourne Buildings in the neoclassical style include;
Eldon Mansion in Grey Street St Kilda,
Richmond Town Hall in Bridge Road Richmond
St Kilda Town Hall on the corner of Carlisle St and Brighton Road, St Kilda
Port Melbourne Town Hall in Bay Street Port Melbourne
Fitzroy Town Hall in Napier Street Fitzroy
In addition to the public buildings there are some Neoclassical or Palladian style homes in the Melbourne Suburbs of Toorak and Brighton.
St. Kilda Town Hall neoclassical architecture.
Neoclassical Victorian State Parliament house in Spring Street East Melbourne.
Chief amongst the early Georgian Architects was William Kent. Kent is credited with introducing the architecture of Italian Architect Andrea Palladio into Britain. The naturalist landscaping style with serpentine lakes in place of straight canals was a hallmark of Kent’s landscaping. Kent had spent 10 years in Rome copying the paintings of the old masters and developing the skills of engraving and etching. Whilst in Italy Kent met the Third Earl of Burlington, Richard Boyle. It was Lord Burlington who gave Kent a series of commissions in Britain that kick-started Kent’s career as an architect and landscaper. Kent’s experience in Italy helped him to tap into the market for architecture amongst aristocrats nostalgic over their time on the Grand Tour.
Landscape Design of William Kent
Kent was a pioneer of the English naturalistic landscaping that began in the early Georgian period. Landscaping became more naturalistic. Instead of the formal rococo or baroque gardens of the French and Dutch, we see vistas that have been carefully crafted to take your eye to a picturesque garden focal point or building. Kent’s garden focal points included garden follies such as artificial ruins, grottoes, pagodas and temples. Stowe in Buckinghamshire has some great example of the work of William Kent.
Landscaping at Stowe in Buckinghamshire.
Amongst Kent’s focal points are the hermitage, the temple of Venus, the Elysian fields, the Temple of British Worthies and the Temple of Ancient Virtue.
William Kent Landscaping. The Temple of Ancient Virtues.
William Kent Landscaping. Elysian fields with the Temple of British Worthies. Stowe
Kent at Rousham Park
Another example of Kent’s work can be seen at Rousham Park, where the garden has become a place of pilgrimage for fans of the landscaping of William Kent. One of the landscaping design features used by landscapers of this era was the ha-ha or sunken fence.
Landscaping with a Ha-Ha. This design feature enabled a view of the landscape without an obvious fence. Rousham Park Oxfordshire.
With the Ha-Ha landscaping design feature the landscaper could separate the landscaped grounds of the estate from the areas where the farm animals grazed without a fence interrupting the view. The Ha-ha was also used by landscaping genius Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
Landscaping of William Kent – Rousham Gardens
Praeneste by Landscaper William Kent at Rousham Gardens.
Praeneste at Rousham
Octagon Pool Rousham Park.
Temple of Echo by William Kent and William Townsend. Neoclassical Architecture.
Lancelot “Capability” Brown the greatest Landscaper of all time.
Lancelot Brown is probably the most famous landscape designer in English History and is widely known as England’s greatest gardener. He is also known as the father of Landscape Design. In his younger years he worked on some projects to drain some of the Fens and it is widely believed that this is where he developed his knowledge of hydrology and how to apply it to landscaped design.
Landscaping. The lake at Blenheim Palace enlarged and lined with clay by Capability Brown.
Blenheim Palace Lake. The landscaping of Capability Brown.
Capability Brown Landscaping at Blenheim Palace. The lake was made much larger by Capability Brown.
When it comes to the design of water features such as lakes, streams and ponds, Capability Brown was a genius. It is hard to imagine how the shear volume of work being undertaken by Brown was achieved in a time when not everybody was literate. In a time before the railways, Brown criss-crossed the country to supervise his huge landscaping projects.
The Cascades at Blenheim Palace look natural, but much of the landscaping is manmade.
Over 250 landscapes have been attributed to Capability Brown and his list of clients include the King, the Prime Minister and several members of the House of Lords. Landscapers like Kent and Brown were the “Rock Stars” of their era. Their well connected list of contacts ensured they were in prime position for the high end landscaping projects.
Brown’s English landscapes totalled around 52,000 Hectares. To put this in perspective, it would be like landscaping the whole area of Toorak 120 times without any machinery.
Landscaping on a Grand Scale
Brown’s landscaping included moving villages or churches, manually digging lakes and moving large trees to different locations. Like Kent, his landscaping style was towards naturalistic landscapes with views of buildings or focal points framed by trees. The landscape was designed to reveal a view of the main home only when it was close enough to give it the “wow” factor.
As with William Kent, Brown worked on the landscaped gardens at Stowe. Brown also manage a stint as Royal Gardener to King George III at Hampton Court Palace, but it is for his achievements at gardens like Blenheim Palace that he is best known.
During Brown’s first years as a gardener at Stowe, he was involved in many of the landscape construction projects on the estate. This gave the young Lancelot Brown the opportunity to learn more about landscaping and constructions. There is little doubt that he was heavily influenced by the landscaping work of William Kent and perhaps to a lesser extent by the architecture of James Gibbs.
The Palladian Style Bridge at Stowe in Buckinghamshire. Stowe is a great example of an 18th Century English Landscape Garden. The Palladian Bridge was constructed during Brown’s time at Stowe.
Early in his time at Stowe, Brown was involved in the construction of a gothic church folly designed by James Gibbs. Brown later designed a gothic church for the landscape at Croome which bears some similarities to the James Gibbs design.
A garden folly Gothic Temple at Stowe by James Gibbs. The temple constructed during the time of Capability Brown is now available as accommodation.
Croome Court Home and Landscaping
After leaving Stowe, Brown had a major landscaping project at Croome Court. Croome Court is around 12 km east of Great Malvern and upstream from the confluence of the rivers Severn Avon. This area, just north of Tewksbury, known for its flooding and Marshy land, so Capability Brown was the right landscaper for the job. The project involved a redesign of both the house and Landscape. The house was redesigned by Browne in the Palladian style and the marshy landscape cleverly drained into an artificial serpentine river. This was a landscaping project where Capability Brown was able to use his drainage skills learnt in the fens of East Anglia.
The landscaping at Croome now looks entirely natural but it is in fact totally man made.
Croome Court home designed by Capability Brown.
On a small hill on the property, Brown designed a classical rotunda as a place from where the landscape could be admired.
Classical Rotunda at Croome by Capability Brown.
The Lake at Croome Court took hundreds of men more than 10 years to complete by hand.
Home, Bridge and Lake at Croome Court.
Artificial serpentine “River” at Croome by Landscaper Capability Brown.
The lake constructed by Brown looks like a natural river. It winds through the parkland for a distance of just under 3 kilometres with the end just out of sight around a bend. This helps create the illusion of a river.
The lake at Croome by Capability Brown.
There are more than 18 drainage culverts built by Brown as part of the landscaping. Most of these are brick lined and still function as a drain to remove water from the land and channel it to the lake.
In places where the drainage culverts have been damaged by modern farm machinery the National Trust has left drainage grates over the openings. This gives us a glimpse of the drainage work that was done.
Flowing water and the brick lining of the drainage culvert can be seen through the drain grates.
Capability Brown created a gothic church on some high land in the park. There are great views of the estate from this position.
The Gothic Church at Croome by Capability Brown.
Church Interior Croome
One of Browns lasting legacies was the the massive tree plantings on his landscaping projects. Some of his landscapes were second only to Kew Gardens for biodiversity. The full impact of Brown’s landscaping prowess would not have been apparent for generations after the initial construction. The Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) is a member of the Pinaceae family and is regarded as one of Brown’s signature trees. It is now often seen in many British Grand Estates including Brown’s landscaping at Compton Verney.
Capability Brown at Compton Verney
The upper bridge over the lake may have been designed by architect John Adam, but it was constructed during Brown’s time at Copton Verney.
Lancelot Capability Brown Landscaping at Compton Verney.
Landscaped home and Lake at Compton Verney.
The Landscaped Hill and Lake at Compton Verney.
A view of the lake through the trees.
Repton was a landscaper in the same style as Capability Brown and saw himself as the successor to Brown. He was able to design landscapes with the naturalistic appearance of Brown, but with landscaping of the “Picturesque” added to the mix. Amongst Repton’s famous works is Sheringham Park in Norfolk. Repton invented the term “Landscape Gardener” and was known for showing his landscape clients illustrated before and after views in his landscaping “Red Book”. Repton’s first commission was for a landscape at Catton Hall north of Norwich. This landscape included a gothic cottage with a thatched roof.
Lord Berwick at Attingham
In 1797 Lord Berwick commissioned Landscape Gardener Humphry Repton to make improvements to the landscaping of his property Attingham near Shrewsbury. Repton’s landscape designs were illustrated in his “Red Book” which was presented to Lord Berwick for his library.
Landscape Design Only
In contrast to Capability Brown, Repton’s services were provided as landscape design only and he did not oversee the construction of his landscape designs. Repton’s landscape designs were handed to the client as his famous Red Book. In this book, Repton pioneered the “before and after” landscape design concept that many landscaper designers use today.
A view of the home of the Second Lord Berwick from the bridge on the River Tern.
The Second Lord Berwick’s estate at Attingham. Cedar of Lebanon was part of Repton’s design
Naturalistic Landscaping. Beautiful colours and textures of the trees planted in the distance
Naturalistic tree planting by the bank of the River Tern.
Humpry Repton at Stoneleigh Abbey
Landscape Design by Humphry Repton at Stoneleigh Abbey. Repton’s design was to divert part of the River Avon so that it ran closer to the home and created a beautiful refection.
The landscaping vision of Humphry Repton. Stoneleigh Abbey reflected in the River Avon.
River Avon at Stoneleigh with the landscape beyond. Landscape design by Humphry Repton
A view through the landscape to the River Avon
Some properties like Chastleton House in Oxfordshire have been attributed to Repton and is listed by the Nation Trust as a possible Repton Landscape.
To be continued…..
Related Landscaping ideas from Red’s Landscaping and Civil
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 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.
Construction of a landscape for a new home can be easier and more cost effective than putting the landscaping in afterwards. The key is to start the new landscaping and in particular, the planning, design and construction as early as possible. As a guide to how to implement New Home Construction Landscaping as cheaply and efficiently as possible, take a look at how some commercial landscape constructions.
Top Money saving tips for new home construction landscaping
Design the landscaping for your new home at the same time as your home.
Install landscaping services and infrastructure during your new home construction
Begin some of the landscaping before the new home construction.
Use tube stock plants as much as possible.
Use an experienced and skilled landscape designer.
Drip irrigation systems should be integrated with the new home construction.
Mulching around the new plants.
Work with the existing topsoil.
Design the landscaping simultaneously with your new home.
The landscape as an extension of the home
The best landscape designs are those that integrate with your new home. The new home landscaping should be considered as part of the new hone. In this way the new landscaping is an extension of the new home itself/ An example of this is an outdoor eating area with a pergola near the kitchen. Part of the Melbourne lifestyle is having an outdoor barbecue, so the design of this area should really be an extension of the home.
Saving money by designing the new landscape early
Designing the new landscape early allows for all of the required connections to electricity and water to be planned in advance. Good landscape design for an outdoor eating area needs to consider how to remove rain water from the area as quickly as possible. By designing both at the same time, there are opportunities to save money in plumbing, electricity and irrigation. Extra outdoor electricity outlets and garden taps for irrigation can be planned at this stage. This is much cheaper than adding them later.
New Home Construction Landscaping. Garden lighting and irrigation should share trenches with house stormwater where possible.
Beginning your landscaping early will enable you to get labour saving machines into your backyard.
Installing landscaping services like garden lighting or irrigation under existing concrete driveways is expensive. Always lay some PVC conduit deep below the roadbase even if the landscape design has not been done yet.
New Home Landscaping infrastructure.
Landscaping such as entertainment areas, retaining walls and garden paths may require concrete pours for foundations. Having this poured at the same time as the house foundations will save a lot of money. Each concrete pour includes some concrete waste that cannot be used. Minimising the number of separate pours will save money. Landscaping connections like electricity and water may need to go under the new home’s patio. It will be much cheaper to arrange this before the patio is built.
Start Landscaping early.
When landscaping a newly constructed home’s backyard or courtyard, getting materials to the back of the house can be a problem. Often the access on either side of the house is too narrow to get large amounts of landscaping materials to the back of the house economically. By designing, estimating and storing the materials in the backyard can save some headaches later.
Use smaller plants
Melbourne plant nurseries can supply fast growing tube stock and 140mm pots relatively cheaply. By planting these in areas unaffected by the new home building they can become well established by the time the home is completed. Exotic plants can then be transplanted to new locations if necessary. Australian native plants often to not transplant that well, so try to get their positions correct to the landscape design. Ideally put the plants in Autumn before the new home construction begins.
Potted Plants for the landscaping. Establishing smaller plants early will save you money.
Fast growing screening plants
Your landscape designer may establish locations for fast growing screening plants to be planted. Often these will be at the fence line of the property. If you can establish what the finished ground level will be, these plants can be put in during the preceding autumn. By the time you move in to your new home, these plants can be well established and screening out your neighbours and giving you some privacy. Always ensure plenty of mulch is used. You may get some broken branches or other damage during the construction, but the risk is usually worth it unless you have chosen very expensive plants.
Get advice from an experienced and skilled landscape designer.
An experienced and qualified landscaper or horticulturist will be able to advise you on your plant selection and plant care. At the design stage they will be able to check if you have selected the right plants for shady parts of the garden. Also speak to your local plant nursery.
Drip irrigation systems
A drip irrigations system will save you money for years to come. The money savings will be in both avoiding the death of your plants and using water efficiently. Additionally, it will help get your smaller plants well established early. Ideally it should be part of the new home’s water tank system.
New home construction will churn up a lot of topsoil and generally create a lot of mess around your future gardens. Our top tip here is to mulch as much as possible any future garden beds and newly planted screening plants. Initially using a fast decomposing mulch will improve the soil and will mean the final, more expensive, mulch layer can be a little bit thinner. So, if you have some garden beds that the landscaper designer has decided on an expensive coloured mulch, used some layers of inexpensive cane mulch or pea straw before the final mulch layer. If you put these layers down months in advance of your new home construction, you will have great topsoil by the time your landscaping begins. Especially if you have also added organic matter to the straw.
Use your existing topsoil if possible.
Can I use my existing topsoil?
New home construction often involves scraping the topsoil away for the concrete slab. Your landscape designer should identify areas where this topsoil could be used in your landscape design. Poorer topsoils could be used as fill or to create some landforms in your garden. With some amelioration with organic matter or manure, most of these topsoils will be suitable for garden beds. Another possible use is as a subsoil for your lawns. This will reduce the amount of topsoil you need to buy later and save quite a bit of money. If if is one of Melbourne’s reactive clay topsoils, then adding gypsum and organic matter to it, will turn it into an excellent subsoil for lawns. Remember that some lawn root systems can be a metre long so a good quality sub soil like this can save a lot of money by storing water and nutrients for the lawn. Your existing topsoil can be stockpiled for later use. Build a compost heap on top of it with layers of peas straw and stable manure. Stable manure can often be bought cheaply from your local horse stable.
The existing topsoil was used as a subsoil below this lawn. This meant that money could be saved by using only 50mm of sandy loam. The existing topsoil was ameliorated with gypsum and organic matter, then rotary hoed to break up the clay.
More home garden landscape gardening ideas from Red’s Landscaping.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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. . indivisa is a slow-growing, evergreen erect tree reaching heights of 3m or more.
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.
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
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 rendered concrete block planter box by a swimming 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Checking the view from the pergola.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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 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?
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.
In the heavy flocculant clay topsoils of Melbourne’s western suburbs, gypsum can help to displace sodium and improve the soil structure.
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 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 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.
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.
Tree landscape design is an essential part of commercial or residential landscape gardening. As the Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”. With the cooler months, it is time to think about planting some trees.
Trees as an attractive focal point
Some attractive Trees and shrubs can provide an interesting focal point for your garden. Many Australian native trees will provide vibrant coloured flower creating both beauty and food and habitat for a wide range of Australian fauna. As an added bonus, the colourful flowers provide a source of nectar and pollen for honeybees and native bees, well away from the garden pesticides. Foliage colours can also be used to create a contrast.
Lemon-scented myrtle also known as the Sweet Verbena Tree (Backhousia citriodora) is a Queensland species that is both attractive to honeybees and a source of bush tucker. However, as it is a rainforest plant, it is not particularly drought tolerant. If you look after it, you will be rewarded with clusters of attractive white flowers.
Design Considerations. – Locating the tree
When designing the garden for trees, make sure you consider the final height of the tree and any garden maintenance requirements. Space between the tree and a fence might need to be big enough for mower access. Also the location of any overhead power lines should be considered. If you are planting a street tree, the local council will have guidelines for the minimum distance to services such as stormwater outlets and power poles.
Planting Trees like a professional commercial landscaper
If your new tree comes in a plastic pot, make sure you protect it from the searing sun. A few hours of intense sunlight on a black plastic pot can do a great deal of harm to your new tree. Make sure you give the root ball a good soaking. If possible, dip the pot into a bucket of water.
Tree Planting. Make the hole much bigger than the pot especially in Melbourne clay soils.
Dig your hole much bigger than the pot size of the tree. That means if you are planting a tree from a 300 mm pot, the hole should be dug around 900 mm. This is especially the case if you are planting in poor quality soils. Aim to have the new tree slightly higher than the natural ground level. If you are in a heavy clay soil, dig in some organic matter both below and around the plant. If you use a lot of organic matter, this will tend to shrink as it decomposes so take care not to overdo it. The organic material used should be well composted. Backfill with 50% high quality topsoil mixed with the site topsoil. If you have a reactive clay soil, which is common in Melbourne, a hand full od gypsum can be dug into the bottom of the hole.
Once you have placed your tree in the hole, give the roots a bit of a tickle if they appear to have been root bound by the planter pot. This will encourage the roots to grow outward into the new soil. If you are planting a Eucalyptus or Magnolia, the roots should be disturbed as little as possible.
Water the new tree and tamp down on the soil to remove any air pockets. Cover the root zone with around 75mm thick mulch ensuring there is a gap between the trunk and the mulch to prevent collar rot. In most cases staking of the tree is not necessary. If you have a larger or a top heavy tree, use 2 or 3 stakes placed away from the trunk and tied loosely with a rag.
Stakes need to be clear of the rootball. Ideally 50 mm hessian ties should be used and stapled to the stakes to allow some trunk movement. Ensure the ties do not damage the trunk.
To avoid drought stress with you newly planted trees, give the soil around the plant a good soaking. The best solution for saving water is a dripper irrigation system with a timer and a moisture sensor. An annual application of a soil wetting solution will save water by reducing run off.
Create a dish to keep the mulch clear of the tree and the top of the root ball close to flush with the finished height. The mulch height should be 200mm with a diameter of 1200mm.
Weeding and mulching
Keep Weeds, lawns and other vegetation away from the root zone of your new tree until it is well established. For trees, this means an area of around 1.5 metres diameter should be kept clear for the first 3 years. The mulch should be topped up annually as it slowly decomposes into the soil.
Feeding your new Tree
Native plants generally require very little fertiliser, so be careful when applying and always use low phosphorus fertilisers. Products like Neutrog Seamungus combine the trace elements of seaweed with the nitrogen of chook manure to get your plants off to a good start. Neutrog “Bush Tucker” has been developed specifically for Australian Native plants and is ideal for even the most phosphorus sensitive proteas, banksias or grevillias. As well as harming native trees, excess phosphorus will inhibit mycorrhizal fungi essential for root development with your new tree. Phosphorus run off into streams and waterways can also be a problem.
Exotic trees will require a little bit more feeding for the low phosphorus Melbourne soils. Also add a small amount of slow release fertiliser to the hole.
Even if your tree is an Australian Native, don’t be afraid of giving it a regular prune or trim to get it into the shape you want. This should be done both early and regularly. After a year or two it the tree should be strong enough to stay upright without the stakes. This is the reason why the young trees should not be staked too tightly. Always use a clean and sharp pruning saw to avoid spreading plant diseases.
The trees selected for your Melbourne garden should be reasonably drought tolerant, non invasive and easy to maintain. Consideration should be given to the full extent of the leaf canopy and the root zone when the plant is fully grown. In particular, the plants chosen need to have resistance to the weather conditions and the fungal diseases that go along with it. A visit to your local botanical gardens is a good way to select plants for your home garden and also pick up some landscaping ideas. Some councils Council have also published a guides to saving water. Some of the trees listed in the guide include Kurrajong, (Brachychiton populneus), Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), Screw Pine (Pandanus Tectorius), Coastal Banksia (Banksia integrifolia), Tuckeroo (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) , Tulipwood (Harpullia pendula), Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) Blue Lilly Pilly (Syzygium oleosum)
Lagerstroemia indica has purple, pink or white crinkly flowers that appear like crape (or crepe). It is a deciduous tree but it can be grown as a large shrub. The long dark leaves are bronze when the tree is growing rapidly.
Lagerstroemia Indica is a tree or shrub native to China and Korea. Striking conical panicles around 200mm long. Ideal for small gardens and Mediterranean gardens.
Blue Lilly Pilly (Syzygium oleosum) has stunning purple or blue berries contrasting with the rich dark green foliage. The colourful berries can be eaten.
Corymbia ficifolia or red flowering gum is native to southern Western Australia.
Many of us love the look and the bird attracting ability of the Western Australian Flowering Gum. (Corymbia ficifolia) (Previously know as Eucalyptus ficifolia). In the past the problem has been its ability to withstand the humidity of the Gold Coast. The good news is that horticulturalist Stan Henry has developed a hybrid variety suitable for the humid conditions of South East Queensland. The hybrids, which combine Corymbia ficifolia, the red flowering gum from south-west Western Australia with the swamp bloodwood, Corymbia ptychocarpa from northern Australia are know as the Summer series – ‘Summer Red’, ‘Summer Beauty’ and ‘Summer Snow’. Look for these in your local plant nursery.