Constructing a Rain Garden

Water in the garden can be a blessing and a curse. While it’s great for plants, when it gets under houses it’s not so helpful. When we took on this job on a sloped property in Geelong one of the first issues identified was the water coming down the hill and under the house. One option would have been to put in a perforated agricultural drain pipe (agi-pipe) and divert the water into the storm water network. With the clients blessing we chose to make a feature rain garden in front garden. Rain gardens help treat and slow the flow of water before it gets into storm water systems and local water ways. Installing a rain garden also enabled the water to be accessible to the new tree planting in the front garden.


Rain Garden 21


The site before we started work

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We called in the big equipment to dig out the base of the rain garden




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The depth of the trench gradually reached 600mm (2ft) at its deepest point.Rain Garden 18


The rain garden is fed by water collected in underground agi pipes across the back and down the side of the residence.
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The trenches for the pipe were filled in with scoria

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This image shows the agi-pipes at work. The water makes it’s way down the hill and into the trench before being redirected into the rain garden at the front of the property.

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Once covered in toppings and garden beds the drainage system is invisible.
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The agi-pipe is flexible enough to curve around the front of the house

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The drainage trench meets up with the main rain garden

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The base of the rain garden is filled with a deep layer of large scoria stones which water filters through easily

Rain Garden 12The scoria is then covered with a layer of fine screenings which prevent the later soil layer mixing with and clogging up the scoria

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A layer of half sand half loam is then added as a growing medium for planting 

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You can use many types of mulch for a rain garden, in this case we were going for a stylised dry river bed and chose washed river stones.

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Rain Garden 1

We installed a bridge to enable access to the other side of the garden and not disturb the workings of the rain gardenRain Garden 3

The rain garden was then planted out with native grasses that are tolerant of both drought and inundation.

Rain Garden 2Then we added some sculpture because that’s just fun.


If you want any more information of rain gardens or other ways to use water better in the garden contact us here or via the form below.

Top ten great things about winter in your garden

1. Winter gives you a break. Most plants and grass grow slower or are dormant in winter dropping the time needed to maintain your garden.
2. Bare rooted fruit trees and roses. You can get so many fruit trees and roses during winter that are nearly half the price of rest of the year. While these plants are dormant they can be sold without pots so they’re cheaper for nurseries and cheaper for you.
3. No need to water. Thanks to all the rain the garden hose can sit quietly in the corner and your water bills can take a break. If you are organised enough to have a watertank it should be getting pretty full too.
4. Lots of light during the day (when the sun is out anyway). As all the deciduous trees have shed their leaves for the winter lots more of the suns rays can make it into your garden. So whenever the sun does come out you can soak up the rays and get that hit of fresh air after being cooped up inside.
5. Time to plan. Winter is a great time to begin planning any garden renovations you have in mind. While the weather is cold and the days are short for big construction jobs outside you can get into the books or onto the web to scour for ideas to make your outdoor space unique. Now is also a great time to speak to a expert and get some advice to get your project underway before everyone else is getting out the drawing board in a few months.
6. Winter flowers. While lots of plants are taking a rest many are in show off mode in winter. Plants like Hardenbergias, Lavender, Magnolias, Daffodils, Daphne and many eucalypts look amazing at this time of year adding some colour to the grey days.
7. Snowscapes. If you happen to live in a colder area snow can transform a garden into a magical place. The soft layering of white we get in Australia can has a stunning effect on the landacape. Without the huge snow drifts of many parts of the world, our snow landscapes are often more accessible.
8. Winter vegetables. Broccoli, leeks, carrots and spinach all grow in the colder months, making for some tasty winter dinners.
9. Mud. When winter rain meets dusty ground we get mud.  Lovely, lovely mud. One of life’s great joys is watching the kids (and big kids) get out and about in gumboots and jump about making a huge mess. Pepper pig eat your heart out.
10. Contrast. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Sitting on some warm grass or sipping a cold drink on your deck on a long summer evening can seem a million miles away from icy windscreens and inside out umbrellas of July. But getting out into some spring sunshine with birds singing and fruit trees blossoming can be really uplifting and is just that much better after being stuck inside on cold wet days for a couple weeks.



If you would like some more information about what you can make the most of winter in the garden or to get your spring garden plan underway feel free to contact us below.


The many joys of fruit trees

Last year I was lucky enough to secure a property with a good size garden with a wonderful selection of well-established fruit trees. Having lived here for almost a year I have had a chance to enjoy each of the different fruit as they have come into season.


The last owners maintained a veritable orchard and market garden in the back garden. My garden has oranges, lemons, olives, nectarines, peaches, figs, apricots and two varieties of apples and pears. Most needed a good prune when we arrived as they had become overgrown.

I decided not to spray the fruit trees or provide any extra fertilisers for the trees and they have produced bags of fruit. Much of the produce I have had to share with the local bats, birds and assorted bugs. The birds and bats were however a great guide to the readiness of the fruit on the tree, very handy to novice fruit growers like myself.


I have had to become a master of preserving fruit, making jam and curing olives, to keep up with the supply.  My favourites so far have been the peach jam and the pear butter. The peaches have been our success story, with many servings of apple pear or peach crumble, jars of preserved peach sections and the wonderful peach jam. My attempts at curing the olives did not go so well. I started with a huge pile of olives, several buckets in fact, but only ended up with enough properly cured to fill one jar. After some trial and error, I found dry curing with rock salt worked the best.


Another benefit has been the ability to share the produce from our garden with our neighbours, family and friends. Handing over a bag of fresh organic fruit is a great way to meet and make friends. It seems every visitor I have had in the last 2-3 months has gone home with a small bag of fruit or a pot of jam or marmalade. Excess fruit has also been handed over to volunteers for the school fete to make into jams and preserves for sale.


Throughout summer the fruit trees also provide spring blossoms, a great deal of shade in summer, and as they are deciduous, allow the light in during winter. Having a fruit tree is a little like magic, if you have an empty fruit bowl in the kitchen, you can just walk out to the garden and return with an armful of delicious apples or peaches. What could be better.


If you think garden and your fruit bowl could benefit from some fruit trees  and would like some help getting started contact us via the link below.

Children’s gardens

Children’s gardens and spaces for natural play are invaluable. A lot of research and design work goes into creating children’s gardens – two great examples being the Ian Potter Children’s Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and the play space in Geelong’s Eastern Park.

But these spaces are composed of carefully designed elements, whereas this blog is about how kids can make their own play spaces using garden areas, which is arguably more valuable than a formally designed space.

The best example would be to show how kids play in bush areas, but this is challenging in a predominantly urban environment. The example used here is an excellent children’s playground, found at All Nations Park in Northcote in Melbourne’s inner north. The park itself was built over old landfill and features a number of different areas and functions, but the emphasis here is on the planting that surrounds the lower playground, and how the local kids have turned it into an adventure park with tunnels, forts and a myriad of tracks.


There are two main planted areas around the playground – an embankment that slopes to a lower area (seen above) and a forest of Casuarinas (native She-Oak) that leads into the playground and barbeque area from the southern side of the park.

This simple, mass planting of the Casuarinas has created a shady forest strip that is not only a space to play and run through, but is also a place for forts, camping areas, whatever the imagination of a child can conjure up from an outline of rocks.

Cas&Playground[Above – the ‘junior’ section of the playground, with the forest behind. Whatever these rocks represent, they will be in a different form in a day or two.]

It also makes an excellent place for playing tiggy, hide and seek and any number of brand-themed variation of the two.


However this in many ways is large-scale thinking. Whilst a marvellous place, it’s not something that is easy to replicate in a run-of-the-mill backyard. The other spaces here have another story to tell, one that may be entirely accidental from a design perspective but is no less significant.


Surrounding the lower area is a collection of native trees & shrubs and a few grasses, and it is the stubborn hardiness of these shrubs that provides spaces for adventure and general old-school children’s mischief.

Littered throughout this space are paths and tunnels, formed over time as kids found spaces to crawl through, fenced areas off with rocks and developed an entirely new play space in a secret world underneath the bushes.


This is a playspace that is away from the adults at the barbeque tables nearby. Down here, the kids rule. They invent places, argue and negotiate rules to games that change every 30 seconds, hurtle through the bush at terrifying speeds for no reason other that it’s fun, and they exist in a world that they’ve invented without anyone telling them how or what or where.


There is endless research undertaken about the significance of kids getting outside and experiencing the natural environment (see here for an American site with further information on children and nature play, or here for a report by  the Victorian Department of Education). The best example you can get though is from watching the way behaviour changes in natural environments – kids are more free with expressing themselves, with sharing their ideas and socialising with kids of different ages groups and backgrounds.

This is on top of research that indicates adults also benefit from natural spaces. Or see here for an article about the benefits of gardening when rehabilitation prisoners after many years behind bars. Outdoor spaces present limitless possibilities, and are increasingly attributed to better health, both physically and psychologically.


These experiences and this sort of play area can be achieved in a backyard of reasonable size – even careful planting in a smaller space can provide ample opportunity for play. It boils down to choosing the right plants, shaping the ground effectively and an acceptance that, in some spaces, the garden will never be manicured. This example here is large-scale and could provide for 20 to 30 kids when under pressure. A child can turn just a few square metres into something evolving, imaginative and unique if given the chance.


This space is a highly active space. I’ve seen kids here in the super-heat and in the rain, both summer and winter. There’s been occasions when the playground is deserted, and the bushes are alive with squeals and thumping feet. Whether it was intentionally designed in this way, or it evolved over time as kids began exploring, it is spaces like these that can teach us a lot about our own gardens, and the significance of natural spaces and natural play in a child’s life.


If you’d like to develop a garden playspace for children, or are just after some more information, feel free to contact us below.