Overgrown Garden

Karla and Bruce's garden was so large and out-of-control that they had no idea where to start. The couple and their two-year-old son Bodhi moved into their weatherboard cottage about six months ago, and inherited a garden that had been neglected for 20 years. Bruce and Karla wanted an area for entertaining their friends and a place where Bodhi could play safely.

The garden was completely overgrown, with far too many trees for the space.The loveliest plant in the garden, the eucalypt, was being choked by a bougainvillea, and other noxious plants needed to come out.

The backyard had been divided into two by a garden shed and an internal fence, making the two ends feel disconnected. The perimeter fence was in very poor shape and needed to be replaced.

Brendan's plan of attack was to focus on the area closet to the house and make it into a 'grown up' entertaining zone using large concrete pavers. To keep the tropical feel of the garden, Brendan intended to use bamboo and Natureed cladding to hide the old fence. The idea was to create a starting block for Karla and Bruce to add onto in the future.

Karla sought and received permission from her local council to remove two cocos palms (only the plants over five metres high needed permission to be pulled down) and one brush box tree. Bruce spoke to the neighbours to let them know what was happening.

The first huge task was to clear the area. Skip loads of rubbish were taken away and the out door furniture, clothes line and play equipment were removed. The small brick pavers were dug out and the fence in the middle of the garden was pulled down, which immediately opened up the space.

An arborist was called in to cut down and remove several cocos palms, a brush box tree, the bougainvillea and ivy, all of which where out-of-control. This huge two-day job cost around $3000.

Things to consider:

  • Before starting a project, check with your local council to see what rules apply to your job
  • When choosing an Arborist, try to get a personal recommendation from a friend, or ask your council for some suggestions
  • Be considerate and let all of your neighbours know if you are intending to do any major work – especially if you will be using noisy equipment. Obviously, any fences that are on both properties need the agreement of both parties before changing.

Road-base gravel was laid as a footing for the paved area, which was to cover a path from the house and the area for the outdoor furniture. Lots of measuring, flattening and moving was need to get the surface ready for the pavers. Large concrete pavers were laid for the path and a geometric shape was used in the entertainment area. A brickie's trowel was used to compact the concrete against the side of the pavers, taking care not to mound it too high and spoil the look of the paving. A few final touches included blue metal (poor man's pebbles) and some large stones between the pavers to add texture and detail.

The old corrugated fence was painted with a dark colour to help it disappear into the background and act as a great backdrop for the plants.

Bamboo screens were erected in curves to contain and envelope the space. They not only helped to hide the old fence, but the colour and natural texture of the bamboo screens created a serene, calming atmosphere.

The planting scheme was kept very simple and incorporated the existing palm trees. James Stirling shrubs were chosen as a good low-key screening and hedging plant. Liriope were planted to provide some bulk and Cordylines and the Bromeliads added flashes of colour. The new plants were then treated to a large helping of mulch, and turf was laid on the ground around the pavers.

For some colour and lighting, chains were hung between the trees and lanterns in pink/purple and white were hung from them. More lamps, candles and even mozzie coils were placed throughout the space.

The garden was completed when Brendan chose a petal-shaped table designed in the 1960s, and pod seats in red and pink for some extra splashes of colour.

Things to consider:

  • Before you give your garden a makeover, you need to undo it first. You need to strip it back to reveal a blank canvas where you can begin to create your magic
  • Pavers are quick and simple to lay and provide a visual impact. They also make the space look larger and cleaner
  • Planting the showier plants in pots means they can be easily moved around or replaced

Equipment and Suppliers:


Spirit Level
Ph: (02) 8399 0660
Mob: 0411 205 952
194 Devonshire Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010

Kennards Hire

Aussie Skips
Ph: (02) 9712 5356

Andreasens Green
Lot 4 Elizabeth Drive
Kemps Creek NSW 2171
Ph: (02) 9826 1911

Doug Greentree's Tree and Stump Removal
Mob: 0409 909 174

3 Withers Road
Kellyville NSW 2155
Ph: (02) 9629 4444

Australian Native Landscapes

Bexley Caringbah Sand Supply
42 Parraweena Road
Caringbah NSW 2229
Ph: (02) 8536 6266

Specialist Mini Digger Services
Ph: 0414 353 048

House of Bamboo
13 Erith Street
Botany NSW 2019
Ph: (02) 9666 5703

Garden Life and Apartment Garden Living
373 Liverpool Street
Darlinghurst NSW
Ph: (02) 9332 1199

4 Foster Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: (02) 9281 1771

Korban and Flaubert
8/8-10 Burrows Road
Alexandria NSW 2044
Ph: (02) 9557 6136

Stacks of Wax
239 Australia Street
Newtown NSW 2042
Ph: (02) 9557 0306

Dinosaur Designs
585 Elizabeth Street
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012
Ph: (02) 9698 3500

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