Monday, November 4, 2013

Open Gardens at Parkdale

We hope you had a chance to pop down to Parkdale last weekend when 'Aussie Oasis' was open to explore as part of Open Gardens Australia. If you missed out, here's a small recap of how the weekend went!

While Saturday was quite grey and the drizzle seemed determined to spoil things, Sunday was almost magically sunny, providing the perfect atmosphere for all the families that dropped by to wander around and immerse themselves in the garden.

Parkdale's environment allowed for visitors to reconnect with nature on a sensory level from the moment they entered the property. Through the front gates, visitors were taken on a visual journey as their eyes followed the winding paths through the rows of fruit trees and rich coloured planting.

Children running along the winding paths, their hands outstretched, encountered the many contrasting textures of large rippled rocks and the soft leaves of overhanging foliage.

The rich fragrances of flowers, citrus and home grown mulch created a pleasant aroma while the soft sounds of leaves moving in the wind, the calls of local birds, and the constant splashing of water over rocks allowed the visitor to relax and enjoy the natural environment. 

There were many comments on the child friendly atmosphere of the landscape that encouraged young minds to explore. A fascination with the water had many children captivated as they dipped their fingers in the billabong and searched for the tadpoles that have just made a home in the depths of the water!

Parkdale is the perfect example of how PJL creates inspiring spaces that evolve, and educate your family for years to come. There are so many areas that allow children to learn about their natural world, from wildlife appreciation, being safe around water bodies and learning the importance of sustainability from a young age. 

 For more photos from the day, visit us on our Facebook page!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lubra Bend Open To The Public

Escape to the Yarra Valley with us and explore the beauty of Lubra Bend as it opens to the public in November!

The Crucible
Rich in history, this 300+ acre estate is owned by Mrs. Rosemary Simpson, who approached us in 2006, having been captivated by the sustainable principals of Phillip Johnson Landscapes. Mrs. Simpson was one of the first clients of PJL to support our ethos wholeheartedly, embracing our methods of water capture, winding permeable paths and native planting in a time when many garden owners were still favouring traditional boxed hedges, exotic flora and straight conservative lines.

Visitors to the property will be amazed as they wander down the gravel driveway, winding their way around the round-about-rock, a 30 ton feature boulder at the entrance and arriving directly to the top pond. The surface of the water is covered in lily pads and other protruding plants, which ripple and sway with the movement of the water as it cascades over the stunning waterfall above.

Another large feature rock 'The Crucible' is situated below this area, its naturally formed curves and dips allowing it to form the perfect birdbath following heavy rainfall. The property is populated with many of these stunning rocks to showcase nature’s sculptural brilliance.

The draw card of the property lies in the lower section, where a large body of water has been constructed in the space of a previously disused tennis court. Storm water is captured here with the overflow being slowly directed back to the Yarra River, which borders the property. Using these integrated water management systems, mean that Lubra Bend requires no mains water to sustain the vast network of gardens and billabongs throughout the property!

Phillip Johnson will be taking two tour groups around the property at 11am and 1pm, explaining our design principals and the evolution of the property throughout the stages of design. Arrive early to ensure you don’t miss out on learning the secrets behind this beautiful Australian landscape!

Where: 135 Simpsons Lane, Yarra Glen
 Melway 275 G2

When:   Sunday 17th November

Hours:  10am-4pm

Entry: $20

Visit our website for more photos of this beautiful landscape.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

National Water Week

Creating a Soak or Frog Bog
By Claudia Green
A Frog from Phillip's garden in Olinda!
You may not be able to fit one of our amazing billabongs into your property, but there are other options for attracting wildlife to your garden and for harnessing some of all that rainfall!

A soak is a simple depression in the ground that captures water runoff from hard surfaces and allows it to slowly infiltrate the soil. When planted up with suitable plants, a soak provides a haven for wildlife, replenishes soil water and reduces runoff.

To build a soak it is best to pick a spot in your garden that is already a natural low point and where it can capture water running off from hard surfaces. Next time it rains, watch where water pools in the garden and where it runs off rapidly and potentially causes problems, such as puddles directly outside the door, water running under the house or eroding you driveway.  If there is a spot where water pools naturally and it is convenient, then locating the soak here will save you a lot of hassle. Ideally, locate it where it will help capture some runoff from paths, roads or roofs (although a down pipe might deliver more water than the soak can handle during heavy rain). 

Dig down about 50cm in the centre and create some gently graded “beach” areas around the banks. The soak should ideally be at least 1m in diameter but you can turn it into a more interesting shape. Make sure it is wide enough that you have enough space to place some larger rocks around the edge and even one or two in the middle. 

Once you have dug your hole you can line it with geofabric to reduce weed growth and help keep the subsoil from muddying up the soak. However, this is not essential, as the base of the soak will have pebbles, rocks and plants in it anyway. If you have very sandy soil you may wish to use geofabric or another permeable liner or even line the base with clay in order to keep the water in the soak a little longer.

Now you might want to include some larger rocks around your soak. These rocks will help protect the banks against erosion, provide shelter for lizards, frogs and insects and are visually appealing. Use a range of sizes and shapes based on your budget and capacity to carry and place them on site and remember that very large rocks around a small soak will look out of proportion.

You can also use rocks and pebble in the base to create dry creek beds at the points where water actively flows into the soak. Again this will prevent erosion and will filter mud and other debris out of the runoff water before it enters the soak.

Finally, plant up your soak with suitable plants that filter the water and provide shade, shelter and food for wildlife. These plants will need to be able to cope with both wet feet AND drying out. The following list is some of our best performers for these types of environments. For more plant ideas visit your local community nursery.

Strappy leaved plants: Great for filtering runoff and preventing erosion due to their fibrous root systems.

-       Dianella species

-       Lomandra species esp. L. longifolia and L. confertifolia

-       Poa labillardieri

-       Meeboldina scariosa


-       Dichondra repens

-       Viola hedraceae (plant in the shade)

-       Pratia pedunculata


-       Callistemon species – check with your nursery as they come in many different sizes and various flower colours

-       Banksia robur

-       Viminaria juncaea


-       Tristianopsis laurina

-       Acacia cognata

-       Waterhousia floribunda

Nurture your soak as you would any other part of the garden, watch it grow and watch and listen for the sites and sounds of the wildlife that will soon call your soak “home”.

It is amazing how frogs will simply appear when there is a suitable water source. Even though your soak will most likely dry out during summer, simply providing a temporary body of water still gives frogs and other animals a safe place to breed, feed and find shelter.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

National Water Week

Today is the beginning of National Water Week throughout Australia which runs until the 26th of October!

Dedicated to raising community awareness about current and future water issues, National Water Week seeks to encourage the community to take action to protect our vital water sources. As a landscaping company that seeks to minimise water usage wherever possible, capture all water on site to revitalize vegetation and work with nature, not against it, PJL is a large supporter of this cause. 

For this week, we have enlisted the help of one of our amazing horticulturists, Claudia Green, who will be talking about water usage and how you can create a sustainable water wise garden in you own backyard!

The Problem With Drains
Claudia Green

Did you know that one of the best places to store water is in the soil? Our cities are designed to quickly remove water from hard surfaces and direct it into storm-water drains where it flows into the nearest stream, river or other water body. While this is a very efficient way to get water off our streets there are also significant problems with this “out of sight, out of mind” system. 

Firstly, water falling on hard surfaces cannot soak into the ground. This in turn causes changes in the water table and further damages already disturbed soil. Soil that has no water is effectively dead, as it cannot support the multitude of bacteria, fungi, animals and plants that are an essential part of a living soil system. A dead soil in turn cannot support healthy plant growth which is essential for healthy ecosystems even in the middle of our concrete jungles.

Another problem with our urban water system is that it increases the peak flows in local waterways. It may seem counter-intuitive that more water is bad for a stream, but it is when it occurs suddenly as happens during rainfall events when all that water that runs off hard surfaces suddenly gets dumped in the stream. This sudden increase in water flow causes erosion and stirs up the sediment in the stream causing turbidity (murky or muddy water). The runoff also carries pollutants with it such as rubbish or motor oil washed off the streets. All this causes problems for plants and animals living in the stream system and so has a significant impact on stream and river ecosystems.

Over the next week, keep your eye on our blog, Facebook page Twitter and Pintrest as we investigate some cost effective and simple ways you can help reduce these problems by capturing water falling on your roof or other hard surfaces and using it to replenish soil water, create havens for wildlife, and improve the health of your garden!

Head over to the National Water Week website for more information on what events are taking place and how you can get involved in this amazing, sustainable cause!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Open Gardens Australia Presents "Aussie Oasis" in Parkdale!

We're excited to announce that one of our residential landscapes in Parkdale is opening to the public as a part of Open Gardens Australia

Details included in the flyer below!

Visit our Facebook Page and register your interest via our Event App and come along on the day, to go into the draw to win a free consult.
We hope to see you all there!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Open Gardens In Carnegie

We had a fantastic two days last weekend when Graceburn, Carnegie, opened its gates to the public as part of Open Gardens Australia. Though the weather was slightly daunting on Saturday, it didn't seem to deter the many visitors from stopping by. 

Children were encouraged to explore the garden by locating all the decorative animals placed throughout the landscape by the owners. Their excited laughter provided an energetic atmosphere to the day, as they ran amongst the foliage, examining veggie beds and peering through tree branches. 

Adults chose to take a more serene journey through the garden, the varied plants capturing their interested as they wandered throughout the property. Families stopped to rest on the seats overlooking the billabong, and traded planting advice with one another, while other visitors spent time with Phillip discussing their own projects. 

The open day also supported the Make Do Tell Project, which is run by Artists in Community International and is seeking to teach creative skills to children on the streets of Bhakatapur, Nepal. For more information about Make Do Tell, visit their website and support this wonderful cause!

As one of Phillip's personal favourite gardens designed and constructed by PJL, this Carnegie property is the perfect example of what can be created in a typical suburban backyard. With its focus on sustainable practices, we hope that visitors to the garden were able to build a renewed appreciation and respect for their natural environment as well as the inspiration to turn their own gardens into havens that heal, inspire and energize. 

 For more photos from the day, visit us on our Facebook page!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Open Gardens Australia Presents 'Graceburn' In Carnegie

We're excited to announce that one of our residential landscapes in Carnegie is opening to the public as a part of Open Gardens Australia

Details included in the flyer below!

Visit our Facebook Page and register your interest via our Event App and come along on the day, to go into the draw to win a free consult.
We hope to see you all there!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Save Water This Spring

Today marks the first day of September and the beginning of Spring and we couldn't have asked for a better start to the season! However, as we know, Spring is destined to be a bit of a wet one this year and for most people, all that rain that falls on the roof, simply runs off to the ground or into the sewers. 
If this sunny start to the season is motivating you as much as it us, then why not spend it preparing your garden so that every drop of water that falls into your garden this Spring is collected and used to bring new life to your backyard! 

We've put together a few of our innovative solutions in water capture to help you save water the smart way:

Use multiple types of water storage such as tanks and billabongs. Our trademark billabongs sustain the surrounding environment by harnessing rainfall and providing water for irrigation, fire safety and wildlife.

Use natural creeks/waterways to filter water through your garden before going in to tanks, or out to storm water

 Create permeable pathways so that water can percolate through the surface instead of flowing straight over it and into storm water

Use drought tolerant native plants. They are better suited to our dry environment so require less water while also being attractive, vibrant and low maintenance.

Create smart covered spaces so that when it rains you want to be in the garden, not hiding inside
Taking the time to think about your garden holistically in terms of saving water has many great environmental impacts as well as financial benefits:

Benefits Of Making Your Garden More Water Efficient:
  • Significantly cuts down you house hold water use
  • Reduces water bills dramatically
  • Sustains the environment for years to come
So don't wait for the rain to start falling this Spring! Get out there today and make your garden water wise today or contact us for more information!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Letting Nature Inspire You

Here at PJL we believe that sometimes you just need to stop, take a breather and spend some time being motivated by the beauty our wonderful country has to offer. Last week, our entire team did just that, by taking a day to travel around and reconnect with nature. 

Landscape Desing Inspiration
Part of the PJL Team deep in discussion
We set out bright and early at the Murrindindi Reserve in the north east of Toolangi, where the goal was to observe the environment as it naturally occurs. We took note of all the tiny details that go unnoticed in the whole picture of the landscape, from the small hidden plants growing amongst rocks and logs, to the fallen branches that lie over the rocky falls, and how their random positions alter the course of the water. These small things are the details that inspire us in what we create everyday.

Natural Waterfall
Waterfall at Murrindindi Reserve in Toolangi
Hidden Plants
Hidden Banksia blechnifolia

At Phil's garden in Olinda, the team was encouraged to wander around and take in every aspect of the landscape from the lush green ferns, the winding pathways and the sounds of the frogs in the great billabong at the centre of the space. We observed the trail the water takes as it cascades over the rocks in the waterfalls and the way the water reflects the plants and rocks when the light is in the right place.

Billabong Olinda
Beautiful reflections at Olinda
Arriving at Lubra Bend in Yarra Glen, one of our favourite established gardens, we jumped as a team over the great stepping stones through the top pond, taking in the ways the different plants interact with each other to create a myriad of different colours and habitats for wildlife. Phil spent a great deal of time telling us the story of the property and its amazing details, from the large feature rock at the entrance of the property that acts as a round about for the owner, to the amazing network of creek beds that aid in the properties water management.

Phillip Johnson
Phil inspires the team

Yarra Glen, Lubra Bend
Amazing textures at Lubra Bend
Turning rock at Lubra Bend

From here, we travelled to our recently completed project in Yarra Glen where we could appreciate the way that nature evolves. While Lubra Bend boasted a large range of established plants, this newer project is just beginning to grow and flourish. We cannot wait to see it when the plants have taken over and filled out the landscape!
Vaughn & Ray test out the equipment on site!
 As the group huddled around the billabong at Yarra Glen, we discussed all that we had learned and how the visit had renewed our appreciation and respect for the indigenous wonderlands of our country. Nature has a way of enthralling, inspiring and energising you if you allow yourself to see its true beauty. As it evolves and grows, so too does our understanding of it and we would love to share our passion with you!
The Team at PJL
Contact us to see how we can create an inspiring natural habitat for you in your own backyard.

To see more photos from the day, visit our Facebook page!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Integrated Water Management Using A Rain Garden

When winter comes around we tend to spend a great deal of time inside with a nice hot drink looking out at the frost covered grass, foggy skies and endless rain. While it's not really an inspiring time to be thinking about being out in the garden, there are so many ways you could be using all this rain to your garden's advantage while helping out the environment at the same time!

Our innovative solutions in water capture and conservation mean the majority of our landscapes require no mains water to keep plants healthy and alive throughout the harsh winter. If you are looking for a sustainable way to use rain capture more effectively at your house, why not build a rain garden? This is a simple way to help the environment while also providing a self-watering garden for your backyard.

A rain garden is a specifically prepared garden designed to receive and filter water run off from roofs or hard surfaces such as driveways, roads or paving. A rain garden can be a planter box, positioning it to collect water from a disconnected down pipe or rainwater tank overflow.

The rain garden planter box is made using a bottom layer of gravel and soil, a slotted pipe and a top layer of mulch or gravel. The rain garden works by allowing the water to percolate through these layers, slowing down the waters entry into storm water and reducing storm water capacity in addition to filtering the water from harsh pollutants and preventing these from entering our waterways.

Once your rain garden is established with plants (we prefer natives like Anigozanthos sp.- Kangaroo Paw), it will remain low maintenance as it will not require you to water or fertilise it in order for it to grow!

So what are you waiting for this winter? Don't let all that rainwater go to waste! Build your rain garden now and help improve our precious waterways!

If you have questions about building a rain garden, contact our office or visit for more information on water wise solutions!

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Victorian Government’s Office of Living Victoria Commends Chelsea Flower Show winners

Yesterday, the Trailfinder’s Australian Garden team were commended at Parliament House for their ‘Best In Show’ success at the Chelsea Flower Show in May.

The Victorian Government was one of the gardens leading supporters, providing $350,000 to help make the design a reality. The Minister for Water, The Hon. Peter Walsh, hosted the official reception congratulating the team and all their supporters on an amazing success.

‘There are lessons that Victoria can take from this award-winning garden. We need to be much more sophisticated in the harvest and use of all available water supplies if we want to ensure Victoria has liveable, sustainable and productive communities into the future.’ Mr Walsh said

‘Just like the Trailfinder’s Australian Garden, we need to be harnessing the water that runs off the city – more water runs off Melbourne rooftops and streets every year into the bay than the city’s population draws from the Melbourne Water supply system.’

Mr Walsh commented that not only had the Trailfinder’s Australian Garden showcased Victoria’s horticultural & landscaping skills, it also boosted the profile of our states water cycle management on a world stage.

Contact us for more info on how we create a space at your property with water capture and conservation at its core!

Monday, May 27, 2013

RHS Chelsea Show - it's time to head home!

After such an exciting week, it's an emotional time as Phil and the team prepare to deconstruct the award-winning garden and head home.

Better Homes & Gardens visits RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Better Homes & Gardens and special guest, Kim Wilde, were taken on a tour through our winning RHS Chelsea Garden by Phil, Wes and the team.

Click here to watch the episode.

Phillip Johnson interview with Gardening with Angus

Australian native plant guru, Angus Stewart, caught up with Phil at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on the weekend. Click here to listen to the interview.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Timelapse of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show build

Watch this fantastic timelapse video of the build at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
The finished garden took a total of 17 days and 2,500 man-hours to build!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Phillip Johnson and Wes Fleming interviewed on Lateline

Phil and Wes Fleming were interviewed by reporter Mary Gearin on Lateline. Click here to watch the clip.

Fantastic media coverage on RHS Chelsea win

Amidst the celebrations, Phillip Johnson and Wes Fleming have given numerous interviews in the past 24 hours. If you would like to view some of the articles, take a look at our Pinterest board here.

Phillip Johnson and Wes Fleming on Sunrise

David Koch and Melissa Boyle spoke with Phil and Wes about their historical win at RHS Chelsea Flower Show on Sunrise this morning. You can watch the full clip here.

Phillip Johnson and Wes Fleming on The Project

An incredibly happy Phil and Wes spoke with Carrie Bickmore on The Project last night. View the full clip here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Phillip Johnson design for Fleming’s Nurseries wins ‘Best in Show’ at Chelsea 2013

The Phillip Johnson team has made history with their design for the Trailfinders Australian Garden presented by Fleming’s, being awarded with a ‘Best in Show’ medal overnight at Chelsea - a feat never before achieved by an Australian team in their nine years of taking part.

Winning ‘Best in Show’ at Chelsea represents something of a career zenith for Phillip and his outstanding team. 

‘Being involved in Chelsea was a dream come true for myself and my team. Winning an award amongst contemporaries of this calibre is absolutely mind-blowing. We couldn’t be more proud of what we have achieved, it’s been an incredible experience,’ exclaimed Johnson.

‘We came here with a very ambitious vision – to showcase Australia, our horticultural industry and to educate the world on the possibilities of sustainable landscape design. This presented challenges from the other side of the world, but we knew we only had one chance to make the impact necessary to educate, and that’s what we have done.’

The ninth and final entry for Chelsea Flower Show stalwarts, Fleming’s Nurseries, the Trailfinders Australian Garden presented by Fleming’s was not only awarded with a prestigious Gold Medal but also with the ‘Best in Show’ honour, which has eluded the team for so many years.

The finished design took a total of 17 days and over 2,500 man-hours to build, transforming what once resembled a bare soccer pitch into a sustainable garden retreat.

Phillip Johnson and the team to star in new TV Special on Foxtel!

The TV crew have followed the daily progress of the build.

We are very excited to announce a two part TV special, featuring Phillip Johnson and his team building the Trailfinders Australian Garden – presented by Flemings, at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  The shows will be aired later this year on Foxtel’s Lifestyle channel.

Two one-hour long specials, presented by Lifestyle’s Charlie Albone, will document the build of what is the biggest and most ambitious design ever created in this prestigious event’s 100 year history. A production crew has been shadowing our team at Chelsea to capture all the action - the lead up to the show, the build of the garden on-site, culminating in the finished product and the opening of the world famous event.  

More details about the TV show will be released in due course, keep an eye on the website for all the details as we get them.