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!