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Renewing a section of the garden

By Chris Larkin, Vic

A garden critique

Many of us have established native gardens. But there comes a time when renewing a section of the garden becomes essential. Here is my critique of how my renewal process has progressed.

Background to the renewal project

Around twelve months ago, I decided to remove an old, woody, very large (1.5m high x 4m wide) grevillea and a couple of adjacent plants. It had been so long ago since the grevillea was planted that I was unsure of what would be revealed after it was removed.  Would I find the severe slope did not have enough rock work to hold soil and mulch, provide planting pockets and stop water being shed too quickly?  Well, the answer was ‘yes’. I would definitely need to add in some hard landscape elements.

Site location and conditions

The garden is south-east of Melbourne on the edge of the Lysterfield Hills. It is north facing, on a steep slope, with little shade and clay soil.  the area is 7m x 5m which is a small section of a much larger garden bed running along the slope between a driveway and path.

What about the hard landscape elements?

I installed several red gum sleepers. I used 4 x 900mm and 1 x 1200mm – and some additional rocks to hold the soil and mulch as well as help slow down water run-off and create some useful planting pockets.  Luckily the changes fitted visually with an existing sleeper retaining wall while merely adding a bit more to the rock work.

What did I want to achieve with the renewal?

Firstly, I wanted to see over this section of the garden to the garden and view beyond.  This meant choosing ground covering plants high on the slope and low shrubs in the planting pockets or where they could take advantage of a cool root run. 

Any bulkier plants have been planted off to the side. In other words to ensure I had a through view.  The ground covering plants cascade down the slope and in time will act as a living mulch, while the few strategically placed small shrubs add interest and give depth to the design.  The sleeper retaining walls will be softened by the plants or even disappear from view.

Secondly, I wanted to scale down the plants I used so there would be more visual interest than previously.  There are more than fifteen plants in the same area now.

renewing a section of the garden
The garden after 12 months, image Chris Larkin

Thirdly, I needed this piece of garden to connect with the gardens on either side. This meant repeating a few plants in the existing garden so in time there would be a visual flow across this whole garden section.


The garden is coming along nicely.  There is plenty of colour and interest but the complete, mature picture is a few years off yet.  In the meantime, I have tackled several other areas of the garden so far this year.  A gardener’s work is never done.