Thursday, June 17, 2010

Front Garden Makeover

Following the disastrous Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in February 2009, I have become even more aware of the fact that we live less than a kilometre from the ranges which are covered in eucalypts. And even worse, the ranges are to our north, so a hot northerly wind would bring any bushfire to our doorstep in a very short space of time. With this in mind I took a good hard look at the garden on the northern side of the house. The two beds against the house were breaking all the rules about the type of vegetation that should be that close to a house. So I decided that a complete makeover was in order.

I started with the smaller bed outside our bedroom window. First to go was a beautiful juniper called 'Skyrocket' that had grown so well it was touching the eaves. Did I mention that our house is clad in western red cedar? It had to go. I was then able to repaint that wall before the garden reno began in earnest. Succulents were the order of the day and my burgeoning collection of aeoniums finally found a home. The bed was mulched with 12mm gravel locally called Tuscan screenings. That was 12 months ago and the bed has done extremely well - much better than I expected. So over the last two weeks I have renovated the larger bed.

This was a bigger job and involved removing quite a lot of plants that were unsuitable (flammable or past their prime). This time I decided to lay some newspaper down before spreading the gravel. The reason is that this bed has a much worse weed problem and I know the soil is holding a considerable seed bank. After the gravel was spread I was able to poke holes through the gravel and paper and insert cuttings of Cotyledon orbiculata (the wavy leaf form), aeoniums and some dudleyas. Once the dust had been washed from the gravel by the rain the true colour of it shone through - cream and tan shades that look great. I expect the paper will last at least 6 months which is the worst weed period here and then we'll see what happens. Maintenance involves picking up debris regularly so it doesn't accumulate in depressions and corners where an ember may alight. I know with a wooden house these precautions may be a waste of time, but I feel better for having done something.

This bed now contains as its main features a furcraea, a ponytail palm (beaucarnea), contorted filbert (corylus), Pseudopanax ferox, Ruscus hypoglossum, Cotyledon macrantha and Dietes grandiflora. Eventually the silver-grey Cotyledon orbiculata will be a dominant feature as it weaves its way like a silver river through the bed.




  1. Mmmmm do you realise how big those jolly Furcraea's grow?? I also have found them to become quite unstable once they 'trunk' up and will fall over..they will crush your house!!!
    SORRY..I have had 2-3 of em do this and the weight of the cut up sections of the trunk are like lead!

  2. A Yucca would be more appropriate ..Mmmm Y. recurva (if thats the correct spelling) I can post you a couple if you foot the postage!!

  3. I think very good choice /arrangement of plants, something to learn from it.

  4. Thanks for your comments Ding Bat but I want to observe the furcraea as it grows. I'm growing one because I was so impressed with the ones in your garden! When they form a trunk they remind me of the El Alamein fountain in Kings Cross! I know I might have a monster on my hands in the future (I have seen one in full flower) but I'll take the chance.
    Thanks Boyzo for your comments too.

  5. Ha..against my better judgement I passed on some 'gardening' are the last leave this sort of on the ground stuff to the ABC's Gardening Australia!!