5 August 2013

My Home: Adding Curb Appeal with a New Front Garden

Ever been on holiday and wanted to create that resort style at your home? Well that's me and what I tried to achieve with my garden!! After holidaying in warm tropical places like Port Douglas and Bali, I wanted to create a tropical garden and my own piece of paradise right in my front yard. If I can't be on holiday all the time, well why not bring a little bit of 'holiday' to my front yard, so it feels like a holiday every day of the year?!

My Port Douglas inspiration

I thought I would share my front yard  transformation with you. When purchasing my new home, the garden and yard was not too exciting. There were a few things that I was not too thrilled about:
  • Being a corner block, we had little privacy and had people always wandering through our front yard (which is massive and where the majority of our land is!)
  • A small fenced backyard, that is probably the size of a decent courtyard. With an energetic border collie, we had to do some serious fencing on the block to satisfy his energy levels pronto!
  • There were random shrubs and trees in awkward places and lots of them
  • Add to the mix a couple of gum trees with roots that were getting kinda large and intrusive and limbs that were shading the grass and any potential garden
  • There was also rocks, bricks, pavers, rock retaining walls and tin sheds in the mix just to make it a little more challenging!!

A before photo - rock walls, gum trees, retaining walls and a tin shed!

A before photo once the work had started

Now the fun had begun. Boys & their toys!

Prepping for the fence foundations

Levelling out the existing retaining walls and ground

You can see why the neighbours loved us!! :P

Laying the buffalo turf

It didn't take long for us to get stuck into it. We were so keen to change the homes street appeal and it had to start with the garden. We started with some tree lopping and removing all the shrubs to get a blank canvas to work with. We cut the gum trees down before they could grow any bigger, removed the random tin shed on our front lawn and began the task of digging up bricks which had tree roots attached. I think this is about when my teeny tiny arm muscles began to grow :P

I am a keen recycler and lover of the website Gumtree to sell or get rid of unwanted things. We were lucky enough to have a neighbour who wanted all of our rocks from our retaining wall and someone off Gumtree who wanted our tin shed. Not only would these have been costly to take to the tip, but now someone else can benefit from them, which I love. We then had what felt like endless skip bins on our driveway (I think there was 3 in total!) and piles of green waste on our front lawn. I felt like 'that house', the one where the neighbours drive past on their way to work and think 'wow what a mess to look at, glad they aren't our neighbours'! It was actually a talking point to introduce myself to our new neighbours, by apologising for the demolition noise and eyesore they had to look at!

We then built our 6 foot timber fence and eclectic gate - which for me changed the whole house and feel. We now had privacy, room for Coopar my dog to play and determination to make our little fenced house a homely inside our border.

After the fence building and demolition came the ground levelling, this was the hard labour. We must have had 4 tonnes of soil and sand delivered to try and level out sections of our sloping block so we could turf it and create some garden beds. Once again, I think my arm muscles grew at this stage. Then my favourite bit began - plant and turf shopping! When it comes to plant shopping, do your research and shop around. My favourite time of the day is my early morning walks with Coopar, it means we get to wander the neighbourhood and admire neighbours gardens, plant choices and see what grows in the area and what doesn't.

When it comes to purchasing plants, I recommend finding a wholesale nursery in your area. Often they wont have a fancy website, or even show up on Google, but they are well worth a visit. I found two great nursery's in my local area on the Southern Gold Coast who grow their own plants, don't package them in fancy containers with lovely swing tags and therefore don't charge ridiculous prices. From Plant Mart I purchased the plants I needed in quantity and bargained with them on the prices. It really does help to buy direct from the grower! They also give great advice on planting and caring for your new purchases. I also went to a retail nursery Boyd's Garden World who had amazing quality plants you just couldn't pass up, here I purchased a few statement plants. All of my plants I purchased at Boyd's have tripled in size and are the picture of health. I also took cuttings from family and friends gardens, which is not only free, but a great way to build your variety of plants. All of the agaves in my garden were taken from my Mother's garden, as her agaves continuously sprout babies - saving me some serious dollars!  Before we planted our gardens however, we laid our turf. We chose a quality Buffalo turf, as its known for its durability and toughness in Australia summer and is great at keeping weeds out due to its thick roots. We purchased from Jimboomba Turf as I think their quality and product is fantastic.

We chose the hottest summer day to lay the turf - the middle of January on a 37+ degrees day. We waited all morning for the turf to be delivered and finally at lunch time it arrived on the back of a truck...in the hottest part of the day. The heat wasn't going to stop us or slow us down, as after two months of dirt as a front lawn, we were so keen to get some lush green grass underfoot. We laid 140m2 in a few hours and it looked fantastic and luckily survived the heat. The following week was the Australia day long weekend and if you live on the East Coast of Australia you will remember the tail end of Cyclone Oswald hitting the coast that weekend. Well we chose the long weekend to stay at home and garden. We were determined, we were out there in the cyclonic rain planting up a storm (literally!) and the rain was probably the best thing for the plants as they have thrived ever since....You will see what I mean from the photos, most have tripled in size!

I think when planting a garden there are a few key features:

Colour, Texture, Layout & Accessories

It is important to have a variety of colour and texture to add interest in a garden. I have used different shades or purple and green foliage with reds and oranges blooming in my ginger and heleconias. Different textures and shape is also important, I have incorporated spiky agave plants to contrast against smooth foliage and palm frongs. Don't be afraid to experiment with colour and shape, as these key features really distinguish a garden. The layout of the garden is also important, in my front garden bed it was only a narrow space to work with, as I still wanted maximum green lawn. So I layered the plants with the agaves hanging over the retaining wall to break up the wood  retaining wall and create levels in the plants and garden. I also chose two bottle palms to be the key feature, centering them in the garden and planting around them.

The other key feature to a garden is accessorising. Imagine a living room with only a lounge and a TV - boring right? Well your garden would be too if you didn't add your own personal touch. Use statues, seats, flags, lanterns, bunting, signs - what ever your style is to make your garden personalised. In my garden I am currently 'statue sitting' some of my Mother's Indonesian themed statues, they instantly add character and appeal to the garden. A friend also remarked that as soon as we added these statues and the potted plants we are 'pot sitting' our house looked homely and lived in. I took it as a compliment and agree. Try it in your garden, it really does make a difference! When accessorising your garden, you may want to consider some garden lighting. It really is super easy these days with no wiring or electricians needed. I purchased some solar lights from Bunnings for around $20 and placed them to spotlight my bottle palms at night. Such a easy way to add some interest and features to your garden! 

Plants I used in my garden:

Bottle Palms
Negro Cordyline
Golden Cane Palm Tree
Flapper Jack
Purple Fountain Grass

I would love to hear about your gardens and favourite plants and tips! I hope I have provided you with some garden inspiration and ideas...thanks for reading :)

Xx Ashlea


  1. Wow fantastic! I'd love to be able to grow ginger and other spectacular tropical plants. Too cold down here

    1. Yes they do thrive in this climate, but I do a massive prune each spring to bring them back to life as they don't like the winter chill here on the Gold Coast. It's still too cold for these humid loving plants!! x


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