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How We Did Our Landscape Plan….

We had a question about how we did our landscape plan. We didn’t get Wisdom to do it but then we also didn’t have a DRP requirement to submit a specific plan prior to building as we are not in an estate. If we needed a plan I probably wouldn’t have gone through Wisdom but explored other online people such as http://www.onlinegardendesign.com.au/purchase/ as these sites provide 1 year follow up on their designs ( I am not sure Wisdom are so generous with their follow up). As we didn’t have this requirement we could be a little more relaxed about the plan however the man in the house decided this was his project and spent many hours researching everything from council requirements for retaining walls, through to easement requirements, plant types, shadows etc. We also developed/landscaped a garden in our previous house which was local so we sort of knew what plants grew well or more to the point what plants we grew well based on our skill levels. We also knew which nurseries we liked and would use.

An additional note As we started to write this post it became a little ridiculously long and complicated as our design evolved so many times and so many ideas/plants we had once we moved in and things changed so we apologise for the ramblings but maybe something will be useful.

So how did we start:

1 We actually selected our block with north in mind. Our block opens to the north side of the house giving warm north sun to living areas all along the side house. It also meant the back of our yard is narrow to the west meaning any trees would give good shelter from the hot west sun in Summer.

2. When planning we worked out what was essential for the house to have and these were :

  • a place for a rotary clothesline…..we just like them and they make a good space to bowl from in cricket
  • fruit trees and vegie patches as we love producing some of our own food
  • An open space for the boys to play in including their trampoline
  • Spaces/runs for our chickens and dog proofed fences
  • we sort of wanted leveled land where possible which meant a rear retaining wall and we had to have a retaining wall along our side boundary as required by council
  • some delineation between spaces
  • Space for the shed
  • Fragrant plants and some natives where possible

3. We then looked at what was required by council/ legislation. Our block had to have a fall to the easement and you can’t build over an easement which was right on the north side fenceline at the back. This basically means this part of the yard had to be grass or something able to be moved so it suited the play area concept well. When planning our retaining walls we thought if we ran a retaining wall closer to the house between this play area and the house, we could stay within council requirements (retaining walls of no more than 600mm high to hold back fill without approval) yet also level our land close to the house. This also meant that we could run trees along the top of the wall shading and screening our elevated house.The retaining wall through the yard also helped to delineate the nice walkway/ fruit tree area from the more functional play, chickens, vegie beds and clothesline area bellow. It turns out the wall did more by providing a backdrop for our vegie beds and a shade/screen for our chicken coop which you now can’t see from the house very much.

4. Originally we planned to have Wisdom Landscapes do the rear and this northside wall so we could start planting from day one, but as has been recorded in our other blogs this was not successful due to some issues coordinating with our neighbour. Wisdom developed a ‘plan’ for the things we asked for which also included some stepping stones down the side. We liked the stepping stone idea which Wisdom Landscapes suggested and so got them to install them but they didn’t really go anywhere and stopped to early so once we moved in John had the idea to extend them to the rear and also put double ones down to the play area. John also had the idea for the aluminium edging and the white stones. When I indicated they wouldn’t be able to build the rear wall I asked if they could use the blocks for the side wall. Wisdom Landscapes kindly shifted that rear wall to the south side of our house at no real additional cost (it was about the same length) which meant we got John to build and tie in all the rear wall at a later date. What a drama at the time and not ideal but John was great and as we said earlier we should have got him to do the lot. Wisdom was also very accommodating shifting the wall without cost.

5.We then looked at the sun profile for the block. There are some websites where you can actually look at the shadow cast by your house and also where the sun goes such as http://www.findmyshadow.com/. This allowed us to see where plants would get sun and those that would get hardly any.

6. Then we sat down and worked out the areas in the house and what sort of trees would work where. Then we matched the areas with the trees and equipment we wanted and set about putting little scale shapes all over a plan to work out how things would go and how they would fit. For example

  • We deliberately positioned tall deciduous trees on east and the north side of the house towards the rear as during winter the trees loose their leaves and this allows the north sun to come into our rear living areas and alfresco.
  • We  put taller evergreen trees towards the front and rear to shield some of the westerly sun and also to act as screens for our neighbours (once they grow!!!)
  • We looked for sheds which would fit down the side of the house and realising the only shed that would fit was a small shed, we found alternative storage areas to fit things. Having lots of smaller storage areas actually works well for sorting/organisation. We now have a bike storage box, a gardening shed and a tool shed which avoids some of that crazy clutter that ends up in a big shed.
  • We found raised garden beds that would fit along the wall and it turned out lots of smaller beds was cheaper than long large ones. We were (John was) able to level these beds as well so they stepped down in line with the wall.

7. Then I must say there was a lot of working it out as we went along. Lots of looking for things that fitted on the internet, just wandering through nurseries,the ‘big hammer’ etc. and going hey that looks/smells good. This is how our gardens have evolved in the past and so this is how this one will probably too.

Well off to plant our first vegies this weekend. Can’t wait to taste our first crops.


Request for Costings

We had a few requests for how much our landscaping cost. This is difficult as we had our retaining walls put in as well which was the bulk of our costs! We also did a lot of the works ourselves (particularly buying the trees, landscaping the front of the house and the garden beds, building the sheds, buying and laying the mulch)so this also changes the cost a bit but here is an idea anyway.

Wisdom Landscapes cost about $10000 to the retaining walls which ran both sides of the house. They also put in half the stepping stones. We actually wanted all the retaining walls put in before we moved in hence we got Wisdom to do them. It turned out we had some difficulties with organising the rear retaining wall with our neighbour and so John did this wall and the stepped wall across the back. The stepped wall at the rear of our house was about 15 metres long and 400mm high and cost about $1600 with John including finishing and keying in the wall to the Wisdom walls. Our wall was constructed of Austral Heron Blocks in slate. Overall we probably should have got John from Nicholson Landscaping to do the lot as he was much cheaper but we didn’t conceive having the rear retaining wall issues prior to handover. Many people won’t have these costs as they won’t need to retain as much.

Fencing was shared of course but John put in all our fencing. The cost was $66 per lineal metre for a 1.8 metre high fence (so half this cost per neighbour). John is a perfectionist when it comes to things so having had a number of fences built over the years in our other houses I haven’t seen fencing as neat as his.

The synthetic grass down the side of our house was $2500 and was done by John.

The Nara Turf was $6.50 per square metre from ABC Turf. They lay the turf for an extra $1.50 per square metre so we got them to do it rather than John.

Other works John did cost us $4000 and included:

  • Raising and sealing our surface drains
  • Cutting down and leveling our pipes
  • raising and levelling the garden using an excavator
  • Preparing soil for turf
  • treated timber pine sleepers cut to fit under fences and boxing the manhole
  • Aluminium metal edging outline around the paving
  • White stones around the pavers and beside the house
  • Laying 12Trojanstone pavers 600 x 300 ebony
  • putting in our clothesline and letterbox (he actually just did this without charging)
  • Levelling our veggie beds so they sat square

Our costs:

  • The plants: all varying prices
  • The mulch:- 3 cubic metres of mini nugget mulch
  • Garden soil: 6 cubic metres of premium garden soil

So overall more than we like to think about…..but we love it. Take out the retaining walls and you are looking at about $8-10000.

EXTRA ADVICE…… Also we recommend buying a cleaner and sealer and sealing all your outdoor tiles early on. They become filthy while your landscaping is done (if you have kids that is!!!) and require some serious scrubbing to remove the dirt. Probably would have been easier if we sealed them early on. After a good sealing most dirt just washes off easily.


Our second last post….. maybe……hopefully

The fun rain over the past couple of weeks has slowed our landscaping considerably…..That and the fact John the landscaper is a bit of a perfectionist and not a particularly fast worker. He has been great though and has done lots of little things for us. Here are some pictures of our landscaping. The only thing left is our side of the house fences, our chicken coop and chickens to come back and our dog to come back (she has had a very long holiday at our parents place) + building the shed and reassembling the trampoline.

Overall this cost us a little more than we like to think about but we love it. Here is where we got some of the stuff:

Trees and plants:

  • Daleys Nursery: grumichama trees and red shahtoot mulberry
  • Yalca Trees: Fuyu Persimmon and Pomegranate trees (all semi dwarf)
  • Flower Power: Coral Bark Japanese Maple, Ballerina pink lady and Gala Apple trees, 1 Flowering Gum (dwarf/grafted), 2 x Native limes (CSIRO developed)
  • Hargreaves Nursery: Variety of flowering natives and 2 flowering Gums (dwarf/ grafted varieties)
  • Swanes Nursery: Lavenders
  • Engalls Nursery: Cumquat Tree, Dwarf Washington Navel, Meyer Lemon Tree, Imperial Mandarin Tree, Valencia Orange Tree, dwarf nectarine tree
  • Cabbage Tree Nursery: Flat Mat Jasmine groundcover

The turf is Nara native turf and is a little brown still as they had some serious frosts a couple of weeks ago before laying but this is extremely drought tolerant and is a native (if a little contrived by the CSIRO) so that makes us feel good. It is also cheaper than Sir Walter which is what we were going to lay so that is also a bonus!

We will probably just post one more time at the 3 month review and have all our photos uploaded then. Then it will be time to say goodbye and thanks for watching.

Here are some photos

The Backyard

Fruit trees in the foreground and a flowering gum in the distance in both photos

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Flowering Gum, synthetic grass play area and veggie patches to be filled

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Alfresco and stepping stones along the side of the house

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Front of the House

The is a slim Japanese Maple if you can see it and a lockable box for the boys bikes from KETER

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Stay away from AAA City Removalists

Our AAA City Removalist Review

So with all the rain we can’t really post any great advances in our house. So with the depressing weather we thought we would go on a rant. As you all were aware we weren’t exactly happy with AAA City Removalists such as scratching our wooden furniture, dropping blood on the mattress and other general dodginess. So we decided to put a complaint into the business. In essence we just asked for an apology, that the issues would be discussed with the removalists and we said we would leave it up to them to decide what compensation they thought we should get (we would have simply been happy with an apology). Below is their warm and fuzzy response

“Sorry for the delay in responding. We ask all our customers prior to the move to
1.      Read our terms & conditions,
2.      We also have a clear message under insurance on our website stating that we do not have full insurance,
3.      As a further sign of our transparency we send out a confirmation clearly reiterating the message on insurances,
4.      We have a record of you acknowledging that you do not have full insurance and provided you with the options to be fully covered which you did not take up
5.      Lastly, you signed the contract prior to the removalists starting the job again acknowledging that you have read and understood our terms and conditions which goes one more step and points out the non provision of optional breakage and handling insurance.
We have made a concerted effort to advise you of our relationship, our contract and in particular, what you are and aren’t covered for.

Taking into consideration the aforementioned, AAA City Removalist cannot take this matter any further.”

Ahh isn’t it nice to know that customer service is still at the forefront of business in Australia. We actually do have insurance for the move through our home and contents insurer but the point here is the company doesn’t accept any responsibility for bad work. In essence they say it is our fault they did a bad job. Hmmmm our advice is to steer clear. We will let the old department of Fair Trading and ACCC know about their dodgy dealings but we just don’t want anyone else to suffer the same fate as us.

Stay away!

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And another thing!

We did say we would cover a couple of things  a little later in the blog including the splashback and bathroom stories. Well it isn’t very often you get a freebie from a project home builder…..we actually got a couple so we kept quiet but I guess it is time to let the cat out of the bag. Our freebies included:

  • free floor to ceiling tiles in the ensuite. BARGAIN! We actually only requested this for the main bathroom but in hindsight we should have asked for it.
  • melamine shelves to linen cupboard – we didn’t upgrade this but it was put in. BARGAIN!
  • Gyprocking under the stairs. We were told this wouldn’t be done but it was BARGAIN!
  • Splashback to the roof….this was done we thought but then mysteriously it wasn’t. Our SS was adamant that there never was splashback to the roof but we had the photos. The SS said it was probably just shadow in the photos but ah well easy come easy go!
  • Rangehood prestige upgrade…BARGAIN!

So overall looks like we did pretty well. Makes up for some of the extreme overpricing of certain things…but not much!


Oops forgot the blinds

The blinds were installed by Wisdom’s preferred installer Betterview Blinds. We had three quotes from different installers and Betterview were the cheapest. Everyone used the same blind product so it wasn’t about the materials and Betterview actually gave a longer warranty than the other blind people. They were also quick and we were very happy with the quality of the work by the installer. Overall for double blockout and sheerweave blinds for all large windows plus venetians for the windows at the front it was about $4900.


Sorry Everyone!!!

Sorry everyone for the delay we will try to post now weekly until the landscaping is finished and to show some of our rooms when they are done. We still don’t have internet in our new house so it makes blogging a little tricky but no excuses. Hopefully by next week all will be rosy.  Our landscaping should be finished by next week hopefully as well. We love our home by the way and we are really happy. We have found lots of little messy bits from the painters which we had missed (we actually think the painters were a bit slap happy). Here is a bit of a summary about some of the things we have done:


Ahhhhh. We really wish we had of got our builder to do the floorboards even though we ended up getting it cheaper. What a hassle. Turns out we had to cancel Just Floors and seek a refund and then ordered the same floorboards from DIYfloorboards.com.au. They delivered the next day and we managed to find some excellent installers who started on the Friday from jjtimberflooring.com.au. JJ Timber floooring were quick and very thorough. In the end we possibly got better installers than we might have. The only thing we can think with Just Floors why they wouldn’t install is that they underquoted in the sale stage and then it was better for them to refund us the money rather than install. We just wish they could have told us earlier so we could have organised things rather than just not showing up and then us having to chase them for 3 days to the point one of us had to sit in the shop for half a day until the manager contacted us. Overall the manager was very unhelpful and unresponsive. All our flooring cost us about $7500.

Cupboard Fitout:

Our cupboards were fit out by Reflections Wardrobes. Sam was super efficient and installed everything quickly and with great attention to detail. He was very clean too which was awesome. We highly recommend his work and have attached some pictures. For the fitout of the cupboards of the three bedrooms and walk in it was about $3000.


Our lights came from Elaine’s World of Lights in Castle Hill. The ladies there are very helpful, they have a good concept of matching lights to your house and their lights are quality and super cost effective. They sell out of this little warehouse in Castle Hill but we were really happy with their service. Overall our lights cost about $2000 but this included 7 Hunter Pacific fan lights.

Light Install:

Our lights were installed by Ron Larson in Baulkham Hills. He is a lovely man who is retired and he charges about $25 per light and $75 per fan light to install. He is kind of like your grandpa telling you how to operate everything and really taking the time to walk you through how stuff works. He is really honest and even brings a pair of slippers to work in. He said “I got some new slippers for Christmas and I didn’t know what to do with these old slippers so I thought I could use them at work as they work just fine.”

Tiling the alfresco

So this was a bit of a disaster. We had to sack our tiler as he had layed the tiles crooked (the tiler was recommended by Beaumont Tiles but we didn’t get our tiles from there). In the end we probably should have got the tiles through Wisdom. It cost us about 2200 all up to buy the tiles and have them laid but it should have cost about $1800 if we didn’t have to sac and rehire.


So we went with AAA City removalists as we had used them to move one of our workplaces and they were excellent at the time. When we have moved in the past we have used cheapy men out of places like Gumtree and actually they have been pretty good but we though we would go with a reputable company. Turns out we had to put in an official complaint as they didn’t use removal blankets and some of our furniture was damaged (even some blood was spilt on our mattress….yuk!). Of most concern was a new hardwood table we had only just had delivered and put in our garage. We hadn’t even used it and it was moved only from the old house to the new house. By the time it got there were scratches all down one side like it had been dragged along the concrete or floor of the truck…….Argh. lucky it is hardwood and we can sand it but that is pretty attrocious removal work if you ask us. Anyway we got in.


We got our lounge at Custom Design furniture in Castle Hill. Turns out we didn’t need it custom designed and they had one that fit perfectly in the space . It cost about 2200.


We have an awesome landscaper John from Nicholson Landscaping. He may not be the fastest worker but he is fastidious. i think he must check measure everything about 7 times. I haven’t seen him make even a slight error in his work and he has put up our fencing. The Wisdom Landscapers were good but John is excellent and he can pretty much do anything. For the same price as the Wisdom walls they put in John has put in two walls of similiar length (but higher) and done our fencing. Can’t recommend him highly enough however you might have trouble getting him to help you as he has pretty much been booked out by all the builds around us after they have seen his work. Hopefully we will have some pictures for next week to show you and we will take you through that in more detail.

Here are some photos- sorry about the quality…should have wiped the phone lense.

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