Catherine StewartA designer’s front garden

So what does my garden look like? Hmmm…………. A few years ago I realised, “I really do have to take my home address off my business card”. People would look at the address and say, “Oh, I know where that is, a garden design writer like you must have a lovely garden, I’ll have to drive by one day and have a look!” With rising panic I’d start talking about plumbers with leaky taps and psychologists with psychotic children, trying hard to put a good spin on the fact that my garden, especially the front, was a complete and utter,totally embarrassing DISASTER.

The letterbox balanced precariously on a few left over walling blocks. The long project to terrace the front garden by using concrete slabs we’d dug out from the fill behind the old retaining wall (which had been pulled down before it fell down, and took the garage with it) had nearly defeated my long-suffering husband. My idea of using the concrete slabs was fantastic at first, and made me feel so noble and ‘mend and make-do’, rescuing all that concrete from landfill and putting it to good use. We found a man up around the corner cutting up his driveway one day and asked if we could have it. He tried to offer us other things to take too, like his annoying teenage daughter and overweight dog, but we held firm.

Then, of course, we ran out, and had to start scavenging concrete from wherever we could find it. Friends became spotters. The piles of rubble in our front garden mounted and were overtaken with grass and weeds. I begged the front hedge to grow faster.

In the meantime, I’d also had the brilliant idea thatI’d do away with the front lawnbeside the driveway as well, and use mulch instead or plant it out with environmentally-friendly groundcovers. I’d written lots of stories about taking up the lawn and now I could put it into practice. The lawn’s been gone for about 2 years now, and I’m just about to put it back. Who would have guessed that mulched earth beside a downhill driveway is the perfect entree point for every weed seed that exists on your verge, on your car’s tyres, on your visitors’ shoes, or on your cat’s fur. I bet even those damn brush turkeys were stealth bombing seeds they’d picked up from the vacant lot up the road. Mown grass is obviously just much better at excluding plant interlopers.

The reused concrete retaining walls are finished and, although it was a logistic nightmare and cost my husband many weekends, the result is fabulous. I’m still planting the garden but, if I can defeat the brush turkeys, it will work out pretty well I think. Once the lawn goes back. But the back yard is another story……

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

One thought on “A designer’s front garden

  1. What a stunning outcome using all that ugly concrete. A good reverse spin of the Joni Mitchell song ” Paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. You turned a parking lot into paradise. Great negative gearing on carbon footprinting, too. V clever. Bless you.

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