Category Archives: landscape

Yarranabbe Park

Insite recently completed a Heritage Study of Yarranabbe Park (within Rushcutter’s Bay, in Sydney’s east). This was commissioned by the Darling Point Society.

A fascinating site, the history of which has been largely overlooked by locals, tourists and Woollahra Council.

During the mid 1800s consideration by surveyors was being given to the issue of sea access along the eastern side of Rushcutter’s Bay and the provision of wharves.

The Sydney Evening News from the 8th November 1875 contained an article regarding a petition signed by 500 residents urging reclamation of land to the low water mark at Rushcutters Bay for the purpose of creating a public reserve. Also in November 1875 a deputation to the Minister for Lands requested that marsh and the head of the bay be reclaimed and used for public recreation. In 1878 an Act was passed providing for the reclamation of the bay and six acres were set aside for a park. Work commenced in the same year and was completed in 1883.

Yarranabbe Park was formed as a result of the second phase of harbour reclamation works carried out along the eastern side of Rushcutters Bay (the site of the Park appearing to not have been included in the Rushcutters Bay Act of 1878). The Thursday 1 October 1891 edition of the Sydney Evening News contained an article which referred to a deputation from local residents regarding the resumption of a further strip of land on the eastern edge of Rushcutters Bay park for the purposes of extending the reserve.

During 1883, the development of the original ballast dyke seawall around the Rushcutters Bay Park foreshore had been extended along the eastern foreshore of the Bay. The first phase of ballast dyke-edged resumption along the eastern foreshore was complete by 1885.

Plans were drawn up in c.1895 for a new sea wall to replace the dyke wall. The new seawall was constructed in chiseled and staggered sandstone blockwork.





Moroccan garden kick-off

20170511_152203Construction has started on Insite’s Moroccan-inspired courtyard in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Wall realigned, pots bought and ceramic tiles going down.

Bare palm trunks and other verticals

Lots of people have reservations about use of palms in their gardens, saying that “all the action happens at the top” and the bare trunks are an eyesore.

One solution is bromeliads.

In your next garden makeover, consider training a massed groundcover of bromeliads up that lonely palm trunk. It’ll be a beautiful eye-catching feature of your garden.

20151217_092234Cooroy Botanical Gardens, Queensland


Another alternative for bare vertical elements in your garden is Sweet Peas. Often grown on a trellis or fence, consider fastening some chicken mesh to a post or pillar (in a sunny spot) and growing Sweet Peas up it. They are gorgeous.

20150912_141649Sweet Peas being training up a light pole from a street verge community garden in Bellevue Hill, Sydney


Residential design – 5 tips for getting the most out of your Landscape Architect

There are many reasons to engage a landscape architect to prepare a design for the grounds of your house. The most likely is either that your local Council requires you to have one as part of your development application (DA) / construction certificate (CC) application or that you would just like to add beauty, utility and value to your property with a revitalisation of the garden.

If you plan to put in a substantive development application to Council, it’s likely that they will require a landscape plan to be submitted at the DA stage. For smaller development proposals, a landscape plan may only need to be prepared at the CC stage – a requirement that is often highlighted in a condition of consent approval.

Whatever your reason for getting a landscape plan done for your residence, here are 5 things to remember –

1. Ideas and inspiration. Your landscape architect is going to ask you questions about ideas and requirements you have for the grounds of your property. In addition to coming to terms with the actual brief of the job, they’ll likely want to know things like how you imagine using your property’s outdoor spaces, your mindset about plants and gardens, what stylistic things you are attracted to and whether you like formality or things being a bit rough around the edges. Take a bit of time to think about the above points before you meet your landscape architect – this preparation will help both to guide the design and to ensure that your needs and likes are met.

2. Input and feedback. After giving them your brief, your landscape architect will (if they haven’t already done so) analyse the site and other requirements and then formulate a concept plan for your property. They would then meet with you to present this concept. This is very important, as it provides the opportunity for you to be part of the design process, understand the outcomes of the scheme and tweak it, if required. Changes to a concept plan might eventuate because of ideas you’ve had since your original consultation or because of previously unconsidered matters that arise based on the landscape architect’s presentation. Ideally, you’d have another design discussion with your landscape architect prior to the finalisation of the scheme.

3. Grab the opportunity. If you need to engage a landscape architect as part of a DA or CC submission, I recommend you think of their engagement and the plan they produce as more than just a quick ‘box ticking’ exercise for your local Council. Instead, use the opportunity of the landscape architect’s engagement to have meetings with them and provide your own input and ideas (as above). The aesthetic and functional outcomes for your property will be all the better for landscape planning at the earliest stages of your development thinking.

4. Research your neighbourhood. I encourage clients, as do local Councils, to think about their properties as part of their environs. Regularly in residential design, allotments are treated like islands, with little stylistic reference to neighbouring lots or the streetscape. A good landscape architect, with reference to Council planning documents, will consider things like predominant garden styles in your immediate neighbourhood, mature tree species near your site and matters like how your front fencing selection might visually impact a streetscape.

5. Have a starting point. Provide your landscape architect with a detailed site survey plan. As with architectural design, having an accurate base plan to work from is vital. A detailed survey plan essentially includes the next level up of information from a survey contained in a property transfer. The detailed survey plan would have things like existing trees, paths, service lines and levels information plotted onto it.


Ari Anderson is a registered landscape architect and heritage consultant and undertakes residential, commercial and institutional landscape design projects for clients in Sydney and surrounds.




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One thing you must know before starting your next development application

If you’re undertaking a substantial modification to your house or proposing to knock it down and rebuild, you’ll need to submit a development application or similar approval application to Council.

As part of the development assessment process, Council or the private certifier will look at the floor space ratio (FSR) of the application – the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the size of the land upon which it is built. They will check to make sure that the development is in compliance with FSR controls and assorted other building controls that relate to that lot.

Generally speaking, the total floor area includes the internal area of all habitable rooms across every level of a building, but does not include open terraces or balconies.

An allied matter to FSRs is that a certain percentage of a site must be landscaped area.

Different Councils have different regulations regarding landscape area percentages, and these percentages also vary for the type of development being proposed.

An important site planning aspect to look out for in the wording of Council policies for landscape area percentages is whether the percentages they stipulate are just for ‘landscape area’ (which may be able to include hard paved areas and pools) or if they say, for example, ‘deep soil landscape area’ (which are areas that must be able to be planted).

For example, Lane Cove Council states that:

“For most types of development in Lane Cove, a percentage of the total site area is required to be ‘landscaped areas’. The ‘landscaped areas’ includes private open space and swimming pools, but does not include paved areas such as driveways……”,

……..but one of their charts – below – expresses ‘landscaped area’ as being ‘deep soil’ only.

landscape area lane cove council

Sutherland Council states that:

“The required landscape area of a site can be constrained by a control specifying the minimum required landscaped area defined as a percentage of the total site area”.

 Their zonal chart – below – just describes ‘landscape area’, without referring to ‘deep soil’ plantable area.

Sutherland landscape area percentages

Make sure your architect or project manager is aware of the landscape space controls that relate to your property. If in doubt about Council’s terminology for inclusions and exclusions within a minimum percentage figure, check with Council’s landscape officer.

Ari Anderson is a landscape architect, specialising in residential design and planning. To engage Ari to design a garden that will inspire and add value to your property, contact him at or call him on 0412133472

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If you propose a development on your land, most local Councils will require a landscape plan to be submitted as part of the development application (DA) documentation.

A good DA landscape plan will not only propose well-considered new landscape treatments for the grounds of a property, but also record existing mature specimens and any other plantings deemed worthy of retention. The incorporation of recommendations for existing plantings on a site, at DA stage, is important. It shows Council and/or the private certifier that building works have not been proposed in isolation of their surrounds. It also shows that an owner or developer understands the intent of guidelines in Council local environmental plans (LEPs) and development control plans (DCPs), as well as the aim of a Council landscape code and tree preservation order.

When a DA is approved, it will normally come with a series of conditions of consent – some of which will relate to landscape matters of the site. A DA landscape plan (and for that matter the surveyor’s and architect’s plans) needs to show mature plantings that exist on an allotment. Even if such plans didn’t, Council’s consent document would still list and provide restrictions / approvals for such specimens. Key specimens will be shown in Council tables under such headings as ‘plants to be retained’, ‘plants which can be transplanted’ and ‘plants which can be removed’. These determinations are hopefully in accordance with suggestions on the landscape plan.

Depending on the size, location or significance of a specimen on or abutting a development site, Council may put a monetary bond on a certain planting – which is held until the occupational certificate phase of the development. This is basically done to incentivise a property developer to not accidentally back a bulldozer into some greenery they would prefer wasn’t there.

Even if bonds are not put on individual specimens in a DA approval and a property owner doesn’t risk financial loss through plant removal, they remain bound by the conditions of a local council’s tree preservation order. Lack of adherence to tree preservation orders doesn’t make certifiers or Councils particularly happy and can cause complications at the construction certificate (CC) phase.

Often, a revised landscape plan is required to be submitted at the CC approval stage – one that takes into account building approval matters and any site issues where more resolution is sought by the approval authority. If mature specimens, which were present on site at the DA stage, have been removed by the property owner between DA and CC, specific points in the conditions of consent document will be unable to be met.

Such an occurrence can jeopardise the ‘smooth’ progress of documentation at the CC stage. The certifying authority could insist that mature specimens removed from the site without approval be replaced – which is often a hugely costly undertaking.

So, if you have a long delay between your DA and CC stages, beware using a scorched-earth policy with the grounds of your site. If you do propose garden changes in this intervening period, remember that you had a landscape plan drawn at DA stage. It was hopefully a scheme you were happy with at the time it was prepared, so try to abide by the principles of that design. Aesthetics aside, sticking to the intent of the DA landscape design in any pre CC-stage garden redevelopment will result in fewer complications when that stage comes around.


A garden – pre development application (DA) submission


The same garden – pre construction certificate (CC) submission, the owners having failed to follow the landscape plan as proposed in the DA. The obvious major removal works were done between DA and CC (in this case a five year period). The total remake included the unapproved removal of several stately mature specimens, originally proposed for retention and listed as such in the conditions of consent. The client also failed to recognise that the landscape plan prepared for them at DA stage was an integral part of the planning for their site and not merely a box-ticking exercise.

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Plant selection

Plant selection is very important, whether for large urban spaces and parklands or residential gardens and rooftops.

As well as taking into account matters like character, purpose, climatic conditions and habitat, species selection must also consider available growing space.

DSCN1379A Giant Bird of Paradise on a Sydney rooftop

The root system of the Giant Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) – seen in the above photo – is aggressive. Planting it in shallow planter boxes or abutting garden paths and underground service conduits is not a good idea.

Generally, small trees planted in a raised garden bed over a slab need at least 1 metre of soil depth. 600mm depth of soil is required as a minimum for shrubs in the same situation.

Even with this principle in mind, it’s best to keep the Giant Bird of Paradise as a planting for substantial open lawns, away from structures. It becomes a much larger specimen than most people realise.



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A (temporarily) landscaped street

After months of planning, the Clovelly Road Better Block demonstration day happened on the 27th October – this thanks to the hard work of many people and the tireless efforts of Phil Stubbs, the Better Block coordinator.

The event seemed to be a great success, judging by the community interest on the day. The principle behind the demo day was to ‘install’ a representation of the kinds of improvements Randwick Council could consider for this rather bland section of the Clovelly Road ‘gun-barrell’ transit corridor.

clovelly roadClovelly Road, looking east from Arden Street – the Better Block area pre the demo day. (

This included vegetation, street furniture, services like bus stop libraries and bubblers, street art, designated bicycle parking zones and community perma-culture gardens.

By the time traffic-slowing attendants arrived and a huge semi-trailer rolled in at 7am (the latter carrying 8 x 400 litre trees and hundreds of shrubs), the street’s footpaths and roadway had magically already been spray-painted with beautiful stencil art.

DSCN1593Some of the Better Block footpath and roadway stencil art

Between 7am and 10ish, many bodies were scampering up and down the Better Block area – carrying shrubs, street furniture, display posters and all sorts of fittings and fixtures. I was thrilled to be on the back of the semi-trailer, hurling plants at all of our helpers.

tree craneLifting the 400 litre trees into place at 7am. (

The layout in the Better Block area was essentially designed to create ‘bulb-outs’ from the footpath into the roadway, within which stalls and street furniture would be placed. These bulb-outs were separated by the major trees and framed by smaller shrubs, as was the entire length of the reclaimed roadway area.

DSCN1580The Better Block area, looking west

DSCN1582The 400 litre trees and definitional shrubs in the roadway bulb-outs

DSCN1585The Better Block area, looking east

Part of the concern in planning for the day was that the Better Block event not present as an annual street fair. The organising group was very careful to highlight the point of the day – to achieve permanent streetscape change – in their signage and advertising. Any uncertainty regarding the reasons for the event were also hopefully negated by the material in the pop-up gallery that was set-up in a vacant shop in the Better Block zone. The gallery showed examples of many other Better Block events that have occurred worldwide and lots of photos of particular components important in the creation of exciting and liveable streets.

After Randwick Council is presented with the various petitions and survey material gathered on the demo day, they will hopefully be interested in examining how the event’s installations could be transposed into permanent solutions.

You can keep up to date with our latest on the Clovelly Road Better Block at

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Improving our streets

I recently became involved with planning for the Clovelly Road Better Block demonstration day, which is to be held on the 27th October.

On that day, traffic in a section of Clovelly Road, in Sydney’s east, will be slowed – under the auspices of Randwick Council. The Clovelly East Village Committee will then ‘install’ – for a day – a representation of part of its vision for improvements to this high-use transit corridor.

The improvements are aimed at showing the community at large and the Council, more specifically, how this main road could be re-planned to create a greener and more liveable space. The Committee has not only organised nurseries to supply semi-mature trees and a lot of shrubs for the day, but is also planning for art installations, street furniture, re-surfaced pedestrian areas, bicycle parking and bike servicing zones, community stalls and a permaculture garden.

The organisation hopes to create a groundswell of support for some permanent changes. This will be the first Better Block in Sydney (there have been more than 40 in the United States).

If you’d like to see how a forgotten streetscape can be remediated, come down to Clovelly Road (the block between Arden Street and Beach Street) on Sunday 27th October between 11am and 3:30pm.

clovelly roadClovelly Road, looking east from Arden Street – the ‘Better Block’ area.


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LOST TREES and SHRUBS? Plantings of lost homesteads, grand mansions or changed landscapes

For city-slickers who find themselves out of the ‘Burbs and driving through rural ‘n’ regional Australia, here is something to look out for. You might wonder why there are the occasional very broad-canopied or tall ‘cultural landmark plantings’*and, for that matter, residential-looking shrubs seemingly out of place, adrift in the countryside.

(*often exotic species or at least species not endemic to that area).

The answer is often that such trees (like Bunya Pines, Hoop Pines and Pepper or Fig Trees) and shrubs (like hedges of Opuntia – Prickly Pear), were driveway, boundary, garden or house markers of former farms, homesteads and mansions – the buildings of which may be long gone. Just occasionally, a small grouping of the trees mentioned above might be a remnant of an old street avenue planting, possibly on a road no longer in use. More often than not though, such plantings demarcated property entries or acted as landmarks in homeyards.

DSCN1378Bunya Pines at Leppington, NSW

Of course, you don’t only see such landmark plantings in the country. You can appreciate the role of ‘locational’ trees (and shrubs) all over the city as well. Next time you’re on a ferry in Sydney, you’ll notice many stately trees sticking up above the rooflines of houses and apartments. A lot of these would have been (or remain) garden plantings of grand residential properties or institutional buildings, many of which would have stood on large parcels of land, prior to subdivisions in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In Sydney, if you want to place stately trees in their original context, have a look at Fairfax House (Ginahgulla House) in Bellevue Hill, Vaucluse House in Vaucluse, Hambledon Cottage in Parramatta or Bella Vista Farm in the city’s north-west.

P1000621Part of the gardens of Vaucluse House, containing a Hoop Pine and Bunya Pine.

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