Category Archives: trees

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


Streetscape redesign – Clovelly Road, Sydney

After several months of digesting the outcomes from the October 2013 Clovelly Road Better Block demonstration day, this streetscape improvement concept has morphed into a broader project – called “Park to Pacific” of “P2P”.

Rather than looking at Clovelly Road block-by-block, this arterial roadway ‘re-imagining’ exercise has developed into a more comprehensive urban design idea – to develop a beautification scheme for the entire length of Clovelly Road, from Centennial Park to the Pacific Ocean.

A passionate group of local residents involved in the 2013 demo day (members of whom include professionals in urban design, architecture, arboriculture and landscape architecture) formed a steering committee to advance the cause of this concept. The steering committee has, for the last six weeks, been petitioning local businesses and residents, and most importantly Randwick Council.

The Council has expressed their support for the P2P idea and were one of the three levels of government present at a community presentation day early in May.

The core idea for the Park to Pacific concept is overall streetscape improvement to create a greener, more aesthetically pleasing, more functional, safer and more sustainable Clovelly Road. The detail of this may involve vast increase in street tree numbers, regular ‘bulb-out’ parklets in the roadway (both within and between commercial nodes), definitional road surfacing and markers for the commercial nodes, in-lane bus-stops, rainwater gardens, community gardens, bus-stop libraries and vehicle slowing devices, amongst other components.

The steering committee has presented the P2P idea with a conceptual illustration (below) containing some of the above components.


They have also started developing concept plans for some of the components described above and for complete sectors of Clovelly Road, to help stimulate discussions with Randwick Council and the local community. A roadway parklet concept layout which they have developed is below, as is a photographic info sheet on streetscape elements which they are proposing for consideration.

carspot pod plan

indicative streetscape elements photosIn the upcoming months the P2P team will be having regular community meetings at the Randwick Literary Institute on Clovelly Road and have been designated a community liaison officer by Randwick Council, both to work with the P2P group on Park to Pacific ideas and on the next Better Block demo day (in support of P2P) in October 2014.

For more info, have a look at and





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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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