Location: West Sydney, NSW

From this…

… to this

Dave Smith has provided a fantastic record of how he transformed his South-West Sydney front yard into a beautiful native garden complete with streambed. Dave has provided species lists and a complete costing on the real life garden make over made by an inspirational gardener with a vision and strong back muscles! Here’s how Dave did it…
I live in Hammondville a suburb approximately 30km WSW from the Sydney CBD. The native vegetation in this area is characterised by heavy clay soils, extremes in temperature and low humidity. Last summer the maximum temperature recorded was 42.6 c and the winter minimum was -5.2 c. In these conditions and with the current Sydney water restrictions, maintaining a green lawn year round is impractical if not impossible.
So what to do? I gave it a year after I bought the house in April 2003 to establish a green lawn and gave up in the Autumn of 2004 in frustration. So I spent a week of my holidays digging up the grass and turned the soil to a depth of about 20 cm adding gypsum and sand to break up the clay and assist drainage. I then bought 7 cubic metres of native organic mix which covered my approx. 30msq front garden to a depth of about 30 cm. This new soil was mixed with the existing soil, gypsum and sand with a pitch fork. A back-breaking, but extremely satisfying experience.

Next task was to install the native stream.

I dug a trough in the new bed that was to become the water course, down to the clay bed, about 60cm. A hole for the reservoir which would contain the pump was dug to a depth of 1.5m and a commercial pond liner was placed in the hole. A layer of slate was cemented around the rim of the reservoir. The pump was installed and the pipe to the head of the water course was buried under the new soil. The pipe at the head of the stream was inserted into a sandstone mound to provide a cascading effect. The course of the stream was laid with a double layer of brickies plastic which was then overlaid with cement. This was subsequently painted with two coats of water proof pond paint and finally Nepean river pebbles were placed on the river bed.
7 cubic of garden mix = $ 400.00
Pump = $ 240.00
10m Ag Pipe = $ 60.00Liners = $ 80.00
Cement Sand etc = $ 80.00
8L Pond Liner Paint = $ 140.00
Slate = $ 100.00
TOTAL = $ 1100.00

What to plant?

Natives of course, that would tolerate hot summers and cold winters. Secondly I wanted a variety of foliage colours. I chose Dodonaea (red) and Westringea (silver) for accents. For two feature plants I selected a grafted Eucalyptus ficifolia (Red Flowering Gum) and a Xanthorrhoea (Black Boy). I also planted native tussock grass (Poa) and native reeds (Juncus) that thrived for the edge of the water course.

Red flowering kangaroo paw (Anigozanthus) add colour to the mesmerising sight of Juncus lining the stream. The kangaroo paw is probably planted beyond the edge of the pond liner so that it doesn’t get too wet. In the background, Myoporum Parvifolium creeps from the edge of the stream and over the rocks. A yellow-flowering Grevillea ‘Orange Marmalade’ towers above it.
The streambed looks natural because of its realistic shape and Dave’s use of natural stone to line it. It looks like it belongs in the garden though because it is surrounded by plants that you’d find growing near streams in the wild. Acacia fimbriata softens the stream edge on the left. Its weeping foliage puts the very upright habit of the Juncus reeds into stark relief.
A row of Callistemon ‘Endeavour’ will screen Dave’s house from the neighbours to the left. The needle-like forliage of Grevillea ‘Honey Gem’ looks beautiful even without its orange-yellow flowers. The Westringeas on the right are of two different types; W. fruticosa at the back and the white/green variegated W. ‘Smokey’ to the front.
The purple Dodonaea purpuraea foliage seems to brighten the greens of the Acacia fimbriata in the foreground and the Poa labillardieri lining the stream. The extra water these grasses get from the stream makes them look much more lush than they do in dry landscapes, where they also survive, but don’t tend to thrive like this.
The silver foliage of the Westringea plants contrasts beautifully with the purple leaves of the Dodonaea. The grasses are Poa labillardieri and the red flowers in the foreground belong to Grevillea rosmarinifolia.
The rest of the garden was planted out with the plants listed below and were purchased from the Rockdale Community Nursery which I highly recommend on three counts. It employs intellectually disabled staff, it provides a high quality of both root stock (which I prefer) and mature plants and it is remarkably cheap.

Grevilleas – ‘Superb’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Gaudi Chaudii’, ‘Carpet Queen’, ‘Honey Gem’, ‘Ivanhoe’, ‘Bronze Rambler’, ‘Orange Marmalade’, longistyla, obtusifolia and rosmarinifolia.

Acacias – longifolia, elongata and fimbriata

Westrinigea – fruticosa and ‘Smokey’.

Banksias – sereata, integrifolia, obtusifolia and ‘Giant Candles’.

Anigozanthus – Red and yellow kangaroo paw.

Callistemon – ‘Endeavour’, ‘King’s Park Special’ and rigidus.

As well as Hardenbergia violacea (which look spectacular winding amongst the Westringea), and selected varieties of Melaleucas.


Hardenbergia violacea —>
<— Grevillea ‘Moonlight’
Grevillea longistyla —>
<— Grevillea ‘Honey Gem’
Grevillea rosmarinifolia —>
<— Acacia fimbriata
Callistemon rigidus —>
<— Anigothanthus spp.
The garden is now a low maintenance pleasure which after a year needs to be watered during the hottest periods only once or twice a month as opposed to three or four times a week for the horrid lawn. It has attracted native birds which are spectacular as can be seen in the attached photographs of scaly-breasted lorikeets, rainbow lorikeets and native miners all of which were taken in the garden sucking on my grevilleas.
Mulch is not a problem as after the initial two cubic of Euco mulch was laid, all I do is sweep up the leaves from the two magnificent eucalypts I have growing out the front of the property to maintain a healthy layer of mulch. I clean out the reservoir and pump monthly and use the 125 litres of water to irrigate the plants.
With a bit of planning, quite a lot of manual labour and some foresight, my natural low maintenance and sustainable garden is hopefully enjoyed by all who view it for about 2 grand.

Dave Smith

If you would like any further details Dave is happy to be contacted on the following email address: gangof5@bigpond.net.au

One last shot…

Dave’s fave view of his wonderful garden.