When it comes to outdoor living and landscaping in Australia, there’s no bigger name than Charlie Albone. Approaching his 13th season on Selling Houses Australia and picking up back-to-back Silver-gilt medal wins at the 2015 and 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show through his landscaping business, Inspired Exteriors, it’s fair to say he knows his stuff. That’s why when we were organising our Outdoor Living Masterclass, we knew we had to have the charismatic landscaper involved. With so many of Metricon’s customers eager to learn how they can maximise their outdoor spaces, we were thrilled to bring Charlie in and show them how.

Charlie shared his abundance of knowledge with 50 guests at Metricon’s Somerset display home in Glen Waverley in VIC at a recent masterclass, sharing images of past projects and landscaping advice. He generously answered a myriad of questions fielded to him by the audience. Guests learnt about his favourite plants, how to handle landscaping on different surfaces, the importance of soil preparation, and so much more.

Let’s get into the top landscaping tips straight from Charlie Albone himself.

Getting started


Charlie said it himself - getting started can be challenging. His process usually involves offering a few options for the key areas of your outdoor space – decks, dining areas, fire pits – and trying to find the right spot of them. He says “you need to look at how they fit together. This sounds a little bit hippy, but close your eyes and imagine you’re there… consider the features moving through the space, and that will help you get the right scale and proportion”.

Charlie went on to discuss the importance of the outdoor entertaining space where you can connect with other people. “People come over, and they want to enjoy your house and want to enjoy your company in a really nice space where they can have that connection. Don’t worry about having the fire pit or the lawn – start with a good entertaining space”. We 100% agree with Charlie here – which is why we focus on creating brilliant outdoor rooms with bifold doors to bring the home and garden together.

Start your landscaping with a site analysis


Once you have a bit of an idea of what you want, Charlie recommended that you “spend the day in the garden and take a look at where the sun goes and really do a good site analysis of your garden.”

It’s time to get creative and draw up your outdoor living space. You should begin by noting all existing features, including buildings, trees, hardscapes, fences and even neighbours that you want to screen off. You’ll be able to visualise the scale and proportions of what you have and what you want to change.

“It’s important to try and get it to some sort of scale because you don’t want to try and fit all your ideas into a block that is never going to fit them.”

It’s also essential to map the topography – the high and low points of the space. That way, you’ll be able to quickly work out where the entertaining space should be (flat areas), where you’ll need retaining walls or stairs (sloping areas), and where the wet and dry spots will be (it’ll be wet at the base of the slope).

Make the most of what you have


Regrettably, most of us aren’t fortunate to take advantage of spectacular views from our gardens, but we all have the option to create sightlines and views to impress. Position plants and sculptures in spots where they can easily be seen from the window of the living room, dining room or kitchen so that you can gaze out and see what you want to see. Similarly, block out what you don’t want to see – whether it’s a hot water system that can’t be moved or a shady patch of dirt which just won’t grow grass – block them from view or cover them up with other outdoor features.

Pick your planting zones


Charlie notes there are certain zones perfect for planting – whether you want them to be or not. Some areas might have hazards that cannot be removed, such as a neighbour’s tree or an air conditioning unit. In these spaces, you might not have any other option rather than to put in some good soil and plants.
Don’t be afraid to remove plants that aren’t working either. Charlie’s says “in your site analysis you want to work out areas that need extra planting, and if you’ve got something that needs removing, I’m not afraid of ripping stuff out… if it’s not doing what you want it to in your big picture, get rid of it and start again.”

Look out for an upcoming post about Charlie’s favourite plants on the Metricon Home Truths blog.

Step it up a notch


If you’re looking to make an extra impact in your space, here’s what Charlie recommends:

  • Lights – you can illuminate sections of your outdoor living space with landscape lighting. Soften the mood with low lighting or light up a feature with a spotlight.
  • Irrigation – Charlie says “irrigation is a great thing to do with the drought that’s all over Australia. Make sure that you put in an irrigation system with a weather sensor because then you can use it for longer. There’s a huge investment in plants, and the more water you give them, the better they will look.”
  • Extra planting – when Charlie explained additional planting, he used outdoor stairs as an example. Rather than building a plain set of stairs in your outdoor space, why not leave a space between each step to insert some small plants?
  • Paint finishes – Charlie notes that “different paint finishes can add impact. I like to use copper paint quite a lot – it gives a nice texture to the garden.”

Where to save money


Given that Charlie has to work with very lean budgets on Selling Houses Australia, he’s learnt a thing or two about affordable landscaping solutions.

  • When building a pathway, consider paving on top of road base (crushed rocks) rather than tiling onto concrete as concrete is expensive
  • Charlie comments that retaining walls are incredibly costly. “If you’re retaining just for the sake of retaining, you can do something in timber that’s going to last for 25 years and hide it with some planting or paint it a dark colour.”
  • When building a deck, opt for treated pine and apply a stain or paint in the colour you want to get the look of more expensive timbers
  • “Painting is a great thing as well because you can change it as much as you like. It’s really easy to put a coat of paint on a wall or another feature.”
  • Plants might seem expensive, but they’re worth the investment as they’ll grow and look fantastic – buy the most mature ones you can afford

Our Outdoor Living Masterclass with Charlie Albone equipped guests with the knowledge to create an outdoor space that perfectly accompanies Metricon’s open plan home designs. If you want to hear more from Charlie, subscribe to our mailing list as we’ll have exclusive one-on-one interviews coming soon.

Please note that Metricon Homes do not offer any landscaping services. Charlie Albone does not work for Metricon. If you want to find out more about his work or request a quote, click through to his website, Inspired Exteriors.