With Spring well and truly upon us and more time up our sleeves to spend outdoors, you mind has likely turned to maximising your garden and outdoor living zones.

When it comes to outdoor living and landscaping in Australia, there’s no bigger name than Charlie Albone. With thirteen seasons on Selling Houses Australia, current gardening expert on Better Homes and Gardens, and picking up back-to-back Silver-gilt medal wins at the 2015 and 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, it’s fair to say he knows his stuff. 

Metricon was lucky to meet up with Charlie and ask him for expert advice on landscaping, plants, budgeting, more. He had so much knowledge to share, that we've created three posts detailing his advice for anyone with a landscaping project on their radar.

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


Getting started

 

Charlie said getting started can be challenging. His process usually involves coming up with a few options for the key elements of outdoor space – decks, dining areas, fire pits – and finding the right spot for 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 spaces 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 bi-fold 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 test your ideas. “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 then 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 then 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.”



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.”


 

If you want to hear more landscaping and gardening tips from Charlie, check out our other two posts:

 
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Please note that Metricon Homes does 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.