20 things your landscaper won’t tell you

Looking to save money in your garden? Try these insider tips from landscapers. 
A self-sustaining garden at Charlie Albone's Ourimbah property featuring self-wicking raised vegetable garden beds.Ray White - Long Jetty

We all want our gardens to look as bountiful as the one at landscape architect Charlie Albone’s Ourimbah home but we don’t all do it for a living. Landscapers know how to create an outdoor space that provides just enough maintenance to keep you busy, but not so much that you feel like every weekend is swallowed up by unnecessary gardening jobs. Want to know the secret? 

While there’s no such thing as a magic fix in the garden, knowing the tricks of the trade will help you create a garden that looks beautiful, stays healthy and makes you feel happy every time you step outside or look out the window. And, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can implement all of these tips yourself.

Design secrets

  • Save money by hiring someone to draw your landscape design, and then plant it yourself.
  • Street view is important, but make sure you take a look at your garden from inside your house. It needs to look good from your windows.
  • Choose flowers by looking at a colour wheel. Colours that are opposite each other look amazing when planted together, like red and blue.
  • Take a walk through your neighbourhood and take note of plants in the area that seem to be thriving. Consider using these plants in your own garden design. It’s a trick the owner of this bucolic cottage garden in the NSW Southern Tablelands tried with amazing success.
  • When selecting a feature tree, always consider the available space in the garden first. If the tree is too big you’ll be forever pruning it. If the tree is too small, it won’t have the impact you desire.
  • Avoid white pebbles like the plague. They might look great initially, but over time they will turn yellow, scatter and become a hassle every time you mow the lawn. They also won’t add any nutrients to the soil like an organic mulch will.
Choose flowers by looking at a colour wheel. You can also create layers in planting and landscaping to give the illusion of space. (Photography: Anjie Blair )

Planting tips

  • Don’t plant your flower beds too narrow or close to the house. You should extend your beds out by at least one to two thirds of the height of your house.
  • Don’t dig your plants too deep. The roots can suffocate and collected water can cause them to rot.
  • When planting groups of the same species, plant them in odd numbers such as seven or nine. Repeat the group throughout your garden for a cohesive effect.
  • Twice a year, use a fertilizer with time-releasing water-insoluble nitrogen.
  • To prevent soil drying out over a hot summer, apply a 3-5cm layer of mulch to garden beds.
  • If you want to try growing fresh herbs, start with hardy Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, rosemary and sage.

Applying a generous layer of mulch will prevent moisture loss in the garden during summer.

(Photography: Natalie Hunfalvay | Styling: Lisa Burden)

Lawn know-how

  • Most established lawns need less fertilizer. You should water once a week, or once every five days in extreme heat.
  • Don’t pick up leaves. Instead, mow over them and leave them to break down on your lawn. It will help keep weeds down.
  • Don’t pick up the grass clippings. They’ll be great food for earthworms and microbes that will help keep your lawn healthy.
  • Want a lawn that stays green and hydrated? Forget sprinklers. Lay a good quality turf suitable for your climate and conditions but include an irrigation plan in your landscaping design. It was a feature the owners of this Gold Coast garden opted for when updating their backyard and they worked with Reece Irrigation and Pools to map every inch of the lawn.
  • If you want a picture perfect lawn without lifting a finger, an automower (aka a robotic lawn mower) is a worthwhile investment. The idea is to run it daily so that your grass stays neat and tidy all year round.
Coastal outdoor fire pit with festoon lights
Hidden irrigation keeps this Gold Coast lawn looking lush. (Credit: Photography and styling: Louise Roche)


  • Giving your garden extra TLC in autumn by planting, weeding and fertilising will create a glorious, springtime display
  • Healthy soil equals a healthy garden. Keep yours nourished for free by turning food waste into a compost heap.
  • If you must use a leaf blower, be sure to blow with the wind, rather than against it and always plan out how you’re going to cover each area before you begin so that you don’t have to go over the same area twice.

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