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Garden Of Earth

Often celebrated as the pinnacle of Aussie culture, the great outdoors calls to Australians young and old as the perfect backdrop for adventure and relaxation alike. Whilst many Melburnians opt for camping and hiking as a means to experience stunning bushlands, with some clever material choices you can bring the lush natural landscape right to your back door. With freeflowing organic styles becoming ever more popular, Katie Livingston talks materials with Nick Mayhew, director of esteemed construction company, NM Landscape Construction, and seeks his advice on how to achieve this sought-after aesthetic.

There are many elements that can come into play when designing your landscape, from structure, soil, design and climate, but the materials and products you choose are pivotal when it comes to instilling a natural, earthy tone into your outdoor space. Simply by opting for more natural materials and an abundance of vibrant plant life, your backyard can become the rustic retreat you’ve always envisioned.

Pave The Way

Creating walkways is the first step toward achieving the rustic garden of your dreams, and even the most free-flowing gardens need a path to traverse it. For a homely, bushland aesthetic, natural stone is often a go-to product, as its imperfections, and flexibility bring a truly earthy aspect to your design. Mayhew notes that “a lot of the limestones have come up quite a bit” and this natural and versatile material is the perfect complement to a freeform pool and garden style. He also notes that ‘Filetti’ paving is becoming more and more popular in recent years, and this traditional stone format can really add a rustic note to your outdoor space. 

NM Landscapes
NM Landscapes

In a similar vein as cobblestone, ‘Filetti’ is made from long, thin pieces of stone such as granite, porphyry, and gneiss, and its durability and longevity make it perfect for hardwearing surfaces such as driveways and paths. For those with youngsters running around their gardens, Mayhew suggests “looking at a heavier textured paver, like granite” as its slip-resistant properties add an extra level of safety for wet areas and pool surrounds. Its hard surface makes it difficult to chip and wear done, and also provides resistance against stains. Whilst it may not be there first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a natural style, Mayhew also notes that “concrete and decorative concrete come up a lot,” and this versatile material is one that can easily blend into almost any theme.

Home Grown

Lush greenery, tall shady trees and vibrant flowers are the crux of an earthy, rustic style, but unless you have a lot of time on your hands, your abundant garden could quickly become an overgrown hazard. For those of us with little time to spare on pruning and watering, opting for flora that require minimal attention and stay green and fresh year-round is a good place to start.

When it comes to choosing the right plants, Mayhew coins natives as his go-to for a low maintenance garden. “I see a lot more native gardens going in,” he says, “and going down the native path [is definitely a great option]”.

But just because something is Australian doesn’t mean it will thrive in our Melbourne climate, so seek advice from your landscaper, or pop into your local nursery to find the right natives for your backyard. If low maintenance is your goal, he also recommends “going for succulents in your garden” as many species can withstand infrequent watering and drier soil – and in some cases, often prefer to be left to their own devices.

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All Decked Out

The perfect material to soften your outdoor space, timber will complement any masonry you install and add a touch of natural warmth to your alfresco. A timber deck will not only make a stunning alfresco, but acts as a stylistic bridge between your home and the outdoors. But this natural beauty is not without its drawbacks, and Mayhew stresses the importance of “keeping up the maintenance, and cleaning and sealing often [otherwise it will fade]”. However, having your timber going grey may not be such a bad thing, and faded timber can really tie with a rustic theme. But if you’re really stressed about durability, Mayhew adds that, “I would use a composite material, not timber [if you don’t want to oil it twice a year].” Composite decking is designed to mimic the woodgrain of timber, but is far more resistant to rot, insect infestation and water damage.

Tile It Back A Bit

Whilst sleek, ornate tiles might not be the first thing that springs to mind when planning a natural styled outdoor area, that is not to mean that they should be ruled out. The beauty of tiles is the broad range of styles and finishes available, and by opting for neutral tones and more matte finishes, tiles can perfectly complement the aesthetic of your garden.

Their non-porous surface makes them easy to clean, but on the flip-side they can pose a slipping hazard when wet, so consider the layout of your yard carefully, and avoid placing them in areas that will likely have high traffic when wet. Conversely, there are more textured tiles that reduce slippage, but these can be much harder to clean.

 

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If you’re travelling down the porcelain tile route, take your time and select a product that is specifically designed for outdoor use, otherwise you run the risk of them chipping or cracking. For those renovating already cracked tiles, Mayhew notes that “you can just make the most of it, and turn it into something new [such as] a small garden bed.” However, he adds, “if it’s an important tile you might need consider redoing the whole lot, because it’s not going to match the existing. [Whereas for natural stone] depending on which stone it is, you can usually still get the same product, and timber you can also replace quite easily.”

Whatever your preference, it is always best to discuss your ideas with a landscape professional and take advantage of their extensive expertise to find the perfect materials for your space.

 

Images Courtesy of NM Landscape Construction

NM Landscapes
NM Landscapes