So you're a garden designer - what's your garden like?
This is a question I often get asked so for anybody that's interested here's the medium version of the answer.
My home garden is positioned on the hillside above our business in Hursley road and understanding the conditions of this site might help you understand why I garden the way I do.
We are in a protected location from westerlies in winter but always have a breeze (frequently very windy) in summer. So frost is minimal but things dry out quickly.
Our soil is a heavy black clay but only about 200 to 300mm deep overlaying decomposing basalt rock. The good deep red clay of Toowoomba can sustain a much wider range of plants through dry times but this shallow soil is another reason why things dry out quickly here. PH is about 7.5 to 8 so it is Alkaline in reaction. Drainage is reasonable because of the slope but plants that require good drainage often die out in a wet summer because of the high clay content. Our indigenous gum trees are the Mountain Coolibah (Eucalyptus orgadophila) which, I am told, indicate high phosphorus levels in the soil. This would explain why all Grevillea (except Silky Oak) die out on me after a year or two. Rainfall varies considerably and is way below the long term Toowoomba average of just under 1,000mm. We get more like 600mm in a dry year, 800mm in a really wet one.
My garden is simple and functional. It has to be as I spend a lot of time looking after other gardens.
I would probably describe it as an Informal, Country style garden with xeriscape influences. It's park-like yet nice and private with sun and shady zones. Places to sit and eat and cook outside.
I have a Labrador dog who loves eating Pears, apples, snow peas and even Tomatoes - all fresh from the tree/ vine of course! Kangaroos, Echidnas and lots of birds often visit and Possums are prolific. I grow a few Herbs and fruit trees and I struggle with vegetables when I get the urge to try again. Even with a drip irrigation set up on timers I can't keep up enough water to get them through our dry spring and early summer so I don't try to grow them through that period anymore.
This brings me to another point about my garden - it is very seasonal- and I don't try to fight that. When it's dry the grass is brown but I keep it neat. When it rains it is lush and we mow frequently. I really appreciate the seasons when particular plants are at their best and put up with them (in anticipation) when they are having their down time. If the wildlife eat a plant (Roses, veges, Geraniums, veges.....) I don't keep trying to grow them. A a result many of my favorites around the house are plants that are toxic (if eaten) such as the Japanese box, Brunfelsia and Oleander.
Around the house is mostly colourful and hardy exotics that give us a hit of flower or foliage colour at one time of year. Oleander, Salvia, Bougainvillea, Agapanthus, Crucifix orchid, Plumbago, Crepe Myrtle (My favorite small tree), Murraya and Brazilian Jasmine in pots
I have quite a collection of local dry rainforest plants in groves away from the house. These plants I also have come to appreciate for how well they can "hang on" through a dry and hot spring / summer. They are not as fast or as lush as their moist rainforest cousins but they are spectacular in their own right. Most are indigenous to close areas on the downs. All the Brachychitons are wonderful but the Lacebark is by far my favorite. It is so well suited to our seasons here being bare and then flowering in our dry spring, bursting in to full leaf when the summer rains eventually come. Hoop pine, Pittosporum, Wilga and Canthium all do well.
And then there are succulents which I am appreciating more and more. They are so well adapted to this environment and so diverse. I love them for their colour, their foliage and their form but mostly I love them because they don't die when we get no rain for 2 or more months.