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The insider’s guide to landscaping your property on the Northern Beaches

Backyards are an integral part of life here on the Northern Beaches, thanks to our mild climate, large land blocks and outdoor lifestyle. And so it’s no wonder that more attention is being paid to the design and functionality of our outdoor spaces including how they integrate with our homes.

In this interview, we speak with local landscaper Greg Norton, from Mandara Landscapes, to unpack everything you need to know about creating, constructing, and perfecting your outdoor space. We delve into the importance of landscaping for a property, the value it adds when selling and how much you should budget for it.

As a qualified professional in landscape construction and design, Greg brings a wealth of knowledge and insights to the table. You'll discover the latest trending materials, whether synthetic products are a suitable choice for you and some practical tips for landscaping on a budget.

Greg Norton, Mandara Landscapes

How important is landscaping to a property? I believe landscaping is just as important as the layout of the home itself. Modern day landscaping involves integrating the outdoor space with the home so that you can make best use of all the space available to you.

Here on the Northern Beaches, where we have a good climate and spend a lot of time outside, it’s particularly important that our yards support our lifestyles.

The wide range of outdoor product options available these days means it’s much easier for the outside to be seamlessly tied to the inside. There are also many outdoor utilities available such as barbecues, fridge systems, outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, and fire pits, that mean our outdoor spaces can be utilised more. What percentage of the property’s value should you spend on landscaping?

You often hear that you should spend about 10 per cent of the value of the house on landscaping, but this can be overwhelming especially for those with a house worth millions of dollars.

I think that with clever design and material choices, it's possible to create an engaging outdoor space without spending excessively. For example, on a property worth a couple of million dollars, spending around $100,000 or less on landscaping will still achieve an attractive outcome. What trends are you seeing in garden design at the moment?

When it comes to plants, there is a trend towards using foliage rather than flowers. Traditional gardens such as the cottage garden or wild garden are not as popular as they were in the past. Instead, there is a focus on mass plantings of the same species with an emphasis on silver and green foliage, grasses, low ground covers and big architectural plants like you’d see in a Palm Springs style garden.

In terms of hard surfaces, white has been the go-to color for quite some time now which is inspired by colonial India's white plantation houses and English garden design, as well the popular Hamptons style. I see a lot of washed-out timbers such as spotted gum being used as well as natural stone like Himalayan sandstone.

I’m also seeing more organic lines in gardens, such as curved concrete edges and kidney-shaped pools which are making a comeback.

What’s your opinion on man-made products that imitate natural products?

To be completely honest, I’m a fan of natural products. I believe that natural timber provides texture and a certain kind of beauty that cannot be replicated. Wood that ages naturally is a beautiful thing, and it can be maintained with light sanding and oiling.

I don’t like aluminum fences, although they may be required in fire danger areas. The alternative would be to use hardwood but this can be expensive.

When it comes to screening, metal screening products that imitates natural materials can work if the gaps are small enough to provide privacy and aid appearance.

When it comes to stone, I think there are some good constituted stone products. The quality and texture of the aggregates used are fantastic, and the high cement content makes them more resilient to molds and fungus. Plus, as natural products become scarce, constituted products are becoming more popular as an environmental choice. For example, we are seeing more use of recycled sandstone, gravels, and even concrete byproducts which is terrific.

In decking boards, the early products were made of plastic and wood which tended to get very hot. These products have improved over the years and the new boards are aerated so they don’t get as hot in the sun. They also come in a broader range of colors.

Do you have any tips on how to save money on landscaping if you're on a budget?

First, take a walk around your neighborhood to see what plants are growing well in the area. Note the direction in which each house faces and the plants that thrive in those conditions. This will give you an idea of what plants to use.

Have a plan before visiting the nursery to avoid buying plants that don't work well together. Don't buy one plant and then add another each week without thinking about how they will interact with each other. This will lead to a mishmash of plants that may not thrive or grow well together.

When planting, consider starting with young, vigorous plants instead of advanced ones. Councils use tube stock for their nature strips, and these plants take off quickly. Vigorous growth occurs when plants are young seedlings.

Finally, consider buying plants from Gumtree or Facebook marketplace. You can often find mature plants for a fraction of their nursery price. This not only saves you money, but it also prevents the plants from going to landfill, contributing to the circular economy.

Finally, can you tell us where the work of a landscaper begins and ends?

There are different roles and skill sets in the landscaping industry. As a landscaping construction professional, my work mostly focuses on the construction side of landscaping. This includes paving, decking, tiling, structural work, retaining walls, drainage, and other hard landscaping tasks. Soft landscapers, on the other hand, primarily deal with planting, turfing and mulching.

There is also the role of landscape design. There are some practitioners out there who only offer design services. They cannot deliver the actual garden and will need to engage a landscape construction professional to carry out the work.

A lot of clients go straight to a landscaper and bypass designers, which is why I think a good landscaper should be well-disciplined in both construction and design. I have qualifications and experience in both, so when I begin a project I meet with the client, understand their requirements and vision, and then put it into action. Typically, this involves creating a mud drawing first, which then gets refined in consultation with the client until we arrive at a working diagram or topographic plan.

Want to get in touch with Greg? Head to to find out more


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