Landscape construction

When it comes to construction, we take pride in our work and do things properly.

Whether it’s a pond, a pergola, a stone wall, or a paved courtyard, the construction work in a Ben Harris Garden is built to last. And our skill with plant selection and planting enhances the underlying structure to provide lasting beauty.

Below are some of the landscaping services we offer (click on each heading to expand or close that section).

Natural water features

Well-constructed ponds, billabongs, waterfalls and streams look amazing.

Eltham stream

The key is to make them look as natural as possible. Streams and waterfalls need to appear as though they have been carved out of the ground, preferably on an existing slope. The rocks in any natural water feature need to vary in size, and should never look too symmetrical. The same applies to the flow of the water – it just looks better when the water meanders between rocks and around corners, rather than in a straight line.

For more information on ponds, billabongs, streams and waterfalls, please see our natural water features page.

Plant selection and planting

Planting design

Planting design and planting is one of the more enjoyable aspects of landscaping, for both ourselves and our clients. We like to combine differing foliage colours and textures to create interesting garden beds. Depending on the plants selected, these designs can create a different feel in the garden – Mediterranean, Australian native, tropical or Asian, cottage or courtyard … even a Zen garden for quiet contemplation.

Planting designs can range from the complicated, such as cottage gardens with a great variety of flowering plants distributed seemingly at random, to a modern minimalist theme, where only a few key species are used for dramatic effect.

A huge number of factors influence plant selection: soil fertility, drainage, drought-tolerance, sun and shade, wind, not to mention eventual plant size, growth rate, and your ability to maintain the plant. And after all that, we consider how the plant actually looks.


Popup irrigation for lawns

Popup irrigation for lawns

Plants need water to thrive. Many plants are tolerant of drought, but they don’t necessarily look at their best under drought conditions.

Irrigation can ensure that they grow well, but this really depends on how healthy you want your garden to look, and how much time you are willing to spend moving a hose around. Ben Harris Gardens can install complex automated systems that use an irrigation controller to turn sprinklers on at certain times, or straight-forward systems that you simply turn on and off at the tap.

Lawns are best irrigated with pop-up sprinklers. These pop-ups are buried at the level of the lawn, safe from harm when you mow, and you can’t trip over them. When you turn the irrigation on, the sprinklers all pop up 100mm above the ground to water the lawn.

Spray irrigation for garden bed

Garden beds can be irrigated with sprays or dripline. Drip irrigation has become very popular over the last decade in response to droughts, and government restrictions on other methods of irrigation. Drip irrigation is good for narrow garden beds, and for clients who don’t want to see pipes and sprays in their garden beds. On the other hand,  spray irrigation allows you to see where the water goes, giving you peace of mind that the system is actually working, and the opportunity to adjust where the distribution of water in your garden.


Pavement construction can range from simple gravel paths up to stone pavers laid on steel-reinforced concrete slabs. We install all types of pavement with careful consideration of its structural integrity, how it looks, and how it drains.

Victoria blue brick paving

Brick paving can look great, especially with older weatherboard homes. Usually brick pavers are laid on a base of compacted crushed rock under a bed of washed sand. The strength of these pavements depends on how well the rock underneath is compacted, and how much of it there is. We compact rock in thin layers, gradually building up a thick foundation. Our preferred paving pattern is herringbone, for practical and aesthetic reasons – it resists movement and looks great.

Second-hand bricks salvaged from old homes are an alternative to standard paving bricks. Their variability creates a beautiful texture. As they vary in size, they are better laid on mortar with cement-based grout filling the gaps.

Natural stone paving can provide a garden with a timeless finish. It is the variability of stone that gives it character. Stone – such as Castlemaine slate, Mintaro slate, Wistow and Kanmantoo – are all perfect for a crazy paving format, which suits the natural garden. Porphyry, limestone, travertine, bluestone, granite and sandstone are all great paving materials. For longevity, we prefer to lay all stone pavers on a reinforced concrete slab.

Commonly-used gravels include Lilydale toppings, Tuscan toppings and granitic sand. These materials are permeable, allowing some water to penetrate, and look more natural when used with boulders.

Retaining walls

Retaining walls can be made of timber, stone, concrete or brick, and there are many different construction methods. However, a retaining wall is often unnecessary – simply creating a planted slope will suffice, and can be decorative as well. If you think you need a retaining wall, we can discuss which is the best option for your garden.

Dry stone wall

A dry stone wall is the perfect fit for a natural garden. We don’t use mortar; rather, the strength of the wall comes from its bulk and the way all the stones interlock. We prefer to use Castlemaine spalls and Kanmantoo bookleaf stone. Larger rock embankments can be built using boulders.

Timber retaining walls are also very common – usually built with treated pine sleepers or old railway sleepers. These walls are cost-effective and can be relatively fast to construct. Timber or steel posts can be used – steel is stronger and will last longer. The posts alone take the weight of the soil, so the more posts, the stronger the wall.

Brick retaining wall

Masonry walls, either concrete or clay brick, need steel reinforcement to form a solid mass. Otherwise, the mortar joints will be the weak point of the wall. Concrete blocks look better faced with some type of cladding, or rendered. Clay bricks can be left exposed.

For masonry and timber retaining walls that have a limited ability to shed water, drainage needs to be considered behind the wall. Water build-up behind the wall is the number one cause of retaining walls failing. Proper drainage usually means installing slotted pipe at the bottom of the wall and backfilling with stone screenings. A masonry retaining wall needs to be waterproofed as well if it is to be painted or rendered.


Cypress pergola

Pergolas are traditionally constructed with timber, although they can be made from steel or a combination of stone pillars and timber beams.

Using thicker posts than are structurally necessary gives the impression of strength, where thinner posts just don’t look strong enough.

Treated pine is the most common timber used, but thick cypress pine provides a good, chunky, rustic look. The look is completed with climbing plants, supported by stainless steel wiring.


Mitcham garden - buffalo turf

Instant turf has become commonplace, and there are many turf types and brands to choose from. We will recommend the most appropriate turf for your situation, taking account of factors including sunlight, drought tolerance and the expected wear and tear.

Laying new turf is the easy bit. The hard work is in the preparation – constructing the edge, cultivating the soil properly (removing compaction, bricks, rocks, weeds, spreading soil additives or incorporating compost), importing more clean soil and finally levelling the area. It is all worth it when you see the turf growing well in spring and summer. Without good preparation, however, lawns will be unhealthy, patchy, and prone to dying off when conditions aren’t perfect.