COOL Concepts and Images

show garden

Each year I get the opportunity to create a feature garden on a theme that I feel passionately about at the time, and I try to physically demonstrate it, so hopefully it can impact homeowners to change the way they create and view their gardens.

This year my show garden is COOL, hopefully in every sense of the word!? Cool as in not hot, and also cool as in groovy, hip and fashionable, after all gardening is becoming very trendy and green is the new black!?


My goal is to show that gardens can be COOL whatever their size, in response to the prospect of a hotter, drier, harsher future; to mitigate the urban heat island effect; to deal with global issues such as food security and a lack of urban habitat; and to help support the mental and physical health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and cities. I hope this garden appeals to everyone, especially a generation of young people, new to gardening and for those wanting a groovy, hip or fashionable outdoor living space.

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I want to show something positive and use my feature garden COOL to show how gardens make outdoor spaces more liveable. My aim is to demonstrate how to adapt to gardening in tough growing conditions, including limited ground space, radiant heat, and the need for creative gardening options. Finally, I also want to show that even small spaces can still be highly productive.

In addition I have also designed a ‘5 Star Garden Rating’ which will be demonstrated with either a green tick …… or a red cross. How does your garden rate?

My hope is that we, as a community, can COOL down and green up our cities and towns.

I want to show practical ideas for gardeners and non-gardeners, on every budget, which are achievable and could be adapted to your backyard. As with all of my show gardens, I aim to create the WOW factor and they need to be over the top to grab your attention, with whimsy to appeal to those of all ages and stages.

A COOL garden

  • Feels cool and provides relief from the heat on a hot summer’s day.
  • Makes your outdoor space more liveable, for you and your family and for outdoor entertaining.
  • Feeds you and your family and improves your food security.
  • Saves you money by reducing cooling costs in summer and your food bills for organic produce.
  • Improves your property’s value.

& Benefits the planet

  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions because you are using less power to cool your home.
  • Mitigating the urban heat island effect.
  • Provides habitat for urban wildlife making your garden a biodiversity hotspot.

Plant plants ….. lots of them


COOL features a mixture of Australian native and exotic plants. Always check with the knowledgeable gardening personnel at your local nursery or garden centre about the suitability of plants you choose for your garden.


Shade trees

Nothing beats the cool feeling you get under a shade tree and, when space is limited, look to use a deciduous tree so that you can enjoy the winter sunshine. Evergreen shade trees can make small courtyard areas dark and gloomy over winter.

Vine covered pergola

Using deciduous climbers such as glory vine, wisteria or fruiting grapes over pergolas gives you shade in summer when you want to stay cool and yet when the leaves drop in winter you get the benefit of the sun’s warmth. Using plants for passive heating and cooling is part of sustainable house and garden design. It is significantly cooler under a vine covered pergola than it is under a shade structure with a solid roof, such as a veranda or polycarb covered pergola, due to the plants’ transpiration. Adding a misting system will drop the temperature significantly and mean that you can even enjoy this area on the hottest days. Misting systems are remarkably water efficient as reducing your shower by just one minute provides the same amount of water needed to run your system for two hours.

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Green walls

There are a number of commercially available vertical garden systems, but in our hot, harsh, summer-dry climate, many do not work successfully without very regular watering and maintenance. Their success is linked to matching the right plants to the conditions, the soil capacity of the system and the ability to water it effectively. Their cost can be prohibitive, so using climbing plants may be a more cost-effective option.

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Vegie Patch

Growing at least part of your own fruits, vegies and herbs is possible whatever the space of your garden. When ground space may be limited, vegies can be grown in raised beds or pots. Vegies can be grown in green wall systems as shown in this show garden but you can also use climbing vegies growing over mesh to cool down walls or create shade. Check out my favourite vertical vegies at Make sure to include flowers in and around your vegie patch to attract pollinators and beneficial bugs like ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings.

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Native Verge

When space is limited, consider the often underutilised land out the front of your home – the verge or nature strip. Planting your verge will look great and inspire others to do the same. Adding native plants to your verge is a great way to help create biodiversity and habitat. You can use local indigenous plants (those which originally grew in your area) or other climate compatible Australian natives. These plants are suited to your environment and once established will be able to grow without supplementary water. N.B. Always check with your local council about their verge policy and how you can be added to the ‘Do not mow and do not spray’ register. When whole streets do it, it improves the aesthetic appeal and property value of your area, and just like community gardens, verge plantings can help develop strong, healthy, connected local communities as people get to know each other. An added bonus is that increased foot traffic along the street decreases crime by increasing passive surveillance.


Not everyone will want chickens in their garden but having them can be a win-win particularly when you want to grow vegies and herbs. A few chooks will give you a remarkably steady supply of eggs, become your kitchen scraps recycling and value adding system, reduce your garden pests, and also be delightful companions.

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