Landscaping Failures – finding out the cause when it’s too late

SESL Australia

Successful landscaping works add aesthetic value to new developments and breathes new life into a remediated site, and can be a major attraction when done right (have a look at the Barangaroo Headland!).

Minimally, successful landscapes are the result some decent soil, some healthy plants and some skill from the green thumbs. But usually, successful landscaping works require careful planning, strict specifications and the involvement of soil scientists, landscape architects and horticulturalists.

And all too often, landscaping works are not successful, resulting in expensive investigations, urgent replanting, additional infrastructure and headaches that all could have been avoided.

SESL often gets called in to assist in these situations; we have successfully turned numerous disasters into successful and thriving landscapes with our expertise and specialist analysis. However, involving a specialist soil scientist when it’s all gone pear-shaped is too late, and involving us at the start of the project can save you time, hassle, money and your reputation!

dead tree
Figure 1. Insufficient drainage, poor topsoil horizon installation, and lack of awareness of subsoil constraints resulted in major rectification works at this site.

Here’s a few ways we can assist to help make your landscaping project a success (the earlier the better!):

  • Development of specifications

We can use our expertise and published literature to develop comprehensive

site-appropriate specifications for every type of proposed landscape, including: site-won material; imported material; on-grade; on-platform/podium; turf; gardens; mass planting; and bio-retention basins to name a few. Specifications include “Hold Points” to add accountability into the process to ensure quality.

  • Review specifications

Have a generic specification you use? Let us review it for you. Too often we see specifications that are incomplete, insufficient, contradictory or vague. In the world of contractual agreements, often landscape works can only be as successful as the specification. If you’re going to deliver a specification, have us review it first. One small change in wording in the specification could make a world of difference in the final landscape.

  • Sampling and site assessments

Our Soil Scientists can visit your site, assess site soil for beneficial reuse, provide stripping depths, stockpile management and re-use options. We might see a constraint to the success of the landscaping works in the field that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, and in doing so, recommend management strategies.

  • Assessment against specifications

Won a project, working to a specification and working out the best way forward? Let us help you decide whether to import or reuse site-won material, how to get the most value from site-won material, and what products to steer well clear of before you buy a truck-load. We have routine soil assessment packages for various landscaping applications, packages for the AS 4419 variants and custom packages to meet every application and landscape type. Our specialist Soil Scientists will interpret the laboratory data and give practical and achievable recommendations and solutions. Being independent, we don’t sell you a product; we’ll give you a range of options and can review any products for you in relation to your project’s needs. Give one of our specialist Soil Scientists a call to discuss your project needs.

  • Supervision of hold points

Independent supervision of hold points is a critical but often forgotten element of the project. Having specialist advice on hand, on-site, to supervise site soil stripping to ensure quality is maintained, to independently confirm horizon depths and material consistency, and to hold works if non-conformances are found means the assurance of the quality of your project is confirmed by an independent source, and the project is completed right first time.


And, if it does go wrong…

  • Investigations and rectification recommendations

We can attend your site, investigate the cause of the failed landscaping works and provide recommendations to improve the landscape, bring it up to specification and satisfy practical completion. 


Whatever your landscaping needs – everything from speciation writing and review, to site assessment and beneficial re-use, to making specialist soil blends, to analysis and recommendations, to investigations and rectification strategies to revive a failed landscape, SESL Australia has you covered, Australia-wide. Call one of our Soil Scientists today on 1300 30 40 80.


Featured Image: Failed landscape plantings along a riparian area of a new residential development. Subsoil constraints and erosion controls were not put in place and major rectification works were required.