Don’s mini-fruit tree makeover

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Don’s wonderful TV backyard makeover created everything you could need in an outdoor living area plus a mini-orchard of 11 dwarf fruit trees that will grow little higher than the fence.

We all dream of having the backyard with everything: areas to sit and have dinner, areas for the kids to play, artistic yet practical garden lighting, a clothes-drying area, lots of flowering plants, a barbecue area, a shaded area to sit under in summer and, perhaps most of all, a fruit tree orchard that produces masses of fruit for the family.

But then it would also be good to have a garden shed, some lawn, lots of herbs and perfumed-leaved plants, plus a sandpit, a daybed and really lovely colours on the fence, paving and seating. That is what we built into our mini-orchard makeover: the bloody lot.

All into a small backyard of a semi-detached home, measuring 11m x 8.5m (37 feet x 28 feet).

It took three days to build the garden, during pouring rain. It would have taken two fine days.

Service area

The service area is up the back, on the left-hand side. Even here there is a passionfruit vine on the fence next to a foldout clothesline. The service area is hidden by the latticework to which is attached two espaliered Navel oranges. These orange ‘trees’ are only 75mm (3 inches) thick!

Open areas

The ‘Sir Walter’ buffalo lawn area is for kids to play on and the decomposed granite/white gravel paving mix is more for the adults. It supports the dining table and chairs and also provides access to everything.

Night lights

Towering over the garden is a gigantic loquat tree. This produces superb orange-coloured fruit, but it also supports a low-voltage 12-volt lighting system. We fitted 12-volt compact fluorescent lights into Telbix drop suspension lantern fittings with Dino glass from Cosmo Lighting in Kensington, Sydney (around $50 each); phone (02) 9662 1517. Then we placed that whole assembly inside wooden/bamboo shades from Shanghaied in Melbourne; (03) 9384 7888. They’ll tell you of the nearest retailer in your state. These were between $90 and $190 each. We also installed a Clipsal C-Bus wireless remote and plug adaptors to allow the lights to be turned on by a remote-controller. Phone Clipsal on 1300 2025 25 for further details.

Since the light-fittings are only 12 volts, it is totally safe and legal for any homeowner to install them. Our electrician ran a 240-volt line along the fence to an outdoor power point on the fence. We plugged a 12-volt transformer into the power point and ran the 12-volt cable up the loquat tree so that the lights hang from the tree branches. The effect was excellent.

Cool Solarspan

We removed the existing garden shed which dominated the entire backyard and replaced it with a slimline shed beside the house. We removed the acrylic panels from the pergola and replaced them with Solarspan panels that are made of two layers of Colorbond steel separated by polyurethane foam plastic. This gives extraordinary thermal insulation – an oasis in summer, away from the scorching heat.

Fine pine

The garden beds are all edged with ACQ treated pine railway sleepers:  safe for the whole family. The sleepers and the fences were all painted with Taubman’s Rialto exterior low sheen acrylic – a lovely mushroom colour which highlights foliage really well.


But the mini-orchard! What a triumph! We fitted in:

  • a Kaffir lime (in a pot)
  • a dwarf Meyer lemon
  • a dwarf Emperor mandarin
  • a dwarf Tahitian lime
  • a dwarf Valencia orange
  • two espaliered navel oranges
  • a dwarf apple-tree
  • a dwarf fig tree
  • a dwarf mulberry tree
  • a dwarf mango tree
  • and an enormous loquat overhead
  • plus a large avocado hanging over the fence from next door.

That’s 13 fruit trees in one backyard, plus a passionfruit vine, 30 assorted herbs including mints, basil, pineapple sage, coriander, parsley, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme and aloe vera.

All of this in a backyard that measures 11m x 8.5m (37feet x 28feet).

Play zone

The owners Mick and Helen (and their 19-month-old toddler, Isabella) celebrated a relative’s 40th birthday, entertaining around 16 people with a barbecue (herbs from the garden were used). They were still able to kick the footy around and play a bit of cricket. Isabella loves her sandpit. Everyone wins.

Makeover credits

The dwarf fruit trees came from:

Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery; phone (02) 6632 1441, or visit

Kendall Farms; phone (07) 4779 1189, or visit

Dwarf citrus are readily available from most good nurseries.

For information on Solarspan panels visit

a Kanga mini loader can be hired for around $175 per day

the Beefeater barbecue came from Domayne

California two-and-a-half seater in Ecru, $1355, California coffee table, $545, and drum stools, $180 each, all from Islander Imports. Caicos 1.8m table, $658.90, and Caicos bench, $159.50, both from iwood.

Mini Orchid Dwarf Fruit Trees Don’s mini-fruit tree makeover mini fru