The Tools I Use

The Tools I Use · Phillip Withers

‘Sorry for the late reply Sally (legend), I’ve been running around like an emu today!’

This is a classic Phillip Withers email – you can’t help but like the landscape designer from the first time you meet (or email) him. His infectious positive energy, and perpetual can-do attitude makes you feel like everything’s going to be okay in his presence. And that’s before he’s even got into your garden!

Known for his sustainable, creative approach to landscaped spaces using local flora, it’s clear that Phil pours his heart and soul into his work. Here, he shares his essential tool kit.

Sally Tabart

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Sally Tabart
21st of January 2019

Known as a bit of a local legend in Melbourne’s landscape design scene, Phillip Withers started off on a completely different (yet somewhat related) path. He first studied a Diploma of Arts at RMIT, majoring in screen print design, and learning how to construct clothing. It was by way of working in garden maintenance that Phil discovered an interest in getting his hands dirty (literally), then going on to study a Diploma of Landscape Design and Sustainability at Swinburne University. Combining his passion for landscape with his early artistic training to create visually spectacular spaces, Phil established his own studio, Phillip Withers Landscape Design, in 2012.

So what are the hallmarks of a Phillip Withers garden? Sustainability and ‘a respect and celebration of nature’ is at the core of his Phil-osophy. Working all over Australia, he and his dedicated team of landscape architects, designers and horticulturalists are at first concerned with the environmental history of any project, creating ‘practical and functional areas that celebrate that use of food and local indigenous plant life’. His projects have won some of the most prestigious awards in the country.

And really, at the end of the day, Phil is also just a bloody good guy. We take a look inside his toolkit to get an overview of the must-have tools for any aspiring landscaper!

Draftex Yellowtrace

‘I use this to trace over existing drawings to get creative and really nail a concept design. It’s also a great tool to colour on for our planting plans!’

Find it here. 

Garden Soil Moisture Meter

‘The Moisture Meter and Aqua Sprayer go hand in hand. We check the plants at our office and plant-filled studio space, Shrub Hub, on a daily basis. This tool helps us gauge the moisture level in the soil the plants sit in’.

Find it here. 

Aqua Systems 2L Garden Pressure Sprayer

‘A studio favourite, this one! We all have our own – it’s the best thing you can use to keep plants moist and happy’.

Find it here. 

Horticultural Garden Tools (left to right)

‘Probably the four most important tools our horticultural team use. They’re not the most glamorous, but golly are they handy. If it wasn’t for these babies, our work wouldn’t get done!’

Cyclone Multi-Purpose Shovel
‘This is best used for shovelling bark and crushed rock’.

Find it here. 

Spear & Jackson Cultivator 3-Prong
‘This is all about cultivating soil and aerating garden beds. A must for installing new plant life on our projects’.

Find it here. 

Spear & Jackson 20 Tine Nail Rake
‘Used for raking and cultivating soil.’

Find it here. 

Manutec Soil PH Test Kit

‘This is where the fun begins in our design process, checking soil on site for our new projects is key in selecting the right plants. This clever kit provides us with the PH level of the soil, which determines the availability of almost all essential plant nutrients’.

Find it here. 

Cyclone Long Handle Spade

‘Our oldest garden tool of the crew! This chap’s name is Spencer the spade. He mixes concrete and helps spread the fine toppings on our build jobs’.

Find it here.

Cyclone Garden Trowel

‘Most keen gardeners will own one of these beauties. We use this at Shrub Hub to pot new plants. Most of the time we get stuck in and use our hands, but when the soil is tougher this tool saves the day’.

Find it here.

Cyclone Weeder

‘Another handy tool to use when getting stuck into the garden beds. This one is used for removing weeds.

Find it here. 


Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Styling – Ashley Simonetto.


What’s a piece of industry advice you wish you’d known before learning the hard way?

Stay true to what you know, work on the projects that are right for our business.

Don’t be scared to say ‘no’, it takes a while.

Build a team, not a workforce.

Top three creative resources?

1. Land Mapping
2. Victorian Building Authority
3. Victorian Indigenous Nurseries Co-operative

Most visited website related to your work?

Favourite online/IRL stores for your ‘tools’?

what are you listening to when you work?

Usually something dreamy like Bon Iver or smooth like Leon Bridges!

Favourite books related to your practice?

Some of my favourites of late are Constructing Landscapes by Astrid Zimmermann for technical stuff, Australian Native Plants by John W Wrigley, and inspiration from Australian Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs.