natural garden design

A Garden Symyphony


This expertly composed garden has abundant grace, poise and a wonderful sense of whimsy

natural garden design

timber decking



landscape country design



Striking just the right chord, this unique backyard fuses relaxed 1960s Californian style with hints of traditional Japanese design and quirky Australian charm.

The garden was designed by Michael Cooke to complement the heritage-listed, architecturally designed 1960s Pettit and Sevitt home located in a beachside suburb of Newcastle. Pettit and Sevitt homes were designed by well-known Australian architects to reflect the relaxed popular culture of the era.

Adam Eurell from Nature’s Vision Landscapes, who constructed the garden, says the design intent was to create a landscape to not only harmonise with the home, but to modernise it by adding more contemporary elements. “Its design has been aimed at simplicity, timelessness and functionality, taking the best of the past with current-day style to flow to the outdoors,” he says.

The garden evokes a sense of whimsy while simultaneously conveying an aura of serenity. And with a covered space on the rear deck and an alfresco dining space, there’s plenty of room to sit and appreciate this gorgeous garden. From the timber deck, steps lead to the lush manicured lawn, which is bordered with design features suggesting a sense of fun and playfulness.

One of the most interesting design aspects pays homage to the 1960s Californian-style house — the contours of the rear lawn. “The rear garden has retro-shaped lawn spaces using straight lines with radial curves where lines meet,” says Adam. Another feature is the off-form bold concrete stepping stones that border some areas and link spaces in others.

The existing murraya (Murraya paniculata) hedge was artfully pruned into a series of bold asymmetrical shapes. A smooth curved bowl positioned within the leafy hedged border adds another layer of texture and the element of water, which features prominently in many Japanese-style gardens.

The earthy tones of the large bowl match the dramatic silver foliage of the silver teaspoon (Kalanchoe hildebrandtii) with its delicate curved leaves. This is a succulent that forms into a shrub-like habitat when it’s mass planted. In the cooler months of the year it will light up the garden with beautiful orange blooms.

Along with water, Japanese gardens also traditionally contain base elements of plants, stones and rocks; these elements combine to create restfulness and tranquillity. Here the fluid curved garden bed of weeping ornamental Miscanthus grasses is planted in a bed of smooth different-sized pebbles. Rising up through the garden bed, a striking tree aloe (Aloe barberae) adds height and contrast.

The statuesque Alexander palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae) also features in the garden, the tall silver trunks towering over the prolific beds of hardy succulents planted below. Other existing plant species, such as the showy Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica) and argyle apple (Eucalyptus cinerea) were retained from the existing garden and incorporated into the new design.

The garden also boasts many different varieties of drought-resistant succulents to reduce the need for water, and the beds have been well mulched to retain moisture. To keep the garden looking its best, the passionate owners spend many happy hours tending to its needs, assisted by Adam’s maintenance team.


Written by Carrol Baker

Photography by Brigid Arnott

Originally from Backyard & Garden Design Ideas Volume 12 Issue 2