Effortlessly blending old and new, this Melbourne garden by Merrick Hide Design is a true work of art
With its considered combination of hard landscaping, lush planting and arresting artwork, this elegant garden in Prahran, Melbourne, was no ordinary project. The facade of the original house has major heritage significance, which needed to be acknowledged in the garden design. Of course, the modern two-storey extension also needed to be recognised, with the garden playing an important role in seamlessly combining the two very different styles of architecture.
“Creating functional spaces around the garden where the owners could entertain was equally imperative, as was establishing a sense of privacy,” explains Merrick Hide, principal of Merrick Hide Design. “Given the layout of the house, this required careful consideration in the selection of the appropriate trees and their placement. And there was one more thing. The homeowners are devoted art collectors and wanted their love of art reflected in the garden.”
Merrick’s semi-formal design, in which traditional European elements have been given a modern interpretation, skillfully forges the home’s past with its present.
Take the centrally located water feature. “The original house, which dates back more than 100 years, had a small fountain in the same location, so that was something I wanted to re-create to bring back some of its history,” says Merrick. “Also, having a circular central piece draws your eye around the garden.”
The sculpture, nestled into a garden bed to one side of the fountain, is strikingly contemporary in comparison. Entitled ‘Felled, it is the work of Penny Byrne and is made of bronze with a satin black patina.
“Plant selection was carefully thought out as we wanted it to feel as if the garden has been there for a long time, so old traditional-style plants such as wisteria, salvia, camellias and European fan palms, to name a few, were a must,” explains Merrick. “To ensure the garden has interest all year round, there is autumn colour contributed by the ornamental pears and crab apples and there are winter, spring and summer flowering shrubs and groundcovers.
“Pencil pines were selected for the boundaries to give definition and create a dense, dark screen and backdrop,” he continues. “When planted close together they are such a great screen as they don’t take up too much garden space and still get the height required.”
The hardscaping materials are part of the rich tapestry of colours and textures. Second-hand red bricks, salvaged from the original house, were used for the borders and feature herringbone paving sections. Adding a more modern feel, there is sawn bluestone which was laid on a 45-degree angle to tie in with the original tessellated tiles on the front porch.
“Buxus and camellia balls as well as silver birches ‘grow’ out of the paving. This creates real interest, softens the hard surface and allows you to really walk through the garden,” says Merrick.
As day eases into night, the ambient lighting throughout the garden comes into play. This includes uplighting to the pencil pines and feature trees, and the effect is enthralling.
Landscape design and construction
Merrick Hide Design
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Photography by Patrick Redmond