Design Defined

Design Defined


Here, we look at some of our most influential landscape designers and discover what makes their designs so compelling

Words: Catherine Stewart

There are many Australian landscape designers changing the way we think about gardens; how we can use our outdoor areas and how they might reflect our personalities and local environment as well as fulfilling our needs for relaxation, enjoyment, play and entertaining. The designers listed here each, in some way, contribute to our understanding of garden-making today, finding a unique way to create a combination of spaces, hardscape materials and plants that satisfies and delights, as well as inspiring other designers. Some are also well known for their international show gardens and design work, where there is a developing sense overseas of an Australian garden that’s not necessarily about using our native plants. It’s more about the way we live in our gardens, the shapes of spaces, proportions, contrasting textures, planting and attention to detail, combined with a very high level of build quality that’s being recognised as distinctly Australian.

Peter Nixon: plant-driven design
Peter Nixon uses a broad palette of plants from Africa, southern Brazil, the east coast Australian rainforest, Mexico and southern China to take planting choices away from dull repetition and into a world of bold combination. Each is chosen as a best fit for a garden’s unique soils and microclimates, reliability and easy maintenance. Sci-fi succulents mix with giant-leafed perennials, small trees, delicate vines, rustling grasses and splashes of colourful flowers, creating lush but water-wise gardens. Low-cost sustainable materials form unobtrusive hardscape elements but it’s the plants that shape spaces, create canopies and carpet the ground, as Nixon feels they alone have the power to transform our lives every single day.
Paradisus Website

Kate Cullity and Kevin Taylor: natural landscapes
Kevin Taylor and Kate Cullity make Australian gardens that reflect our natural landscape, particularly its dryness and desert, like the inspirational Australian Garden at Cranbourne near Melbourne where the duo has developed a new vernacular of Australian design. Celebrating the red sands of the desert; the patterns of vegetation growing along meandering, subterranean creek lines; the unique quality of Australia’s light, diffused by eucalypts and making shadow patterns across the ground; and the response of our forests to wildfire, the designers show their fascination with the power of natural elements. Kate Cullity’s own Adelaide garden encapsulates how the natural landscape can inspire a smaller, residential-sized garden.
Taylor Cullity Lethlean Website

Fiona Brockhoff: treading softly
From her understanding of the way plants cope with the conditions of coastal Victoria, Fiona Brockhoff takes many of the local indigenous species and shapes and trains them in very different ways, as well as reusing many of the materials she finds around her. As you will see in her garden, Karkalla, found objects become beautiful sculptures, pale-coloured gravels echo the dunes of coastal landscapes and the greys of weathered timbers and soft-textured, silver foliage plants combine to form water-wise, low-maintenance gardens with an instant sense of place.
Fiona Brockhoff Landscape Design Website

Jim Fogarty Design: form and texture
Winner of a swag of show awards in England and Asia, Jim Fogarty’s gardens have become internationally synonymous with Australian garden style, which synthesises a wide range of influences. Drawing on our heritage of gardening styles from formality to the relaxed backyard, mixing indigenous with other sustainable plants and focusing on natural “sense of place” materials, Fogarty understands the way we like to use our gardens. A master of plants, Fogarty’s gardens are each very different, ranging from textural and contemporary to quietly elegant or even delicate and pretty. All exhibit his trademark sophisticated way of combining strong ground-plane shapes and beautiful paving detail but it is the plants that Fogarty makes his stars, carefully selecting them for form, texture and flowers.
Jim Fogarty Design Website

Rick Eckersley: living in the garden
The overall aesthetic of Rick Eckersley’s garden design lends itself to a strong sense of enclosure and appealing human-scale spaces but without an obvious designer branding in their style. Strong themes in an Eckersley garden are disguising of boundaries, often with Boston ivy-clad walls, so we are never quite sure where it begins and ends, and the textures of natural stone and weathered timber, combined with structured but casual planting schemes. Enclosure is reinforced by canopies of different kinds, from trees to vine-covered pergolas, or just a simple umbrella. Paving and paths often feature patterns and bandings from alternating surface textures or plants.
Eckersley Garden Architecture Website

Jamie Durie: the outdoor room
Jamie Durie interprets the outdoor room so that it fits perfectly with our lifestyle needs and aspirations. Durie makes outdoor rooms that are uniquely ours, where we can live, eat and entertain, but not spend a lifetime on maintenance. Just as immigration has enriched our art, cooking and fashions, he sees gardens also as a synthesis of these multicultural influences, placing our garden design firmly in our geographical Asian context, with intimate spaces, pavilions and lush textured plantings but above all, a sense of relaxation and renewal.
Patio Landscape Architecture & Design Website

Janine Mendel: angled energy
While Janine Mendel uses strong geometric shapes on the ground plane in her contemporary garden designs, it is her ability to energy-charge them with angled and intersecting lines spearing across the ground that sets her apart. Moving outside the rigidity of just simple squares and rectangles, Mendel mixes curves and straight lines, making garden shapes that are endlessly interesting without ever being fussy or complicated. By using angles, the true proportions and shape of a garden are cleverly disguised, making small spaces seem much larger and stretching narrow dimensions. Paths are given great attention, with changes in levels, materials and angles continually refreshing the garden journey.
CultivArt Website

Paul Bangay: balanced formality
Proportion, balance and elegance are words often used to describe Paul Bangay’s gardens. Taking the best of French, Italian and English formal garden styles, Bangay constantly reinvents the formal garden in both traditional and more contemporary ways, controlling the shapes and proportions of garden spaces, the balance of mass and void and creating layers of levels and patterns. Concentrating on strong axes and the “restfulness of regularity”, he clips and shapes plants to form a strong garden architecture. Ivy-greened walls, parterres, stilt hedging and topiary surround ever-present water, enhancing the texture of stone, gravel and the aged patina of urns and sculpture, or softening the clean lines of modern architecture.
Paul Bangay Garden Design Website

Arthur Lathouris: sustainable style
Gardens that nurture the land and sit comfortably within the landscape are the hallmark of Arthur Lathouris, whose designs have won numerous awards. Lathouris creates gardens that make the most of a site’s natural features, beginning by shaping practical and beautiful spaces, but also finding ways to lessen the garden’s impact on our natural environment. Grasses often provide soft texture contrasts and he loves to include a productive garden, so the owners can reap the bounty of healthy, organically home-grown vegetables, fruit and herbs. Lathouris’ skill is to make these combinations in every style, including elegant formal gardens, the clean lines of contemporary urban spaces and sweeping, plant-filled romantic retreats.

Arthur Lathouris Garden Designer Website

Peter Fudge: the simple graces
Finding new ways of making traditional and formal gardens that fit with a modern lifestyle, Peter Fudge is well known for his defined ground-plane shapes, which he often emphasises with lines of parallel, layered hedging. Taking his cue from the house architecture, the garden’s shapes and colours then become a natural progression. Although he is well known for his restrained “green-on-green” gardens, Fudge also uses a judicious splash of colour on a wall or furniture or a more complex and flower-filled planting scheme to liven the pace.
Peter Fudge Gardens Website

Dean Herald: resort-style living
Tapping into that age-old yearning for wanting to feel like you’re always on a five-star holiday, Dean Herald makes private and beautiful sanctuaries. Filled with all the creature comforts of home, Herald’s gardens take the outdoor room to new levels of spaciousness, sophistication and luxury. Lavish water features and pools, outdoor kitchens and grand entertaining areas combine with an attention to high-quality workmanship that has set new standards in the build of residential landscapes. Herald’s gardens are all different as they respond to each client’s brief, some showing hard-edged formality and others a relaxed, more naturalistic feel, but they all share a feeling of escape from the ordinary to a life we all dream of.
Rolling Stone Landscapes Website

Australian gardens
If you’d like to delve a little deeper into the intriguing world of Australian garden design, invest in a copy of Contemporary Australian Garden Design: Secrets of leading garden designers revealed (published by ABC Books, rrp $69.95). Co-authored by landscape architect and Gardening Australia presenter John Patrick and garden enthusiast Jenny Wade, Contemporary Australian Garden Design takes you on a guided tour of 20 of Australia’s leading designers’ work. The authors detail how each designer approaches a design brief, creates a planting scheme and overcomes site problems, and they cover all styles of gardens, from seaside sanctuaries and country retreats to inner-city courtyards.

When writing the book, John and Jenny wanted to showcase the various design techniques and styles that are available throughout Australia. To achieve this, they profile some of the country’s biggest names in landscaping, such as Paul Bangay, Jamie Durie, Dean Herald, Rick Eckersley and design duo Kevin Taylor and Kate Cullity, as well as a number of designers who are yet to become household names but are doing inspired work. Among this number are Tasmania’s Catherine Shields, Queensland’s Suzan Quigg and Darwin-based Marisa Fontes.

In his foreword, Jim Sinatra sums up the essence and intent of this book very nicely: “Gardens need design anchors to help build them; without them they seem to drift and float. John Patrick and Jenny Wade have succeeded in putting together stories that explore the spirit of garden-making and give us the design anchors to create our own gardens.”