Ben Harris Gardens
Ben Harris Gardens

Go with the flow: an outdoor sanctuary


With its natural-looking creek and profuse planting, this garden is a place of sanctuary

Surrounded by lawn and framed by a garden largely comprised of exotic plants, the new gazebo was an attractive destination, but something was missing. The garden needed a journey.

Ben Harris Gardens was engaged by the owners of the property, located in the Melbourne suburb of Lysterfield, to reimagine their garden, making the gazebo — and how you arrived there — an integral part of the design. They also wanted more native plants and a natural water feature.

The new garden uses a variety of Australian native plants, many of them bird-attracting, and exotics that complement the existing planting, but it’s the water feature that is the centrepiece.
“Initially, the owners had the idea of a large pond, but after finding out that keeping fish was not important to them, I suggested a pondless creek. This would give them the movement and sound of running water, but with much less maintenance,” explains Ben.

The 20m-long creek winds through the garden, emerging from bushes near the gazebo and finishing its journey close to the house. Throughout the various twists and turns the water speeds up and slows down, generating a variety of relaxing sounds.

“It was designed to be interactive,” says Ben, “so on the way to the gazebo the owners need to cross a lovely arched timber bridge and walk alongside the stream. If they want to cool their feet, they can ford the stream at its widest point and there are many rocks where they can sit and watch the water go by. Most often, however, they lie in the hammock in the gazebo, relaxing to the sound of the water.”

Great care went into creating the natural feel of the creek, which included the use of natural yellow mudstone and a hidden reservoir where the water seemingly disappears. “It really does look like a stream that has emerged over time, with the home and gazebo being built around it,” says Ben.

While he provided the vision and skill for building the creek, Aquascape Supplies Australia provided the Firestone liner, Aquascape pump, plumbing materials and AquaBlox. Aquascape Supplies Australia also has a complete system for pondless water features that is available to any contractor or DIYer and can teach the techniques that enable the creation of such natural-looking water features as this one.

Custom Built Gazebos of Silvan, a suburb in Melbourne’s outer east, built the gazebo. Tom Allen of Custom Built Gazebos provides a custom design and building service that can work with almost any site, including sloping blocks. The company also supplies and installs kits for gazebos up to 8m in diameter.

By skilfully integrating the shade-giving gazebo into the new design, Ben Harris Gardens has created a charming, free-flowing, naturalistic garden where the abundant planting and running creek combine to create a place of retreat.

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Originally in Outdoor Design & Living, Volume 34