Sea Change Gardens

Sea Change Gardens


tropical gardens

Located on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, this garden is a natural wonder
Story: Georgina Martyn
Photos: Simon Griffiths

Is it possible to have a sea change while still living by the sea? It certainly is. It is all about our perception of beauty and our willingness to let go of the old.
A sea change was blowing in for Faye and Barry Hamilton, owners of this Portsea property who decided to demolish the original house and garden, making way for the new. “We were ready to let go of our formal style house and garden and adopt a different approach,” explains Faye.

Wanting to capture the relaxed essence of the beachfront nearby, the garden exudes a magical quality. “I wanted to bring the feeling of the front beach to the garden,” says Faye. Wanting to work with nature, rather than against it, they sought a garden designer with a sensitive approach to solutions, passionate about working with plants.

Creating a memorable garden space for the owner’s future grandchildren to explore was the most important requirement of the garden. An emphasis on sustainability and a gentle design response was also critical. To achieve this, selecting plants that thrive in sandy soils, attract habitat, and fit with the local environment was important. Reducing maintenance and water requirements was another component of the brief, bringing added benefits of allowing the owners more leisure time to play golf entertain friends and spend time with their grandchildren.

Chosen for their ability to tolerate sandy soils, salt winds and strong sunlight, the plantings make this garden sing. Richly textured massed plantings juxtaposed according to foliage texture, colour, and form bring the space to life. Appearing in bands and swathes, the choice of plants allows for seasonality through changes in foliage and flower.
In contrast to other gardens, the colour green is lacking from many of the plants, yet this adds to the appeal and strength of the garden. Bronze, brown, and copper shades add drama and energy to the garden through their sheer healthful vitality. Being suited to the environmental conditions the warm golden tones of grasses and strappy leafed plants such as Stipa stipoides, Poa labillarderi, and Libertia peregrinans add foliage interest all year round. They also complement the earthy colours of the Castlemaine slate used to clad the face of the wet edge pool.

Working with the wind, the grasses bend and sway on a breezy afternoon, adding a delightful element of movement to the garden. Lateafternoon sun captures seed heads and leaf tips, enveloping the garden in a glorious golden glow. Another colour used to great advantage in the planting design is silvery and grey foliage tones. The silver-leafed succulent Cotyledon orbiculata frames the entrance deck and offers a sea of subtle orange when in flower. The flowers attract local birds to feast on nectar, bringing valuable habitat to the garden. Banksia integrifolia used a screening tree on the far side of the pool displays a silver grey highlight on the underside of the leaf. It blends perfectly with the soft grey foliage of Correa alba.

Metal troughs planted with the quirky succulent Echeveria crenulata line the entrance deck and frame the steps leading down into the sculpture garden. A series of winding gravel paths edged with large loose stones provide safe spaces for the owner’s grandchildren to dig and explore. These areas double as educational opportunities by providing chances to observe the nuances of nature. Lizards and other small creatures create homes in the rocks, find shelter under the deck, and scoot across the gravel paths.

A stainless-steel pelican on a swivel base stands tall in an opening of gravel at the end of the pool as though drinking from the water. Two timber cubes offer a place to sit and play. This life-size sculptural pelican moves in the wind and fulfils the brief by bringing to the garden the familiar sight of real pelicans often spotted on the front beach.
By developing a new appreciation of their coastal environment, the owners of this stunning garden now enjoy magic moments with their grandchildren, family, and friends. Nurtured by plantings that fit with the local environment Faye says of the garden: “I just love opening the gates and coming home. I get so much joy from this garden. I would never go back to the garden we had.”

Consider letting go of the old. Embrace exciting design opportunities by working with nature. Are you ready for a sea change?

About the author: Georgina Martyn is an award-winning garden designer with a special interest in sustainability. She is also the founder of the design company, BoldSimplicity.