Exuding a touch of the exotic, this striking courtyard garden confidently blends traditional and contemporary elements
A compelling blend of European and Australian influences, infused with distinct Mediterranean and Italian flavours, this highly evocative courtyard garden was, quite literally, the star of the show. Dubbed The Loggia, it swept the field, winning four awards: City of Melbourne Award of Excellence for Best in Show, Gold Show Garden, Horticultural Media Association for Best Use of Plant Life, and the Mark Bence Construction Award — a rare and truly impressive feat.
Designed by Tract Consultants and constructed by PTA Landscapes, under the guidance of directors Dion Loncar and Andrew Wilson, the stunning show garden was a response to the innate human need to connect with nature. The walls of the outdoor room (loggia) provided a level of comfort and structure to the garden, while framing views and blurring the line between built form and plants.
Loggias found favour in Renaissance Tuscany but here, the centuries-old form was reinterpreted to create a garden catering for 21st-century sensibilities. Further defying classical definition, the show garden loggia also functioned as an aqueduct.
A thin bead of water flowed along the top, reaching its crescendo when it cascaded over the edge into the fountain (its design influenced by the 16th-century Villa D’Este on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como) waiting below.
Water was treated as an aesthetic element, yet full consideration was given to its scarcity in Australia. With this in mind, a dry-climate palette was employed, one comprised of timeless and attractive Mediterranean species mixed with Australian natives to form a bold romantic plantscape. For an eccentric flourish, exotic and rare species were used, such as the three Ceiba speciosa (silk floss trees) planted behind the seating area. The deciduous silk floss tree is native to South America and when it flowers, it is smothered in beautiful pink blooms.
Contributing height, Laurus nobilis ‘Miles Choice’ and ‘Green Stem’ (bay trees) were dotted about, and there was also a single orange tree. The low planting was a mixture of agaves, kangaroo paws, cussonia, dianella, miscanthus, sedum, banksia, euphorbia, kniphofia, rosemary, lamb’s ears and junipers, with Dichondra repens and Thymus serpyllum planted between the pavers.
Although a small space, the garden provided an ideal habitat for pollinators such as bees, suggesting how a diverse, even eclectic plant palette of exotics and natives, including productive and pollinator plants, can thrive in an urban courtyard setting.
Central to the garden’s success was the high-end construction of the hard surfaces, which included the strong architectural herringbone archways of the loggia as well as the paving, walling and water feature.
For the main paving area and brick wall, the PTA Landscapes’ construction team used Cotto terracotta bricks, bringing a real sense of warmth, history and tradition to the garden. For the stepping stones they employed custom-cut Arbon limestone which featured a sandblasted and brushed finish. Bodega natural sandstone walling was also employed. This was chosen because of its soft creamy grey colour, tonal variation throughout and heavily-distressed aged finish, the latter perfectly highlighting the natural beauty of the stone.
The custom-built water feature, designed to evoke the idea of a working aqueduct, was comprised of a powder-coated black steel spout integrated into the top of one end of the loggia wall and a glass reinforced concrete water bowl with a hidden base.
Lighting also played an integral role in the garden. There was uplighting to the feature trees and archways, which highlighted the texture of the back walls at night. This was complemented by directional path lights and lighting in the water feature.
As The Loggia was a garden designed to make you want to linger, seating was provided in the form of two understated black chairs. The chairs were “transparent”, ensuring the garden and water feature remained the focus, not the furniture. Adding a delightful touch was an art piece nestled in one corner — three traditional woven bee hives from Slovenia.
As with all show gardens, this multi-award-winning one was a collaborative affair, so PTA Landscapes, along with Tract Consultants, would like to thank the following sponsors: Warners Nursery (plants), Eco Outdoor (stone and furniture), All Green Nursery & Garden Supplies (garden suppliers), Smart Water Shop (water feature hydraulics), Commercial Systems Australia (steelwork), Edgeline Paving (cladding installation), Concrete Collective Melbourne (water feature bowl), Established Trees Transplanters (trees), Living Sculptures (specialty plants), Gardens at Night (lighting) and Tonkin Consulting (engineering).
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