Sydney sanctuary: tropical garden


There’s a hint of an exotic tropical holiday in the air at this Sydney sanctuary, where numerous small spaces merge into one garden

In a relatively new area of Sydney, this existing garden was previously dissected into small individual and disconnected spaces. Designer Chris Slaughter of Scenic Blue Design aimed to create an interwoven set of outdoor rooms that could be used collectively for parties or singularly for quiet, relaxed evenings.

The brief was to design an escape that would work with the property’s existing pool, while also making the owner feel as if he’s a million miles away. “My client wanted to have a garden that he could actually enjoy being in, not one that generated endless hours of work to maintain,” says Chris. “We needed to create a casual, restful, comfortable and timeless garden.”
There were also some special family members who were accommodated in the design. “I worked closely with my client, who is a proud collector of parrots,” says Chris. “These birds needed to be very much a part of the garden and not tucked away. They were a feature in their own right.”

The property is a corner block, and the garden sweeps around the home, along the side and back, so it was important to create a central focal point, allowing each individual garden piece to feel as if it belongs with the next.

Chris says there is no singular element to this garden. “I had to work with various elements and requests, such as for an outdoor dining/cooking/TV room, a swimming pool that needed softening, introducing a more tropical setting, a cabana that had to be renovated and modernised and creating a tightness to the entire garden,” he says.

First, the mature plant stock was transplanted to de-compartmentalise the garden and the plants were relocated throughout. The collection of plants evoked a tropical theme while also maintaining a semi-formal feel. Meanwhile, the bamboos were chosen for both screening and mood setting. “We used the Dendrocalamus Minor Var. ‘Amoenus’ — blue ghost bamboo, Bangalow palm and various forms of Cordyline, Phormium and Liriope, along with Sedum, Acorus, Agave, Buxus, Murraya, Mandevilla, Camellia, Prunus, Lilly Pilly, Veronica and Magnolia to name a few,” says Chris. “Their purpose was to provide privacy from neighbouring windows, add a tropical atmosphere and lend colour, shape and form to the garden throughout the year.”

The previous garden had unfortunately suffered considerable above-ground drainage problems and the stormwater run-off from neighbouring homes caused the existing patio to flood. In addition, the garden had evolved through the work of various companies over time, and subsequently there was little
continuity between the patio and pool surround.

“To overcome both difficulties, we used what we had to our advantage,” says Chris. “We resolved both drainage issues and level changes by installing ground drainage and diverting stormwater away from the patio and retaining the concrete patio and using it to support a deck, which ironed out the various level issues of the garden.”

=QUOTE=Each path and seating area had to take advantage of the adjoining rooms. “For example, when dining in the dining room, the pool and its associated features needed to be used as visual entertainment,” says Chris. “This had to apply throughout, so each room offers visual support for the next and so on.”

The various journeys throughout the garden had to complement each other, so a combination of stone and timber was used. Adding to the fun, the path to the cabana is accessed in several ways. You can venture into the “jungle” and follow a stepping stone pathway through the bamboo, along a timber boardwalk or along the stone paving — a beautiful granite paver that supports a wonderful darker grey streaking through its body.

All three lead to a water feature that supports the stepping stones over it. The water falling down the stone wall is deep enough to allow a cooling dip before the water cascades into the pool. Once over, you find yourself sitting in an outdoor setting, looking back across the garden and down each side of the house.

“I think by far, my favourite part of the space is the water wall and its offering of the unexpected,” says Chris. “The subtle break created by the water gives the cabana a sense of retreat. At night especially, the light reflections are such that the entire area shimmers with movement.”

The design could be described as offering a hint of an exotic tropical holiday — a taste of Bali, Fiji, Thailand or Hawaii perhaps. “From the minute you approach the home, the front garden does not give any idea of what you can expect in the back,” says Chris. “The placement of the side gate is such that is it now the main entrance to the home. This way, you walk through a garden of visual treats before entering the residence. It’s a lovely way to greet family and friends.”

A strong client-designer relationship is often a key factor in a successful outdoor project, and this one is no exception. “Due to my client’s truly wonderful can-do attitude, we were able to work very closely together to create a truly one-of-a-kind garden — so much so that I returned for a party, which really allowed me to take off my designer’s hat and enjoy the garden’s offerings,” says Chris. “A good evening was had by all.”

Photography by Danny Kildare

For more information

Scenic Blue Design

Originally in Outdoor Rooms, Volume 26

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