Drystone walling and timber accents lend a touch of the rustic and give this inner-city Melbourne garden a new lease on life
Faced with a tired, uninviting rear garden, the owners of this property in Melbourne’s inner city looked to Georgia Harper, a multi award-winning landscape designer and founder of Georgia Harper Landscape Design, to give their backyard a new lease on life.
“The clients had a reasonably sized garden for an inner-city property but it was not nice to be in or to look at from the large doors at the rear of the house. Also, the paving had sunk due to drainage issues so the time was right to make a change,” explains Georgia.
“The brief was to create a much more welcoming space that would look inviting, be easy to care for, and be practical in terms of daily use and entertaining. The clients also wanted spaces where there could be some separation and, most importantly, the garden had to feel timeless and only get better with age.”
Georgia’s design offers a modern take on a rural-inspired style. As she explains, “The owners’ brief to be classic and timeless lent itself to using natural materials, and this led to using drystone walls as one of the main elements of the garden.”
There are two main areas to this garden: a barbecue/dining space and a fixed lounge/daybed area. “By keeping their proportions just right we were able to allow enough distance between them to create distinct but complementary zones. The result is two generous areas that create a feeling of openness yet also function as inviting, private spaces,” says Georgia.
“Granite drystone walling is used sparingly in each of the areas to soften them visually, and to connect them to each other and the period weatherboard home,” she adds. “The very fine detail in the drystone work adds a richness and texture that feels luxurious and honest at the same time.”
The paving is of sawn bluestone. This was chosen as a natural complement to the house and the bluestone kerb and guttering in the streets surrounding the home. It’s also very forgiving in terms of daily use and contrasts well with the drystone walling accents.
“Radial Timber screening boards were chosen to help in breaking up the stone used throughout the garden, giving some warmth to the dining/barbecue area and also helping acoustically to absorb some sound,” says Georgia. “These were spaced to give glimpses of the hedging behind, and the roof of this area is topped with clear twin wall polycarbonate to allow light through but keep the rain out.”
When working out the planting palette, Georgia felt it important to retain as many of the existing plants as possible. “This included some ornamental pears and pittosporums, and a much-loved lemon tree. These were not in great condition but through a program of careful pruning and plant nutrition we were able to give them the TLC they needed to thrive,” she says.
“As the brief required a low-maintenance garden, we augmented these with drift plantings of Arthropodium cirratum, Mandevillea ‘Aloha Red’, Liriope muscari, Acmena smithii balls and Dichondra argenteum ‘Silver Falls’. These were chosen because they suit the semi-shaded aspect, are tough and work well to soften the built elements of the garden.”
As with all the most successful garden projects, this was a collaborative effort: between Georgia, Essendon Landscapes, the company charged with constructing the garden, and the happy homeowners. “The clients say redesigning the garden has increased their use of the space ten-fold,” says Georgia. “As their family has grown the separation of areas has been especially useful, with adults and teenagers able to have their own spaces but everyone still outdoors enjoying the comfy surroundings.”
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Originally featured in Outdoor Design Issue 40