A lush Balinese-inspired Brisbane garden with a decidedly modern twist
Story: Natalie Watts, MAILDM
Photos: Glenn Weiss
There is a saying in the landscaping industry: “Never work on projects for family and friends.” However, after much deliberation, I decided to ignore that advice and help two good friends, Suzie and Jason, to create a tropical oasis in the ‘burbs of Brisbane.
The garden was developed in stages and the first area tackled was near the garage. It was prepared by removing the couch grass, which was a bit on the wild side, and then planting it out using variegated dracaena (Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’) as the backdrop along the garage wall. We then used heliconas (Heliconia augusta ‘Yellow Christmas’), New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), agaves (Agave attenuate), xanadu (Philodendron ‘Xanadu’), sago palms (Cycas revoluta) and a wonderful grass tree (Xanthorrhoea johnsonii) that has a dense tufted form.
You’ll also find Autumn crocus (Zephyranthes candida) dotted about with one or two birds of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) for an extra splash of colour. Framing this area is the slow-growing but impressive Japanese box (Buxus microphylla var. japonica).Purchasing items on behalf of clients is part of the fun of being a designer and this project was no exception when I discovered some really unusual flatish volcanic rocks. They look really effective with a little bit of water resting in the shallow curves. I was really chuffed when I found a volcanic rock Buddha for the area as well.
To complete the look, I used Nambucca pebbles, mixed through with sea shells, as mulch.The smaller garden bed, located on the western side near the steppers for the water feature, has a large specimen of evergreen frangipani (Plumeria obtusa). With its large, yellow-centred white flowers and strong scent, the frangipani is a very popular landscaping tree throughout Asia. This is underplanted with Moses-in-a-cradle (Rhoeo), a short-stemmed plant that has a clumping habit and produces upright purple and green leaves. This is a very reliable and solid groundcover.
The next stage of the project was constructing the water feature, which is actually the focal point of the whole design. The water feature has four levels. The top level incorporates several pipes that send water spilling into a large pond, after which it progresses down to the other three levels. The outside of the water feature, as well as the lip surround, is clad in blue-black glass mosaic tile, giving it a wonder patina.
In front of the water feature, the planting framework is provided by the ever-reliable buxus and the mulch is of Nambucca pebble. Access on the eastern, western and southern sides of the water feature is via large stepping pads of 600mm x 600mm black volcanic pavers, which I bought in Bali during a recent buying trip. In between the pavers, you’ll find Speckled Egg pebbles, also bought in Bali.
A stained slatted timber screen was constructed to surround the water feature area. Suzie bought three large bronzed cylindrical pots and placed them on the southern side behind the water feature and lava steppers. The pots are planted with Cordyline ‘Red Fountain’, its strappy burgundy-red foliage giving the area a bit of zing — especially when uplit at night.
On the eastern side, near the water feature and around the timber deck, very strong architectural-type planting was employed, namely cycads, bromeliads, philodendrons and dracaenas. There’s a raised stained triangular deck area near the water feature and the existing rendered garden bed. This is a great place to sit back and relax after a hard day’s work, somewhere to reflect, unwind or just meditate. The raised rendered garden bed is painted a slate grey colour, as is the middle section of the house, and acts as an outdoor feature wall. Bamboo was planted in the raised bed, its delicate green foliage reinforcing the Asian theme.
I love the whole concept of this garden: its unusual shapes, products and seasonal variety of textures, colour and foliage. Every season, I get in there a give it a good clean-out and lots of TLC — at mate’s rates, of course.