Inspired by the gardens of Bali, this tropical-style backyard offers a place of retreat
Story: Karen Booth
Photos: Glenn Weiss
Like countless numbers of Australians, the owners of this property in Brisbane’s Camp Hill have made several trips to Bali. And like many of their fellow travellers, they felt compelled to recapture some of the colour and spirit of the gardens they encountered in their own backyard.
Densely planted and designed to deliver vibrant displays of richly coloured, interestingly shaped foliage, this garden gives the owners the tropical/Balinese oasis they craved and provides them with a tranquil view every time they look out from the covered deck attached to the rear of their Queenslander-style house.
The old garden was full of established trees and shrubs such as lilly pillies, tree waratahs and Eumundi quandongs, which have been skillfully integrated with the new tropical-style plant palette. By retaining the existing mature plants, the garden kept its feeling of privacy and enclosure, an effect only enhanced by the introduction of a range of foliage plants.
The list of new plants is long and includes giant bromeliads, several types of palm (raphis, foxtail and Alexander), philodendron, ghost bamboo, cordylines, variegated liriope, ginger, Moses-in-the-cradle and a dramatic Balinese agave planted in a Balinese pot.
“The owners wanted plants that had the tropical feel, however they wanted to drought proof the garden too as Brisbane was going through a tough time with major water restrictions,” says Steve Kelly of Green Earth Landscaping.
This meant care was taken to only select plants that were naturally adapted to growing in the local conditions and a tank was installed to provide water for irrigation as drawing on the mains water supply was not allowed.
Plants are an essential ingredient in a tropical-style landscape design, but warm, natural materials have a role to play too, as do cool gentle water features.
“For me, the major feature of the backyard is the series of sandstone retaining walls that were hand-pitched, meticulously pointed and topped with rough-edged capping,” says Steve.
A sandstone pond was incorporated into the design of the wall, cooling the garden and adding to the sense of sanctuary the abundant planting provides.
Building on the all-natural theme, black basalt tile was used for the paved path that leads from the house down to the garden, the deck that is partially screened by the plants is of timber, and reed screening was used to clad an old paling fence. To enrich its colour and prevent fading, the screening was given a linseed oil treatment.
To give the garden a sense of added depth, the rear wall was painted a green-black. Dark colours give the impression of receding so they’re a great tool when you want to trick the eye into thinking a space is deeper or wider than it actually is.
“Another special feature of the garden is the low-voltage lighting,” says Steve. “At night, features like the massive potted Balinese agave and various trees are uplit and there is general backlighting to the rest of the garden to add to the ambience.”
As with any landscaping project, there were challenges. Rock had to be excavated from the site and access was limited, but all of the effort has paid off. The owners now have a place where they can relax, unwind and be transported back to those happy times spent on Indonesia’s most popular isle.