California Dreaming

California Dreaming


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A successful fusion of traditional Japanese and modern Californian design influences
Story: Karen Booth
Photos: Brigid Arnott & Marian Riabic

The Central Coast of New South Wales is growing in leaps and bounds as Sydneysiders seeking a sea change continue to flock to its pristine beaches and idyllic rural enclaves. With this influx of “newcomers” has come a demand for cutting-edge design, both for homes and gardens, and this property, just a stone’s throw away from a popular beach, is a prime example. From the California-style garden around the pool to the Japanese influenced entry courtyard, this project is an impressive example of modern landscape design and construction.

Each landscaped space is carefully constructed to complement the sharp lines and rakish roof angles of the architect-designed house. This includes the centrally located pool courtyard which boasts a striking feature, comprised of two sandstone walls connected by a panel of frosted glass, and an outdoor shower. Cocooned within rendered walls, the shower can be accessed via the adjacent main bedroom or via a meandering crazy-paved path.

Working to a design by Michael Cooke of Michael Cooke Garden Design, Adam Eurell of Nature’s Vision Landscapes has delivered a finely detailed, precision built landscape that perfectly captures the intent of the designer.

The challenging part of the project was the infinite detail involved and the fact that so many aspects of the design were connected. The front entry paving, for example, incorporated small bush hammered granite setts that had to be aligned with the floating Siltstone stepping stones laid across the water feature. In addition, in the central courtyard, the concrete pool coping was rebated and continued underneath the large sandstone feature walls to ensure a continual plane just above the surface of the water.
Of modern California style, the planting is sparse and understated with hardy junipers providing a deep green backdrop that works well with the warm tones of the paving and timber decking.

In the outdoor shower area, the planting is a simple mix of cotyledon (a distinctive succulent with thick fleshy leaves) and ornamental grasses. Chosen for their drought tolerance and textural contrast, the plants line either side of a winding path which makes approaching the shower area feel a little like you are entering a secret garden.
To connect front with back, junipers also make an appearance in the entry courtyard where the planting is more fulsome yet still has that pared back look and reliance on foliage we associate with the Japanese approach to garden design. In the front garden you will spy blue chalksticks (Senecio mandraliscae) and cardboard plants (Zamia furfuracea) hugging the water feature. Plants are mulched with gravel, again reinforcing the Japanese feel.

Adding interest to the entryway there is a trio of topiarised English box (Buxus sempervirens) in simple white pots which transform into illuminated features at night. To soften the strong lines of the paving and the architectural style of the house, there is a stand of Japanese sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica).

The planting around the driveway, which was constructed using large concrete pieces of random geometrical shapes, combines native species including correas, banksias, gymea lily (Doryanthes excelsa) and knobby club rush (Isolepis nodosa) with hardy exotics (such as Indian hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica), Mesembryanthemum spp. (a prostrate succulent herb), and Liriope muscari.

In deference to the ongoing drought, an automated drip system was installed to both lawns and gardens and connects to an underground rainwater tank.

The house itself is as impressive as the landscape. Designed by Max Thitchener, the main objectives were to use the orientation of the site to best advantage, provide privacy from neighbours, embrace passive solar design techniques, and to create a focal point. Max achieved the latter with the creation of the central pool area which is surrounded by the kitchen, dining and living room, media room, and main bedroom, thereby forging a true indoor-outdoor connection.

* Nature’s Vision Landscapes received two awards for this garden in the 2007 Landscape Contractors’ Association of NSW Awards of Excellence. They won the Residential $51,000-$150,000 and Residential Regional Open categories.