A serene Japanese-inspired garden that reveals a new and intriguing surprise at every turn
Photos: Marian Riabic
More than a weekend escape from the city grind, this intriguing Eastern-inspired retreat is an expression of the owner’s unique design sensibility and his passion for the Orient, in particular, Japan.
Designed by the owner, Lester Milton, the garden was inspired by his love of Japanese design and utilises objects and ideas collected on his extensive overseas travels. The eventual design of the garden was also influenced by a valuable piece of advice a Japanese friend gave to Lester. The friend told him the Japanese never reveal everything at once, but leave things to be discovered, in time, around every corner.
Following this philosophy, the garden is a journey of discovery with each element revealed in stages. Punctuated by giant and clumped bamboo, grasses, azaleas, camellias and Japanese shrines and statues, a careful disorder reigns. Natural rather than stylised lines define the landscaping, which is marked by the creative restraint typical of Japanese design.
On entering the property, sandstone stepping stones lead you across the pebbled entrance to a timber bridge over a fish pond. This opens to the entrance courtyard through a gate constructed from 110-year-old stock house doors. These doors, which Lester had imported from Japan, also feature in another courtyard off the main living area and, inside the home, a coffee and dining table are constructed from the same timber.
Pieces throughout the garden recall places and memories for the owner.
A large lagoon is the central feature of the design, with almost one hectare of garden spreading out from its banks. Looking toward the home, the black roof, grey-stained walls and open veranda provide a simple introduction, stepping naturally up from the lagoon on the doorstep.
Cantilevered out from the rear living areas, a veranda literally hangs out over the water, allowing the owners to take in a full vista of the lagoon and its surrounding gardens of Himalayan clumping bamboo, water plants, tree ferns and native Australian grasses. Courtyards around the lagoon provide intimate areas for the owners to relax and entertain.
On the far side, a covered tea pavilion with thatched roof lies tucked away amid the foliage, recalling both a Balinese cabana and Japanese teahouse. To its right-hand side, an outdoor dining deck juts out over the still water.
Outside a bedroom on the lagoon side of the home, a balcony leads to a pebbled area around the water. Here, a bamboo water feature fills with water, which cascades into a stone bowl, making a clonking sound. Traditionally a Japanese design to scare away reindeer, this soothing sound transports the listener into another place.
Lester has also incorporated his interests and hobbies into the environment. One area, fenced on two sides, displays his collection of bonsai. Dotted around this space are 15 posts ranging between 1m and 1.5m high. Atop of each sits a bonsai plant creating a living sculptural formation. Elsewhere, a large barn contains horse stables and a dog run for the couple’s large family of terriers and bulldogs.
This meticulously landscaped area advocates simplicity in every aspect of its design. As you walk around, the eye is drawn to statuary, like the tiny Japanese Foo dog statues sitting on a rock by the lagoon, the structures and the planting schemes. Exploring each in turn helps to slow the passing of time, making the space truly a place to relax.