Family First

Family First


Backyard DesignsA garden makeover designed to put a smile on the face of every member of the family
Story: David Bennett, MAILDM
Photos: Patrick Redmond

No longer meeting the needs of a growing family, the garden was tired, dated and definitely ready for a makeover. At the top of the list for the teenage daughters was a spa to relax in with friends and an area of lawn where they could lay their towels and sunbathe. For the lady of the house, it was a large, open yet private dining and entertaining area with undercover barbecue and food preparation facilities and a family-sized pool. And for Dad? Well, as an ex-state-level swimmer and keen surfer, he dreamed of a pool long enough to swim laps in and somewhere to store his surfboards.

On top of that, everything had to be nestled into an appealing garden that would reflect the style of the home and change in mood with the passing of the seasons.

The result is a stunning garden with a pool that stretches 12.5 metres from the base of the window in the meals area of the house to 1000mm from the rear property line. To avoid the need to underpin the foundations of the house and still achieve the desired effect of seeming to make the home ‘float’ next to the pool, a shallow beach with large granite steppers was built. The eye is drawn from inside the home through the floor-to-ceiling windows and along the length of the pool where stops at the hand-carved granite water bowl tucked at the base of the three pencil pines (Cupressus sempervirens ‘Glauca’.)

To counteract the visual length of the pool, a strong 90-degree cross axis was achieved with use of interchanging strips of granite pavers and exposed aggregate concrete panels. These also blur the junction of lawn and garden bed edges, and provide access for swimmers through the poolside planting. As a bonus, exposed aggregate concrete is a cost-effective alternative to traditional pavers and its natural, non-slip surface is perfect for pool surround use.

The small pavilion and storage area was designed to reflect the architectural detail of the house and was fitted with durable marine-ply cabinetry and polished granite bench tops made of the same material as the paving. The storage structure also screens the pool plant located behind.

As part of the makeover, all the perimeter fencing was replaced, made compliant and painted a dark green/black so that it would seem to recede into the background. In addition, through the use of compliant, automatically closing door handles and window openings, the expense and visual distraction of pool fencing was eliminated.

Plants were selected to provide the right mix of foliage colour and texture, flower type and hue as well as to show seasonal change or contribute architectural interest. Hedging and screening plants also played a vital role in keeping the garden private from the neighbours.

An important consideration was the use of appropriate low water usage plants. This ranged from the use of prostrate rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’) and Cerastium adjacent to the pool and olives and ornamental pears for screening to the use of the distinctive yucca as a feature planting.

Although these photos were taken just a little over 12 months after the garden had been completed and despite limited sub-surface drip irrigation, the successful establishment of all green life has been assured through careful design and maintenance.

To achieve such a good result, close attention had to be paid to every detail — right down to providing a strip of contrasting on the floor of the pool, positioned at the regulation distance from the pool end, so that the man of the house could do tumble turns.

About the author: Dave Bennett is a Melbourne-based landscape designer and principal of Gardens by Design.