A tropical-style oasis offering room to roam and places to entertain and unwind
Words and photography Diane Norris
Garden trends come and go, but one of the more recent — the trend for busy people wanting to create their very own private backyard oasis — looks like it is here to stay. A private paradise has been achieved by garden designer and plantsman Kelvin Carlson in this property at Bayview on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Through his company Mr Harmony Landscapes, Kelvin was responsible for the construction and planting of the garden, which at more than an acre (0.4 hectares) is large for a suburban property. This included the creation of useable levels and a natural pond in the rear garden. This pond is surrounded by river pebbles and is mass planted with native Basket Grass (Lomandra longifolia) to create the impression of the kind of natural rock pool you might chance upon if following the course of a meandering river.
Of tropical design, the garden relies heavily on plants, which is why texture, contrasting foliage, colour and leaf shape were all carefully considered. “It doesn’t matter the provenance of a plant species, what I am most concerned with is that it ‘fits’ within the design,” says Kelvin.
This garden is full of spectacular plants and in keeping with Kelvin’s nickname (Mr Harmony), all plants work together to present a harmonious whole. The key features are the stand of densely planted Golden Cane palms (Chrysalidocarpus lucubensis) in the driveway garden and the masses of agapanthus covering the entrance embankment that put on an amazing flower show in November.
Below the back deck is a garden filled with a rambling tangerine-coloured bougainvillaea that weeps from the rafters above, spilling down to be greeted in the garden by a fragrant frangipani and a tall, handsome yucca plant. This garden welcomes visitors to the back door with fragrance, a vibrant mixed colour palette and luxurious foliage.
Throughout the garden there are plantings of Liriope ‘Evergreen Giant’, Pandanus ‘Red Edge’, agave, hibiscus, Kentia palms (Howea forsteriana), clivias (Clivia miniata), bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae), bromeliads and lilly pillies (Syzygium sp.), to name but a few. Then there are mass planting of grasses such as Liriope muscari and Lomandra tanika to create textural interest while architectural plants, such as yucca and agave, are used as design accents.
The garden has also been designed to be as water-wise as possible. Beyond using irrigation at the establishment phase, even if it is using reclaimed water via water tanks, Kelvin strongly believes that a good foundation of rich soil, with annual top-ups of a thick layer of mulch, should ensure the garden will thrive with what “falls out of the sky”. The area around the swimming pool showcases this philosophy. The plants are lush, green and strikingly healthy, with moisture retained by the thick blanket of leaf mulch that has been spread.
In designing this garden, Kelvin drew inspiration from one of his favourite garden designers, Made Wijaya, an Australian who now resides in Bali and is renowned for creating tropical gardens for high-end resorts and hotels throughout Asia. Drawing on Made’s exuberant approach to tropical-style design and combining it with his own free-spirited approach to plant selection, Kelvin has created a lush tropical retreat that continues to go from strength to strength.