Of freeform design, this rural garden in the Adelaide Hills has an inviting, relaxed ambience
By Karen Booth
Photography Sarah Long
Flowing lines and swathes of seasonal colour give the garden areas of this 30-acre (12.1-hectare) property — tucked behind Mount Lofty in the Adelaide Hills — a relaxed, inviting feeling. The house is set on an elevated position with commanding views of the grounds and the surrounding wooded hills, creating for the owners the ideal rural retreat.
Designed by Geoff Heppner of Accent Landscapes in consultation with the owners, Geoff describes the garden design as “very much freeform, befitting a rural setting”. From the heavily mulched woodland-style garden beds to the decorative use of bush rock and the fire pit, with its circle of log seating, the overall ambience is relaxed, inviting and full of natural appeal.
The initial brief was to construct a garden to the front of the house. At the time, the area was little more than a tangle of weeds with a challenging 45-degree slope. The owners were happy to leave the key design decisions to Geoff — all they asked for was the inclusion of conifers and groundcovers and that the extensive views of the beautiful hills enveloping the property be preserved.
Work on the front garden began five years ago and has since extended to other parts of the vast property. This work has been comprehensive and has included the demolition of an older house that sat behind the present one, the remodelling of the property’s entrance (which included lining it with trees and shrubs, including advanced maples and pears), the grading of roads and the laying of bitumen, the widening of a bridge and the construction of stone sides.
The property is situated in a high rainfall area and although the soils are heavy clay, plants tend to grow quickly. As the garden is vast, the list of plants incorporated into the landscape is long, varied and too extensive to repeat here. However, some of the plants you will find as you stroll around the extensive property include deciduous trees, both deciduous and evergreen shrubs (some of them natives), native groundcovers (particularly grevilleas) and many perennial plants. For hedging, Geoff chose westringias and viburnums.
“A very extensive irrigation and fire system was installed,” explains Geoff. “All plants are watered by a drip irrigation system and lawns are watered where possible with low-flow sprinklers. A bore positioned down in the valley is used to pump water to a tank located at the highest point on the property. The irrigation systems for all the plants and lawns are gravity fed from that tank, which means the owners don’t have to rely on mains water.”
Getting the planting to such a lush and healthy point has not been without its challenges. “As the site is on the top of the hill, the land first had to be graded to form usable areas,” explains Geoff. “And as the site receives high rainfall it has been a battle to control winter run-off.
“Plants that were thought of as being more usable in drought conditions have not always survived winter cold and wet,” he adds. “And because the garden is in an elevated position and therefore exposed, a combination of wind and wet soils have caused problems for some plants. Wild deer have also been a problem, particularly during rutting season, when males like to mark advanced trees.”
Enhancing the bucolic ambience, Accent Landscapes constructed extensive low dry stone walls, using stone sourced from a local quarry. Local stone adds to the sense of place and reduces the garden’s carbon footprint. Thanks to the careful design and thoughtful selection of plants and materials, this lovingly maintained rural landscape offers something to savour at every turn during every season.