Going in Circles

Going in Circles


Rounded forms are a recurring design motif in this flourishing, plant-filled garden
Story: Arthur Lathouris, FAILDM
Photos: Diane Norris

It’s great when you strike it lucky: lovely house, small but interesting block with no overlooking houses looming over the fence, clients who are easy to work with.

In this garden, the broad steps and patio had already been constructed, so my brief was to eliminate the lawn, deal with the slope, create easy access through the garden and make it interesting to walk through and be in.

A position had to be found for a large water tank, and an existing log wall along the northern side of the house was beginning to fail, so this, too, had to be taken into account. There were also quite a few existing trees and shrubs in the gardens along the boundaries and these had to form part of the final design, too.

The garden is located in Leura, in the Blue Mountains just over 100km from Sydney. Its elevation is almost 1000m. Winter is cold and frosty and summer is mild with a few very hot days (between 30 and 35 degrees). The soil is a poor, sandy loam. This may sound disheartening, but there are many plants that will grow and thrive in this soil.

While the garden is not strictly formal, the existing broad and very dominant steps suggested at least starting with a strong formal axis. The original design allowed for the choice of a pond, fountain or simple ornament as the focal point. The homeowners chose the pond, which certainly creates a lot of interest with flowing water and the movement and wonderful colour of the fish.

The circular pond sits in the centre of the space and was created with a curved bagged brick wall, which replaces the failing log wall. Below this wall is the main path that comes from the front yard and gently winds its way through the garden.

The circular theme is repeated in the main central garden, which encloses another sitting and entertainment space. The shape of this garden is reinforced by the hedges of Japanese box (Buxus microphylla var. japonica) and Italian lavender (Lavandula stoechas ‘Avonview’), while the centre features a trident maple (Acer buergeranum), a small but lovely autumn-colouring deciduous tree. This will eventually shade the paved area in summer but allow the full warmth of the winter sun.

A snowy carpet of Cerastium tomentosum covers the ground under the tree in summer. Iceberg roses reinforce the formality between the steps and the pond and Lomandra fluviatilis spills over the wall and softens the edges of the pond.

The rest of the garden is planted informally with a mix of Australian natives and exotic plants. An existing eucalypt was retained and adds height and interest to the lower part of the garden, while a beautiful, large Banksia spinulosa remains in another part. Grasses also help to soften hard edges of paths and walls. These include grass tree (Xanthorhoea sp.), blue dwarf matrush (Lomandra glauca), blue fescue (Festuca ovina glauca) and mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonica).

There is a great variety of plants in this landscape, including Echium fastuosum, shrubby germander (Teucrium fruticans), star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Blue Lagoon’) and Hebe ‘Inspiration’, creating a look that is well balanced and lush.

About the author: Arthur Lathouris is a garden designer based in the NSW Blue Mountains and the president of the Australian Institute of Landscape Designers & Managers.