A vibrant contemporary garden full of vigour and bold contrasts
Story: Adam McDonald, MAILDM
Photos: Peter Brennan
When the owner of this now funked up South Cronulla Beach-side residence made the decision that she would like to put a modern twist on what was a very typical suburban Sydney home, it wasn’t too long before she realised that to achieve the best possible result, she would need some professional design input.
The owner, Les Jury, understood the importance of establishing a concept that was going to embrace the house when completed. And from the very start, she made it clear that she knew what she wanted. The goal was to make a statement with the garden, something that said “Hey, look at me!”. With this in mind, it was decided that this could be best achieved through the use of contrast.
The design brief was simple and straightforward. Develop a garden that was vibrant, modern and would work in unison with the house. The area itself wasn’t huge so it was important to create something that felt open and spacious. And so a decidedly modern landscape concept was formulated — a concept that revolved around a strikingly vibrant design in which contrasting colours and tones would be highlighted.
Being a relatively flat block it was important to make sure that the design would provide visual interest even though there would only be the subtlest use of heights and levels. Ironically, even though the idea of owning a flat block forms the basis of the great Australian dream, it can actually lead to the creation of bland, one-dimensional gardens if care isn’t taken with the design.
To deliver the desired visual impact, merbau hardwood decking pontoons were used. These work their way down from the house to the paved entertaining area. As well as by creating a raised garden, which acts as the main garden space, it houses two separate raised focal points: a Lichen Stack Slate Water Wall water feature and a carefully sourced dragon’s blood tree (Dracaena draco) that was hand selected then couriered from interstate during construction.
A key part to the success of the design lies with a subtle inclusion, this being the decision to adopt a curved shape wall instead of just keeping it square. This curve corresponds with the curve on the re-surfaced concrete driveway; it also helps to tie together the quirky funky theme of the garden, the clean smooth lines of the curved wall serving to soften the boldness of the paved area and the decking.
In addition, the dominant deep blue colour of the house is represented in these garden walls, giving a sense of unity to the house and the garden.
A strong relationship between the house and the garden was also brought about through the use of the painted white timber slat screening which matches the custom-designed white plantation shutters and screens out the clothesline on the side of the house. The white screening also sits in stark contrast to the blue of the house.
The theme of contrasts really came into its own in the planting scheme where colour, texture and form were experimented with. The sharp leaves of the massed lime green agaves contrast the daintier, mid-green and rust-coloured leaves of the Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ and the thick block hedges of English box (Buxus sempervirens). The purple flashes provided by the long thin leaves of the Rhoeos draw the eye to the feature planting of the Dracaena draco.
This simple yet bold planting scheme paints an exciting contemporary picture. The experimental use of these not-so similar plants creates an energy-filled outdoor space that is constantly enjoyed by the Jury family.
About the author: Adam McDonald is a Sydney-based garden designer and director of Impressions Landscape — Design.