A semi-formal Mediterranean-style makeover has transformed this sloping suburban garden
Story: Diane Norris
Photos: Peter Brennan
Sometimes when a site seems impossibly steep, people shy away from doing anything dramatic and stick with a long lawn area dotted with a couple of trees. However, the owners of this Sydney property wanted more than that — they wanted a landscaped backyard that would meet their entertaining needs and enhance the quality of their family life.
What they envisaged was a complete backyard reinvention. What garden designer Simon Munn of Urban Garden Enrichment devised for them was an elegant, semi-formal garden carved into three distinct levels, which would provide functional spaces for entertaining, enjoyment of the swimming pool, relaxation and moments of private contemplation.
For aesthetics, the owners had requested an abundance of healthy garden beds filled with lush, leafy plants. To achieve this they decided upon a Mediterranean theme for the planting as well as the overall design approach. As you stroll around the garden you will find bay trees, lavender, roses, weeping cherry, fragrantly rich gardenias, structural English box, and native lilly pillies. The planting approach is of a more formal symmetrical design in some areas and more casual in others, where mass planting is the order of the day.
Of course, integrating the existing pool, with its inviting bright blue-tiled interior, into the new landscape design was essential. To revitalise the area around the pool, Natural Oasis Himalayan stone was used for the paving and coping, its warm and earthy tones reinforcing the Mediterranean theme and providing the perfect contrast to the adjacent patches of manicured lawn.
Nearby, the use of natural materials is continued and interest added with a path of mortared random sandstone pavers complemented with low-growing groundcovers and another path which has mass plantings of lavender on each side, giving a colourful and perfumed welcome.
Beyond the pool your eye is drawn to the perfectly constructed retaining walls. These contribute to the authentic Mediterranean appeal and form the framework for the level changes in the garden. They have also been lightly washed in oxide to match the paving stone and harmonise with other tones in the garden.
Sumptuously curved, the retaining walls sweep the eye along to the next visual treat: a classical figurine fountain behind which stands a travertine feature wall. Another key design element is the pair of sandstone stairways that give access to the upper tier. Both have been painstakingly constructed using unblemished stone.
At night, lights illuminate the pergola-covered entertaining area, pathways, stairs, pool area and retaining walls to create a relaxed ambience.
Ever mindful of the need for water conservation, Simon recommended the inclusion of a water tank. What the owners opted for was a 14,000-litre subterranean water tank which Simon’s construction team installed under the paved entertaining area. This tank provides all the water the owners need to replenish the garden beds, a task performed via a water-efficient drip-irrigation system.
A water-wise approach was also taken when it came to selecting the plants. Lavender, for example, is a particularly hardy plant once established. In fact, a Mediterranean planting scheme is a great idea for anyone considering establishing a more drought-tolerant garden as many plants that thrive in that region of the world are naturally suited to hot sun and dry periods.
Achieving such an impressive end result required major earthworks and construction, a meticulous eye for detail, the use of quality natural materials and a sympathetic design approach. But all the effort has paid off as the owners adore their completely transformed backyard. What was once an awkward and impractical space is now not only functional, it sends a siren call which draws the family out into the garden and encourages them to stop and smell the roses … and the lavender, and the gardenias.