This garden is a picture-perfect meeting of Japanese and modern landscape design principles
Words: Karen Booth
Photos: Danny Kildare
As a photographer with a home studio, the owner of this Sydney property had a very particular vision for the garden: it was to be both muse and backdrop. Finding a landscape designer who could share and then develop this vision was critical. After much searching, the owner found the perfect creative partner in Dean Herald, landscape designer and founder of Rolling Stone Landscapes.
The brief given to Dean was to create a garden that drew inspiration from traditional Japanese landscape design principles and the modern Western approach to outdoor design in equal amounts. It was to be an ornamental garden but also a garden that could be used for photographic shoots; and it needed to complement the architecture of the house and the studio.
Following this directive, Dean developed a design that has an exquisite simplicity about it and an extremely serene ambience that make it the ideal space to relax in or to stimulate the creative processes — a great asset when the owner is at work in the studio that overlooks it.
To give the owner the tranquil, private setting required, the neighbours needed to be screened out. To achieve this, fast-growing clumping bamboo was planted around the boundaries. The leafy bamboo not only acts as a living privacy screen but it reinforces the Japanese design aesthetic. For the same reasons — privacy and a touch of Eastern intrigue — a Siltstone-clad blade wall was built.
The stack-stone-clad blade wall is the focal point of the design. It features a circular cut-out (the circular window frame fashioned out of steel with a rust finish) that invites the eye to pass uninterrupted through the structure. The accompanying waterspout, which sends a gentle stream of water cascading onto a feature rock set within a pond, adds to the Japanese styling of the area, while a timber deck provides somewhere the owner can relax and listen to the sound of cascading water.
Masonry retaining walls, rendered and painted to match the house, divide the garden into separate zones while Basalt paving from Sareen Stone has been used as to connect one area to another. The colour of the paving, which was also used to create steppers through the lawn, complements the cladding on the blade wall and the feature rocks strategically placed around the garden.
Key to the design’s cohesiveness is the lush greenery that abounds. Cycads, buxus, maples and Nandina domestica (also known as sacred bamboo and said to be the most popular plant in Japan) were planted to complete the exotic Japanese feel of the garden. All plants are kept vibrant via the drip irrigation system that was installed when the garden beds were planted out.
While the landscape needed to provide creative inspiration — or, in fact, be used as a setting for photographic assignments — it is also a garden to be used and enjoyed. And it is a garden that was designed to provide the owner with a tranquil outlook when peering out through the windows of the two-storey home.
Of course, a garden of this calibre is just what we have come to expect of Dean Herald, a winner of multiple awards including the Chelsea Flower Show’s prestigious Gold Medal. The design is exquisitely balanced, marrying the order and structure found in Japanese landscape design with a more relaxed, liveable approach that is typical of modern Australian garden design. The materials are premium quality, the construction values second to none and the design a perfect fit with the nuances of the site and the needs of the owner.