Urban Haven

Urban Haven


home gardeningPeaceful, private and plant-filled — what more could you ask?
Story: Bruce Winstanley

Photos: Patrick Redmond

When the owners moved into their new home they were blessed with a glorious north-facing living area and floor-to-ceiling windows orientated to capture a 270-degree view of the garden. Unfortunately, the garden was a desolate, weed-filled space.

To add to their woes, the large homes on either side of the property overlooked their interior living area and the proposed exterior living spaces.

The main challenge was to create a private garden where they could relax. They wanted space for “chilling out”, an entertaining/dining area for larger gatherings, somewhere to keep their motorcycles and, perhaps most difficult of all, a garden that could withstand the attentions of two large and boisterous dogs.

With both partners working long hours in their individual businesses and training to compete in triathlons, there just wasn’t time to be constantly tending to a dog-ravaged garden.

As the principal contractor, I approached David Bennett from Gardens By Design to devise a design that met all these criteria.

For screening, a masonry block wall was constructed across the entire width of the property. The two “windows” in the wall allow views of the Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’ behind and give a sense of depth to the garden.

Behind the wall, space was allocated on one side for motorcycle storage and a workshop. The other side contains a dog digging pit, toilet and a linked 12000mm long dog run.

In the centre of the wall is a gently trickling water feature and to either side, built-in “his and hers” cushion-strewn daybeds.

A steel pergola was built over this area and Boston ivy was trained up and along its support beams. In time, the ivy will provide good summer cover.

Additional summer shade and privacy has been allowed for with copse-like plantings of Cut Leaf Birch. For colour we used selected a Japanese maple species whose burgundy foliage is set off by the green of the mass planted Liriope muscari ‘Evergreen Giant’, a hardy, low-maintenance plant.

To fill the interior of the home with a seductive fragrance on a warm summer night, Gardenia augusta ‘Florida’ is planted at the base of all windows.

Wide steppers, softened with mass plantings of dwarf mondo grass to either side, provide access to the side entry of the home. The limited space in this area meant we needed to make the most of the vertical planting opportunities, which we did with star jasmine. The scented white flowers of the jasmine complement the soft mauve of the Campanula poscharskyana groundcover.

For larger gatherings of friends a lower seating/dining patio was constructed. All the paving and highlight borders for this area are of a charcoal hue to resist staining and dirty paw marks.

At night, the garden is transformed with up lighting to trees, low border lights washing over paving, and the shimmering broken ripples of light from the water feature pond bouncing off the adjacent walls.

To keep the garden looking its best the owners have the garden professionally maintained so that they can spend their outdoor time stretching out on their daybeds and contemplating their tranquil oasis rather than tending to wayward weeds.

Bruce Winstanley is an award-winning landscape contractor and principal of Melbourne-based Winstanley Landscapes.