Capturing tranquil views, this multi-level water’s edge garden is a place of retreat
By Karen Booth
Photography Peter Brennan
Creating a waterfront garden brings with it both opportunities and challenges. You have the opportunity to orient outdoor living spaces to capture views, but you need to be careful that any new structures or plantings don’t interfere with the outlook from the house. You also have the opportunity to draw on the borrowed landscape of the nearby water, creating a garden with a real sense of place, but you need to choose plants that are resilient to wind, heat and salt.
Claiming prized views of Pittwater, this northern Sydney garden makes the most of the opportunities to deliver for the owners an easy-care, tropical-style entertainer’s delight. Designed by Jeremy Gargate from Mother Nature’s Landscapes and built by the Mother Nature’s Landscapes construction team, the waterfront garden has gone from an awkward, underutilised space to the perfect place for relaxing or entertaining.
The timber decks that hug either end of the negative-edge swimming pool make the most of the available space and are key elements of the design. One deck features a cosy outdoor table and chairs; the other an in-built timber daybed with timber screening, a curvaceous sun lounger and a sleek outdoor shower. Both decks offer uninterrupted water views and manage to provide for all the owners’ outdoor living needs, despite the modest space.
The use of natural materials gives the overall design a warm look and textural appeal that works in harmony with the tropical planting scheme and the wider Pittwater environment. The concrete block retaining walls have been faced with slate stack-stone and travertine used for the pool coping. The colour of the natural stone works in complete harmony with the rich tones of the timber decking and screening.
Jeremy has selected plants that need scant attention but deliver maximum impact to create a vital, low-maintenance garden that provides interest no matter what the time of year. For year-round foliage interest and to reinforce the tropical theme, he has used hardy cycads and cordylines, the latter providing vibrant accents of red and purple. For screening he has used fragrant viburnum and murraya; for surprise bursts of purple and white, he introduced agapanthus; and for splashes of orange, bird of paradise.
In coastal areas and waterfront locations, choosing hardy plants that thrive without frequent watering is vital, as the whipping winds can dry out the soil in garden beds and planters quite quickly. All the plants used by Jeremy are relatively drought-tolerant and largely rely on natural rainfall, but to supplement what falls from the sky a fully automatic drip-irrigation system was installed.
To highlight the planting and other key features at night, there is a low-voltage lighting system. Landscape and pool lighting are must-haves in modern-day outdoor entertaining areas, as we no longer use our gardens mainly during the day. Designing and equipping decks and poolside entertaining areas for night-time use is now essential.
When creating this waterfront wonder, Jeremy didn’t just have to contend with the punishing coastal environment — there was the steep slope to tame. Dealing with a sloping site is always a challenge, requiring the creation of flat, usable areas and the construction of retaining walls that are both functional and a design feature. In this instance, the construction team also had to deal with restricted access — a narrow path with a great many steps.
The effort expended was well worth it. The owners now have an outdoor living zone that capitalises on the impressive water views. It’s a place for entertaining, unwinding or simply enjoying a cool drink and a cool breeze on a sultry summer’s day.