By Andrew Munro
You’ve just finished the house renovations, then comes an awkward question from your partner: “So how are we going to finish off the backyard?”
Facing this common dilemma were the owners of a hillside Terrigal property located north of Sydney. Whilst they created their dream home and a stunning pool that overlooked the picturesque beach and ocean to the north, the ugly scar of bare earth that sat beyond the pool kept reminding them that their work was not yet done. So how do you use plants to transform that barren, left-over parcel of land into an interesting, beautiful green space that draws you outside?
The parents engaged AILDM members and Landscape designers Costata Design to provide inspiration and creative solutions to transform their empty sloping backyard into a new garden that would motivate them all to venture outside.
Faced with three terraced batters of left-over clay excavated from the house and pool construction, the lower block needed re-shaping to suit a flowing garden not reliant on intensive walls to retain the 5m drop over 22m. Importing organic soil mixes would be required for back-filling. However, the limited site access via the street below, coupled with the prevailing salt-laden winds and high sun exposure to the north, meant the earthworks would be a challenge!
The site offers spectacular ocean views from all parts of the property, so the Designers were keen to create reasons to draw the family down there and to keep exploring and utilising the entire block. A fire pit area and a swing set were suitable features that would attract adults and children alike, with the swing set easily adaptable to a hammock for those lazy, breezy seaside afternoons.
Ample level space for the fire pit was created by carving the stone bench into the slope, doubling as a retaining wall and allowing the garden to wrap around the fire pit, drawing it further into the landscape. The bench is orientated to maximise the amazing view, whilst a timber deck (under the swing set) provides valuable extra space during larger gatherings.
The garden’s high visual prominence from the pool meant the planting design would be critical to act as a foreground to the ocean views and also for enclosure, privacy from the side neighbours and the feeling of spatial depth. Starting with no existing remnant vegetation, the plantings were carefully selected to provide rich foliage contrast for coastal hilltop exposure whilst offering various flowering highlights for seasonal interest with relatively low maintenance requirements.
Tuckeroo and Frangipani trees dot the garden at wider spacings to frame views and allow Birds of Paradise and Spear lilies room to throw their broader vertical leaves up, whilst sharing the garden amiably with the lower layers under their collective shadow. Two European Olives are cleverly used for their silver-grey foliage to shield the passive seating areas visually from the pool, with naturally rounded Indian Hawthorns, Silver Jade and tightly clipped Dwarf Lilly Pillies providing the repeated round form that ties together the mid-tier of the garden. Chinese Junipers, Blue Chalk Sticks and Variegated Jasmine provide ground level coverage on sloped areas with Mondo Grass, Cycads, Green-Ti plants and Dwarf Philodendrons effectively used for contrast of form and leaf shape.
The drift plantings are carefully layered for repetition of form down the slope to allow bolder vertical foliage plants to really pop out. Evidently, the designers’ attention to plant textures creates a calming, harmonious effect from this otherwise eclectic plant palette.
Judges in AILDM’s 2020 National Landscape Design Awards described the result as “a well-considered, creative and clever design solution for a difficult site. There is an excellent balance between soft and hard landscaping, clearly reflecting the brief. The plants have been well chosen for their climate and position, and make a real impact, framing the view beautifully.”
This landscape was awarded the Gold Award in the 2020 AILDM National Landscape Design Awards – Residential Design Category (150m2 and over)
Colin and Lisette Marchant
Costata Landscape Design
T: 0417 685 541 & 0418 299 606
Andrew Munro B.B.E. (L.Arch.) AILA MAILDM
Registered Landscape Architect & AILDM National Board Member
T: 0416 261 277
E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: definela.com.au