Even the most severe home can be ‘turned around’ with the right garden. Take for instance my own home for instance, a fairly rudimentary 1930s duplex (one up, one down). There was virtually no garden and many passing by could equally have mistaken the building for council housing. Now entirely covered in Boston ivy, framed by old-fashioned magnolia trees and bordered by oak leaf hydrangeas, neighbours and those strolling past have commented that it has a strong Italian feel. While I take these comments graciously, the only place I have visited in Italy is Venice, so comparisons don’t come easily. However, after five years, my garden is as treasured as the brutalist, severe home I live in.

I am not a landscape architect, or a landscape designer, but creating my own garden has certainly given me an appreciation for the profession, from landscape architects to those who carefully maintain gardens. Getting the right combination of architecture and landscape is also admired, where the two come together in a holistic manner.

Landscape Architect Jim Fogarty laments when the two components on a block don’t ‘speak the same language’. “The architect is proud of the building they’ve designed and often doesn’t want to see anything around it, or more correctly, distracting one’s eye from certain features. I call it the ‘mantlepiece theory’”, says Fogarty, referring to the gravel or manicured lawn that’s treeless. In contrast, landscape architects and designers love trees and plants and often want to ‘drape’ homes and buildings with foliage. “The landscape architect and architect can see things from entirely different perspectives,” he adds.

Fogarty regularly works closely with architects in creating a ‘shared’ story. However, for one of his recent projects, the architect was no longer in the picture. The arts and crafts-style house from the early 20th century featured a garden from the 1980s (think box hedges and standard rose bushes). “My clients were contemplating moving. But they preferred the option of giving the house a new lick of paint and investing in the garden,” says Fogarty.

Fogarty was keen to respond to the handmade quality of the original house, where the work of the tradesman’s hand could be appreciated: hand-seeded pebbled driveways, real, rather than faux stone retaining garden walls and handmade brick cobbles (100 X 100 millimetres). Fogarty was also keen to extend the house into the garden, in a visual manner, as well as bringing the garden into the house via strategically placed sight lines.

“People often make the mistake of creating dead straight paths with a sculpture or water feature at the end. But sometimes, it’s better to include a curvaceous pathway that provides an element of curiosity, something beyond,” says Fogarty.

As the Glen Iris garden is fairly large, Fogarty planted larger trees such as Tulip trees (liriodenron) and also Hornbeams (carpinus betulus fastigiata). He was also mindful of how his clients would use their garden, a place for them to site, together with storage and service areas. What is found in older-style homes, particularly from the early 20th century and earlier, are the often narrow driveways. For the Glen Iris house, the driveway required widening an additional 30 centimetres to accommodate larger cars. Deep garden beds were also included in the front garden, surrounding a circular lawn.

Landscape designer Scott Leung, director of Eckersley Garden Architecture, has established a reputation for creating gardens that are not only visually enticing, but as importantly, pleasurable to be in. “We always start a project by following a detailed brief, both from the clients, and often the architects. How spaces feel and how they are used is also paramount,” says Leung, who likes to take a holistic approach between the house and its garden. Rather than having a ‘house style’, Leung sees the practice as ‘creating gardens that continually evolve’.

However, those familiar with the work of Eckersley Garden Architecture will point out certain features that can be identified: canopies of smaller closely planted trees, often taking the form of Japanese maples (Acer Palmatum), together with a fairly dense ground cover of plants. “We see these horizontal planes as ‘green canvases’,” he says. Other hallmarks include the old-fashioned style of magnolias.

Eckersley Garden Architecture recently created a garden for a two-storey Victorian house in Parkville. The house was re-worked by architects Pleysier Perkins. The rear of the site, orientated to the west, features a sloped terrain and benefits from views to an abutting reserve. “We retained a jacaranda tree to create protection from the afternoon sunlight, but levelled off the land at the rear boundary to accommodate off-street car parking,” says Leung.

Crazy paving was inserted into the sloped terrain to allow the back garden to be used. One of the features of the design is the aluminium and steel louvres that create privacy from those using the reserve. “It’s like a patchwork of panels that can be adjusted to suit the level of privacy and light,” he adds.

For Leung, the success of a garden can be as simple as this, “ a place I’m happy to stand in or relax all day long”.

For landscape architect John Patrick, director of John Patrick Landscape Architects, author of numerous books and former presenter of Gardening Australia (ABC television), the emphasis is on commercial projects, rather than domestic ones. However, Patrick occasionally designs gardens for friends and those clients who have a ‘strong sense of what they are looking for’. His portfolio of work includes creating landscapes for shopping centres, schools, parks, apartments and housing estates. There’s also the work that comes from master planning new centres. Given the briefs are often for low maintenance gardens, Patrick regularly uses Lirope (Greek goddess) in his planting schedules. “You can include rare and more unusual plants but they’re often more difficult to maintain,” he says.

With many of Patrick’s projects, he uses climbers to soften the edges of buildings, creating a green oasis particularly in inner-city areas. “Trees and plants need time to mature. Not everything has to be instant,” says Patrick, who often creates an instant garden for apartments soon to come onto the market. “Sometimes, less is more and people like to add their own touches once they have moved in,” he says. Some of the problems he finds with new apartments can be fully appreciated by those who have just moved into their new apartment. There’s the fire booster system that’s difficult to conceal in a front garden, together with the gas and electrical metres that ‘scream for attention’ from the street. Another issue comes from the raised planter boxes, often not deep enough to support anything much more than a few annuals. “You need to have a reliant irrigation system and the appropriate soil to sustain the growth you’re looking for,” says Patrick.

One factor that is overlooked by those keen to surround themselves with a lush garden is the issue of garden maintenance, with owners often reluctant to pay $45 per hour for someone to look after their plot. “These people are highly skilled and worth the money,” says Patrick. “You look after your house, your furniture, even your clothes, so it just makes sense to take the same pride with your garden, irrespective of its scale.”

Text by Stephen Crafti.


Jim Fogarty Design can be contacted on 9813 8550

Eckersley Garden Architecture can be reached on 9413 3223

John Patrick Landscape Architects can be contacted on 9429 4855

Lifestyle & Design

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