Phillip WithersA courtyard for a special girl

Every so often you get lucky in life and are met with situations that make doing what you do feel even less like a job and more like doing something you love. I say this because I met with one of these situations not that long ago and it was one of those times when everything is just put back into perspective…

Courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne

Courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne

Courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne5I went out to a courtyard in Brighton, Melbourne, and met with a young girl. I say ‘young’ although she turned out to be about the same age as me. Before I went to her place her father called me and told me a story; a story all about this young girl and her condition, and how she needed a quiet restful place.

View from inside - courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne8

View from inside – courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne

Now I’m not going to disclose her details because I don’t think it’s fair or that I need to, but what I will say is that when I met her that day, the girl I saw was full of beans. She oozed confidence, and she had a strength inside that made me walk out at the end of the meeting forgetting anything her father had said.

I was there to turn her courtyard into something she could relax in, something calming and peaceful, but also including a bit fantasy, and with pops of colour and funk.

A courtyard for everyone. Courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne

A courtyard for everyone. Courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne

So we looked at how we were going to design her garden – and I say ‘we’ because she was just as committed as I was and she knew just what she wanted. And I was going to make sure that this garden would be all of that, and more…

The courtyard is set in the middle of a large building with walls surrounding the whole area. Being 3 storeys high it would cast shadows over best part of the area for most of the day, which was a big consideration in defining the theme and then selecting the plants.

To bring in a real sense of green we incorporated glossy green leaves, creating almost a rainforest look, although most of the plants are actually tough, dry-shade loving plants. To this we added accents of shade-accepting succulent shapes. Some of the key plants are the big rhapis palms (Rhapis excelsa), King of Bromeliads, (Vriesia hieroglyphica), Draceana marginata, Ctnenanthe setosa ‘Grey star’, Agave attenuata and Echeveria ‘Black Prince’

Courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne

Courtyard design by Phillip Withers, Melbourne

Putting together the vertical garden boxes

Putting together the vertical garden boxes

As a contrast to the rich greens we also wanted to include some architectural interest with colourful ready-made vertical gardens, a few interesting screening elements to give the eye somewhere to rest between the foliage and some funky patterned pots. By filling the ground plane of the garden with a layer of artificial turf we could green it even further, and it was the only possibility considering the amount of light we had to play with and the fact that the courtyard floor was already concrete.

Hanging string gardens with devils ivy adds some playfulness

Hanging string gardens with devil’s ivy adds some playfulness

To get some playfulness to the space we also put up some hanging string gardens and planted them with devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum).

The last thing was choosing some relaxing furniture to finish it off.

Then I could feel that this garden would be good enough to match the strength of this girl’s characterr.

It’s a special garden, and I hope she enjoys it as much I enjoyed helping her bring it to life…



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Phillip Withers

About Phillip Withers

Phillip started his design through more art based development studying a Diploma in Arts at RMIT. He was then drawn to garden design through garden maintenance and construction, studying a Diploma in Landscape Design and Sustainability at Swinburne University. He started Phillip Withers Landscape Design and has been lucky enough to create 3 show gardens in different forms, from achievable, to student, to professional. He has also taught Computer Aided Design with Kangan Institute and now Swinburne University. Phil is also a keen traveller and believes that it is the key to keeping design interesting…

5 thoughts on “A courtyard for a special girl

  1. What a beautiful story, Phillip and how lucky you were to have a client who wanted to become so involved with the design and creation of her courtyard. In some ways that’s a more difficult way to design, but they’re often the more satisfying projects.

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