Every garden tells a story, and this one in southern Sydney tells one of trust and collaboration that has created magic. When Joan Zande retired, her dream was to redesign her 40-year old garden. Yet finding a designer who embraced the site proved challenging. Against a rocky sandstone escarpment, a 10º slope, drainage problems and nowhere to sit, the site just seemed too hard.
And then she met Greg Hopcroft – artist, designer and structural landscaper. For Greg, the challenges of the site were its essence, its magic. The sandstone escarpment was the garden frame and defined the materials and colour palette. The slope was an opportunity to create levels and space. The nearby Joseph Banks Native Plants Reserve was the inspiration for planting. Drainage issues were an opportunity to capture water to feed the garden…
With just a sketch, the close collaboration of landscaper and owner began in late 2012 to create this garden.
Joan gave Greg free rein. His design principles are deceptively simple yet elegant. Originating in the Japanese philosophy of design, he believes in:
• Designing some areas in detail and allowing the rest to flow
• Recycling materials on site, with large stones moved around to create the bones of the garden and unique spaces blending into a whole
• Creating harmony and balance through repetition – sandstone paving and walls complementing the sandstone rock escarpment, plants in 3s, 5s and 7s, and triangles allowing the eye to follow a line
• Using Australian native plants as hedges and underplanting to blend into the landscape, attract fauna and improve sustainability
Introducing exotic deciduous (grafted) trees such as for structure, shade in summer and sun in winter, and Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon sp) as a carpet and weed reduction.
Joan’s trust in Greg has been fully rewarded. The outcome is a calming garden, with multiple flat spaces to relax or entertain – spaces big enough to use without feeling crowded. The garden can be viewed from all standpoints rather than just one or two, and each creates an interesting vista,
The garden has unique blend of natives and exotics bringing out the best in both. The colour palette harmonises with the sandstone escarpment and rock walls – yellows, reds and white/grey – and contrasting textures create year round interest.
Joan maintains the garden herself, including mowing the lawn. While low maintenance, she admits to pottering in the garden at least 3 to 4 times a week. On Greg’s advice, she cares for the soil, mulching endlessly and applying wetting agents to stop the water beading, given the high sand content.
Joan chooses small plants – which take time for impact, but gives the plants the best chance of success. The Buckinghamia (Ivory Curl Tree) was put in as tubestock, but within three years, was a mass of flowers.
Joan’s special pastime now is sitting on the veranda, watching the birds and admiring the garden. For her, the garden tells a story – a 40 year history, transformation, collaboration and new beginnings. For Greg, it’s a story of trust – trusted to express his vision, trusted to make it happen.
Photos by Joan Zande and Heather Miles