Heather MilesA garden built on harmony and trust

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.

Joan’s garden in Kareela with hedges of Acmena smithii 'Allyn Magic’ (around circle) and Syzygium australe ‘Bush Christmas’ (above)

Joan’s garden in Kareela with hedges of Acmena smithii ‘Allyn Magic’ (around circle) and Syzygium australe ‘Bush Christmas’ (above)

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.

Early days of construction

Early days of construction

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

The garden flows from space to space with harmonising sandstone walls and paving.

The garden flows from space to space with harmonising sandstone walls and paving.

 

•   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

Clumps of Baeckea virgata (Dwarf) in repeated patterns, along with Bansksia ‘Birthday Candles’, Eremophila nivea and Acer palmatum 'Senkaki'

Clumps of Baeckea virgata (Dwarf) in repeated patterns, along with Bansksia ‘Birthday Candles’, Eremophila nivea and Acer palmatum ‘Senkaki’

Unique and functional spaces, linked through colour and materials with a hedge of Lilly Pilly, Syzygium luehmannii 'Lulu' around the deck.

Unique and functional spaces, linked through colour and materials with a hedge of Lilly Pilly, Syzygium luehmannii ‘Lulu’ around the deck.

 

•   Using Australian native plants as hedges and underplanting to blend into the landscape, attract fauna and improve sustainability

Underplanting of Australian natives against the sandstone escarpment showing the contrasting colours of the Maple and Eremophila. A natural vertical garden.

Underplanting of Australian natives against the sandstone escarpment showing the contrasting colours of the Maple and Eremophila. A natural vertical garden.

 

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.

Stunning winter colour of Acer palmatum ‘Okagami’ (grafted)

Stunning winter colour of Acer palmatum ‘Okagami’ (grafted)

Carpet of Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon spp.) linking spaces, suppressing weeds and slowing water down

Carpet of Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon sp.) linking spaces, suppressing weeds and slowing water down

Acer palmatum ‘Okagami’ in summer 2015

Acer palmatum ‘Okagami’ in summer 2015

 

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.

Grevillea sp

Grevillea sp

Lechenaultia biloba

Lechenaultia biloba

Leptospermum scoparium (Tea Tree)

Leptospermum scoparium (Tea Tree)

Actinotis helianthum (Flannel Flowers)

Actinotis helianthum (Flannel Flowers)

Agave attenuata (Swan Neck Agave)

Agave attenuata (Swan Neck Agave)

Fresh veggies close to the house

Fresh veggies close to the house

 

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.

Fish pond to enhance the Japanese feel of the garden

Fish pond to enhance the Japanese feel of the garden

 

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.

Buckinghamia celsissima (Ivory Curl Tree)

Buckinghamia celsissima (Ivory Curl Tree)

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.

Pretty special!

Rainbow lorikeet feasting on the grevillea

Rainbow lorikeet feasting on the grevillea

Now this is gorgeous!

Now this is gorgeous!

Garden in spring with Anigozanthos ‘Giant Red’ (Kangaroo Paws) in full flower, with Grevillea ‘Sylvia’ behind

Garden in spring with Anigozanthos ‘Giant Red’ (Kangaroo Paws) in full flower, with Grevillea ‘Sylvia’ behind

Photos by Joan Zande and Heather Miles

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Heather Miles

About Heather Miles

Corporate consultant, passionate gardener, loves Australian natives and their design potential. Honorary Secretary of the Australian Plant Society NSW . Gets her hands dirty in a native garden in the Hunter Valley and an old fashioned flower garden in Sydney. Fascinated by the similarities between organisations and plant communities.

6 thoughts on “A garden built on harmony and trust

  1. Ben on said:

    Beautifully designed. Thoughtful and considered. Well done to the client and designer.

  2. Heather Miles on said:

    Thanks Ben. Yes, they did a lovely job together – client and designer.

  3. Penny on said:

    Wow! What an amazing landscape…. Simply beautiful!
    The soft and hardscapes seamlessly fit into the natural setting.
    LOVE the incredible detail. Congratulations on this living piece of art.

    • Heather Miles on said:

      Thanks Penny – yes, extraordinary. One of those hidden gems as well – you walk down the side passage and are just blown away. Very talented designer and very dedicated owner!

  4. Joan Zande on said:

    Thank you Heather for a well written article, you really captured the understanding and rapport that Greg and I experienced. His love of working with sandstone really showed with this result.

    Thank you Ben and Penny for your favourable comments.

    • Heather Miles on said:

      A pleasure, Joan. Thanks for your generosity in sharing your garden.

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