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Garden Design

Love leaves a memory that no one can steal

Chris Slaughter

Chris Slaughter

June 10, 2018

Thank you…To Mark and Faye Leveson, for letting us into your lives and for allowing us to bring to you what we do best – to make a garden in memory of your son, Matty. While we know that nothing can replace Matty our entire team hope this token of creation will help you slowly find some form of normality in your lives.

Mark and Faye Leveson’s son, Matthew went missing some 10 years ago. He was last seen leaving a night club with Mr Michael Atkins. In 2007 Mr Atkins stood trial for the murder of Matthew Leveson and then in 2009 for his manslaughter. Mr Atkins was acquitted.

Years later Mark and Faye were confronted with a decision only the truly strong and brave could endure. The justice system placed Mark and Faye in the coroner’s office to agree that if Mr Atkins showed them where he buried Matthew’s body the parents of Matthew would not continue charges against Mr Atkins for the murder of Matthew Leveson.

After many months of searching in the National Park and excavating the entire area, it was observed the only area not disturbed was where a cabbage palm Livistona australis grew.

The excavator driver removed the palm and placed it to one side. A gentle removal of soil under the palm revealed bones, those of a human being.

Matthew Leveson had been found on May 31 with only 45 minutes left of the allowed search time as per the search warrant issued. The dream and wish of Mark and Faye was just to bring their boy home. They were now able to do so.

The palm comes home
After days of forensic work Mark and Faye were allowed to bring the palm home to plant in their garden.

It was some weeks later when Mark phoned 2GB’s Ben Fordham to say the palm was not looking very well, that I got the call from Ben asking me to check out the palm.

The palm, although of good size, was indeed looking limp in structure. We spoke about how it was removed from the ground, how long it was out of the ground and what root stock remained.

Not wishing to move it for a second time I felt it best be left where it was and concentrate on both moisture, shade and drip feed system of nutrients to let it have the best survival chance possible.


The garden before work started


An idea is born
I met Ben Fordham to discuss the palm and how the garden was looking so lost. A later, spontaneous thought made me say to Ben that we were going to re-design the entire back garden and undertake the build through 100 per cent donations.

Looking at each other with a degree of trepidation, we collectively said “What the heck. Let’s do it!”



I revisited Mark and Faye we talked about Matthew, his likes and theirs for the garden. Slowly a design to build a garden that held your hand while walking through was hatched.  A garden that let you stop think, rest, stop and remember. Elements of the design had to include a water feature, lighting and colour, these being some of Matty’s favourite things.

We used recycled hard wood that reflected the timber found in the National Park, is Australian and says “we are strong.” We used it to make a rustic pergola, placed in a location that can be physically enjoyed when inside (the pergola) observing the water view from the garden, but also can be visually enjoyed from the home’s kitchen.



The pergola’s flooring is made of Australian sandstone and placed in a flagging style bond with recycled crushed granite. Some stone used in the flooring and pathway was brought in from the National Park (we got permission to do this) where Matty was found. Due to its visual non-conformance, the difference between this bush rock and the sandstone, we hope, helps people to question.


Different levels
A lower hardstanding courtyard garden was left untouched as was an upper level area about 1.6 metres higher than the courtyard and held in place by existing bush rock retaining walls. This upper level was bounded by another bush rock retaining about 1.2 metres and supporting the garden bank with a gradient of approximately 35 – 40 degrees.

An area that was showing signs of damage because of tree root penetration was used to advantage. This is where Matty’s water feature would be. By removing the damaged wall and rebuilding it we built a water wall that cascaded down the face of the existing bush rock next to the hardwood pergola. This created sound, movement and a sense of life.

While other features were introduced to the garden, among the most important was the path, as it needed to be a type that held your hand from the home to the pergola. With its understated finish, Australian sandstone flagging was perfect. In and around the dotted flagging stones were random lengths of hardwood timber. To bind these elements together we used recycled crushed granite to make a path able to sustain the elements.


Bank planting


The bank
The bank was mass-planted with Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Nafray’. Pure and simple it provided a moving bank of swaying grasses to enhance a sense of calm but also to reflect Matty’s hair. I might add, planting the bank was a challenge to the calf muscles!

I can see to this day a sea of people picking away at the bank, trying and hoping they could find a place for a plant. Because of the steep nature of the bank and the potential for falls, we rigged up a lanyard carabiner and harness system for a person to use a hand-held auger to drill the holes. It was slow, but we got there in the end.


The level garden
Limonium perezii ‘Sea Lavender’ was selected for its robust attitude but also its beautiful purple flowers, this being one of Matty’s favourite colours. The day these were planted the bees moved in. Just brilliant! The other plantings included Grevillea gaudichaudii ‘ Bronze Rambler’, Grevillea ‘Ned Kelly’, Myoporum parvifolium ‘Yareena’,  Boston ivy Parthenocissus tricuspidata, native violet Viola hederacea, Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and then a couple of old favourites mondo and Liriope ‘Samantha’, for their little pink flowers on spikes and the rambling succulent Aptenia cordifolia for its firework pink-red flowers.


The completed garden


Work on the garden started on Friday December 1 and finished Sunday December 3. We worked from early morning to late afternoon. A huge undertaking that would not have been possible without the help from many companies. We had a sea of physical helpers in the order of 20-25 every day with back-up from catering, drinks, materials supplies. The full list of companies can be seen on the 2GB web site under ‘Mattys Garden’.

On a personal note. The atmosphere that was present in the garden was truly unrepeatable due to the huge positive outlook held by all. The laughing, the can-do, the what next and having to physically stop people from working to take a break and feed themselves. One important role was the continual walking around the garden by Mark, Faye and Rachel with water and fruit, pies. This role in itself kept us going throughout the weekend.

To you all who are reading this article, I urge you to go to the Facebook page created justiceformatthewleveson or mine Scenic Blue Design. It is so important we recognise this story.  And hey, if you wish to comment please do.

We are now eagerly awaiting the release of a film about the project.

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Leanne Needham
Leanne Needham
6 years ago

I had the pleasure and honour to help out with this project being a Horticulturist graduate from Ryde Tafe, just by chance I have found this article by Chris (great guy with a remarkable landscape design talent) it has brought back lots of memories of cling on to the bank trying to install plants…and the great work ethic I saw from everyone on the site not to mention the warmth and appreciation shown by Matty’s family – we never went without food, drinks and smiles the whole weekend! Its wonderful to see the plants establishing and the landscape looking just like Chris had designed. So worth it. All my best – Leanne