Jim’s design for this garden close to native bushland proves that you don’t have to go all-native with your plant choices to blend into the surroundings beautifully.
Set in the surrounds of local bushland, this architect-designed house makes the most of the views offered by its northern aspect. The challenge was to create a garden that blended with the natural feel of the indigenous landscape. The design needed to be subtle, drawing interest mainly from the planting scheme rather than from the hard landscape.
This is not a native garden. It is best called a ‘natural styled garden’, using a mix of native and exotic plants. Rather than using a native plant list only, the colour palette and the feel of the garden was an important part of the brief. You can create interesting plant palettes by mixing native and exotic plants, using foliage shapes and colours for maximum impact. Tip: to get the mix right, make sure you select exotic plants that prefer similar conditions to native plants.
As the house has virtually no back garden, the front garden is the focus of attention. It is here that an ornamental lawn provides the centrepiece to deep, sweeping garden beds. The back garden has no usable space owing to a large cut which was made to accommodate the house slab.
Tip: when placing a new house on a sloping block, make sure you understand the impact a cut will have on your garden space. Clarify with your builder to maximise the usable amount of garden space on small blocks.
As the driveway is very steep, gravel was not an option as cars will need good traction on this slope. A digital image of the existing site soil was taken, and a custom blend of exposed aggregate was devised to mimic the clay’s colour. Using a blend of aggregates and colour oxides in the concrete mix, the coloured driveway is a great alternative to standard concrete or asphalt options.
Tip: for a natural garden feel, it is best to try to make your driveway and paved areas blend into the natural environment. Avoid using materials which make them stand out against a bush backdrop.
To incorporate exotic plants into a natural garden look, choose plants that blend with colours of the natural bush. In this case, silver foliage plants feature with brown and burgundy tones, which are added in clumps as a contrast. Where the silver colours disappear and create a subtle feel, the richer foliage tones stand out against the indigenous native tree foliage in the background.
Silver foliage plants in this garden include Eremophila nivea, Helichrysum angustifolia, Helichrysum petiolare and Senecio cineraria.
Buddleja davidii ‘Nanho Blue’ adds summer colour and fragrance, and the rich foliage tones of Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ stand out against the indigenous and native tree foliage of Acacia melanoxylon, Allocasuarina verticillata, Eucalyptus pauciflora, and the new grafted gum trees, Corymbia ‘Summer Beauty’ and C. ‘Summer Red.’
A set of steps made from sandstone and recycled redgum sleepers leads to the front door via a crazy sandstone path and front paved area. The front of the house has a sandstone porch, so it made sense to extend the use of this as a paving material, as the colour works well with the rest of the garden and blends nicely with the natural look of the driveway.
A large natural water feature using local rock provides both a cooling effect and a relaxed area at the front of the house. Starting on higher ground at the back of the house, the water then cascades underneath the causeway of the house into a pond next to the front door. This is the main focal point as you reach the front of the house.
Grasses: as well as masses of native grasses including Pennisetum alopecuriodes, Lomandra longifolia ‘Katrinus’and Poa labillardieri ‘Eskdale’, large bold stands of Miscanthus sinensis stand out in the garden and provide subtle movement on windy days.