This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Sarah Nolan and Gavin Perrin

Gardens

Today our gardens columnist Georgina Reid has another sweet Sydney garden to share.

What was once a mass of concrete and brick tucked away behind a former TV and radio repair shop in Sydney’s Forest Lodge, has, in four years, been transformed by owners Sarah Nolan and Gavin Perrin into a lush outdoor space. Here, under clumps of ferns, palm and papyrus foliage are all manner of hidden treasures – including salvaged bricks and bottles, a friendly garden gnome, and concrete mobile phone sculptures by artist Will Coles.

 

16th March, 2015

The tiny Sydney garden of Sarah Nolan and Gavin Perrin. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Sarah in her much loved little garden. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

The papyrus (Cyperus involucratus, I think) and ferns just popped up here once Sarah removed the bricks and concrete slab. Rather than considering them weeds and removing them, she has incorporated them (very successfully I reckon!) into the garden. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

An autumn crocus (Zepheranthes candida) flower amongst rocks. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Low pots with succulents frame the stairs down to the garden. Helpful navigational guides after a few wines amongst the ferns, perhaps?  Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Concrete mobile phone sculptures by Will Coles are indestructible garden art! Seaside daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) and nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) jostle for space, with Sarah trimming the daisy regularly to keep it under control. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Gnome! Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Looking back towards the house. The abundant garden overflows with a range of plants including geraniums, Proteas, autumn crocus, wisteria, succulents, babys tears. You name it, Sarah probably has it in there somewhere! Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Georgina Reid
Monday 16th March 2015

Tucked away behind a former TV and radio repair shop in Forest Lodge, Sydney, Sarah Nolan’s enchanting little garden is a welcome escape from the surrounding inner city madness of concrete, cars, and buildings.

When Sarah and her partner Gavin Perrin bought the property at the end of 2010, the garden was wall-to-wall bricks. Pulling up the bricks revealed a concrete slab, built on top of a collection of old beer bottles dated from the early 1950’s, broken up clay from old vessels, cement, and all sorts of artifacts.

Rather than throw the various layers of history in a skip bin, Sarah kept many of the bricks, bottles, and concrete pieces to use in the new garden. The pathway through the space is comprised of random shaped pieces of the concrete slab, and the low garden walls are made from the salvaged bricks. Clumps of terrazzo made from broken bottles and cement hide under clumps of ferns, to be discovered by the most curious of visitors.

Much of the beauty of Sarah’s garden is in its unexpected details. From vintage gnomes nestled amongst papyrus, concrete mobile phone sculptures by street artist Will Coles residing next to a clump of daisies, mossy rocks growing amongst ferns, and so on, there is a real sense of magic and discovery within the space.

Sitting amongst the ferns and babies tears, I was brought back immediately to my childhood garden adventures – laying on my belly under lavender bushes or the like, building small fairy houses out of stones and foliage. It’s that kind of garden.

Nearly every plant in Sarah’s enchanted garden has a story, and most are found, gifted, or shared. For example, the lemon tree was found sick and abandoned on the side of the road, the Grevillea was growing in a crack in the footpath around the corner, and the three Japanese maples are from her deceased mother’s Leura garden, salvaged prior to selling.

I love this about Sarah’s garden – with a bunch of plants others have deemed too sick or too abundant to be of any value in their gardens, Sarah has created a beautiful and authentic space. And while it may look wild and loose, it is, in fact, carefully maintained. ‘I like some shape, I don’t want it to be ad-hoc. It looks like I’ve just left it but I trim the plants regularly,’ she says.

It’s hard for Sarah to recognise why she gardens. It’s just something she has always done. ‘It definitely relaxes me,’ she says, ‘it’s a way of tuning out from other things going on in the world by focusing on my little bit of nature. I don’t understand how people who don’t relate to growing plants can survive!’

Neither do I Sarah, neither do I.

Similar Stories

Gardens

A Thoughtful Native Garden Anchoring A ‘Floating’ Home In The Byron Hinterland

Explore the diverse and lush landscaping of Coolamon House, perched on ancient volcano crater with uninterrupted views to the ocean.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Serene Courtyard Garden Inside A Spectacular Converted Bakery

This former warehouse turned dream home in Sydney hides a stunning seasonal courtyard by The Garden Social.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Hawthorn Home Enveloped In Dreamy, Layered Gardens

This new family home is brought to life with lush gardens – reminiscent of a ‘woody meadow’!
Christina Karras

This Week

Interiors

A Majestic Garden House That Transcends Aesthetics

The landscape is the mesmerising star of the show in Garden House by Arent&Pyke and Polly Harbison Design.

Interiors

How This First-Time Renovator Transformed Her Pint-Sized Melbourne Apartment

A tiny renovation (34 square metres, to be precise) – that packs a big punch!

At Home With Sheridan

The Minimalist Inner-City Sanctuary Of Skincare Guru James Vivian + Ben Esakoff

A Prahran Edwardian cottage meets a minimalist architectural addition, with exposed materials, an impressive art collection, and textured Sh...

News

Local Chef Ella Mittas' First Cookbook Brings Us A Taste Of The Mediterranean

The Greek-Australian chef shares her most delicious recipes and personal essays in Ela! Ela! – To Turkey and Greece, Then Home.
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Inside Elena Strohfelft's Beautifully Therapeutic Ceramics Practice

How the self taught artist started making ceramics as a way to work through a painful trauma, channeling it into whimsical and organic vesse...
Christina Karras
  2 hours ago

Stays

A Serene Architectural Getaway Overlooking Vineyards In Central Victoria

Barfold Estate's new boutique accommodation is the best kept secret in the Heathcote / Kyneton region – for now!

Father's Day Favourites

Shop Luxurious Outdoor Essentials For Dad With 20% Off The Grampians Goods Co.

This one is for the dads who love camping, picnics, and a hot cocoa by the fire! We've got 20% off The Grampian Goods Co.!
Christina Karras

News

Nicole Lawrence Studio And Curio Practice Pop Up In Sydney

The two rising design stars open the doors to their week-long shop and showroom in Paddington.

Father's Day Favourites

Announcing The Design Files Father's Day Favourites 2022!

Find the best gifts for dad and score special deals with our Father's Day Favourites online shopping event!

Father's Day Favourites

Find The Perfect Book For Dad With 20% Off From Hardie Grant Publishing!

From the best barbecuing recipes to epic travel inspiration, you'll find the perfect book for dad in our edit of Hardie Grant Publishing's f...
Christina Karras
  18 hours ago

News

Shop Dreamy Pastel Landscapes In Collection III From ‘Palette by Jono Fleming’

Introducing interior stylist Jono Fleming’s third art collaboration with Sicilian-Australian artist Chanel Sohier.
Christina Karras

Shopping

Kip&Co Team Up With Robert Gordon For A Fun-Filled Ceramic Range

The loveable local brands have created a new playful ceramics collection, bringing prints and colour to range of hand-crafted vases!
Christina Karras

On The Market

For Sale: An Ultimate Sydney Dream Home, With Waterfront Views

This new Balmain family home has it all - a resort-style backyard, swimming pool, gym, steam room, home theatre, and it's for sale!
Christina Karras

Father's Day Favourites

Give Dad A Dose Of (Stylish) Wanderlust With Bespoke Luggage From July!

Gift dad bespoke luggage from our favourite travel brand July and receive a complimentary personalised luggage tag worth $85!

Homes

A Historic Melbourne Apartment With Artful, Lived-In Interiors

Interior designer Leigh Ellwood invites us inside her 1930s Beverley Hills apartment in South Yarra.

Similar Stories

Gardens

A Thoughtful Native Garden Anchoring A ‘Floating’ Home In The Byron Hinterland

Explore the diverse and lush landscaping of Coolamon House, perched on ancient volcano crater with uninterrupted views to the ocean.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Serene Courtyard Garden Inside A Spectacular Converted Bakery

This former warehouse turned dream home in Sydney hides a stunning seasonal courtyard by The Garden Social.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Hawthorn Home Enveloped In Dreamy, Layered Gardens

This new family home is brought to life with lush gardens – reminiscent of a ‘woody meadow’!
Christina Karras

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net