The client, the architecture and the site. These are the most important elements of a garden design project. Understanding the needs and desires of a client; respecting the ecological and cultural history of the land the garden sits on, and creating spaces that both enhance and reflect the architecture of the home are essential to any successful garden design project. This Fitzroy North garden, owned by real estate agent Peter Stephens and metalworker Anna Charlesworth, and designed by Melbourne landscape designer Amanda Oliver, ticks all these boxes.
Amanda was engaged to design and install the garden in 2011 following extensive renovations to the property by architects Meacham Nockles McQualter. Her brief was open: ‘Peter and Anna used to be my neighbours, and when they moved into this house they asked me to create a garden for them. They very much trusted me to do what I wanted, and what I thought was right.’ Amanda worked closely with the architects, creating a lush and textural planting design referencing the properties historic bones and contemporary extension.
On entering the property, the home’s mint green façade provides a gentle backdrop to an entry garden designed around an existing prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) ‘It was the only plant left after the renovations’, says Amanda. ‘The planting design of the front garden is inspired by it. It’s a nod to the history of the house and the garden.’ Old concrete pots filled with sculptural plants such as fan aloe (Aloe plicatilis) and house leek (Aeonium arborescens) are nestled amongst clipped germander (Teucrium fruticans) balls and pink hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla). An angels trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) frames the eclectic space.
A pathway down the side boundary fence leads to home’s new front door. ‘From the front door, the house opens up to a completely different space, and garden. It’s nice when people first see it – they look at the front garden and think they’ve seen it all. Then they go out the back and say, ‘oh wow!’.
A pocket-sized pool nestles at the rear of the backyard, engulfed by abundant, textural planting. Green drips from the rear of the house in the form of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Its vigorous growth requires occasional haircuts from Amanda and her team, but she suggests it’s well worth the effort for the verdant feeling it evokes.
The rear garden is a gorgeous, tranquil space that complements and enhances the contemporary architecture of the house’s rear extension. The plant palette is lush and textural, and eclectic. Feather grass (Miscanthus transmorrisonensis) mix with burgundy cannas, succulents grow alongside dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’). ‘My work is very much plant driven and primarily based on foliage, form and structure’ Amanda explains. Whilst she has her plant favourites (currently Miscanthus transmorrisoniensis), Amanda’s planting designs always respond to the site and client – ‘I try to approach each garden differently’.
Amanda’s work in this garden speaks for itself. It’s beautiful. Peter and Anna love it, and Amanda feels a deep connection to this project. Last year, over summer, she even spent a week staying at the house whilst Peter and Anna were away. ‘It was really lovely. It was so nice to see it at all times of the day. I really enjoyed it and thought, ‘oh, I am quite clever’, but also thought I really should make more of an effort with my own home garden.’ You’re not the only one, Amanda.
Read more stories from Georgina Reid on The Planthunter.