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

A Spectacular Riverside Garden in Melbourne

Gardens

On the edge of the Yarra in Melbourne’s Toorak, is this truly spectacular garden by Eckersley Garden Architecture.

The client, Sarah Laidlaw, wanted ‘magic and excitement’. Planted in challenging conditions on an impossibly steep site, this bold, eclectic outcome delivers just that, and demonstrates the power of close collaboration between client, environment and designer.

6th May, 2019

The planting is loose and eclectic. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

The garden is only five months old but already looking full and abundant. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

Garden owner Sarah Laidlaw. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

The garden is a little sculptural wonderland winding its way down the hill. There’s surprise, excitement and magic’, says Myles Broad of E-GA. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

Sculptural and colourful planting within the garden – The grey foliage of dragon tree (Cussonia paniculata) contrasts with the rusty red blooms of stonecrop (Sedum cvs.) Photo – Caitlin Mills.

‘We eat in the garden a lot in summer. It’s such a beautiful place to sit and have a meal’, says Sarah. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

Sarah loves the tranquillity of the garden. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

Stonecrop (Sedum cvs.). Photo – Caitlin Mills.

River views! The garden has direct frontage to the Yarra River. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

The garden has direct frontage to the Yarra River. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

The fire pit set amongst stepping stones and groundcover is an enticing destination point within the garden. Photo – Caitlin Mills.

Georgina Reid
Monday 6th May 2019

‘A good design project is always a collaboration with the client, the environment and the designer. It has to be a marriage of these three things.’ – Myles Broad.

‘A good design project is always a collaboration with the client, the environment and the designer. It has to be a marriage of these three things,’ says Myles Broad, landscape designer and principal of Eckersley Garden Architecture. We’re speaking about a garden he and his team designed in the Melbourne suburb of Toorak. It tumbles down a steep hill, behind a large home and ends at the edge of the Yarra River.

The client, Sarah Laidlaw, wanted magic and excitement. Her inspiration was Guilfoyle’s Volcano garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. ‘I didn’t want a clipped and perfect garden. I do love those kinds of gardens but I just didn’t think this space warranted that look. It needed something completely different.’ Sarah was not particularly prescriptive with the brief – ‘The designers knew what I didn’t like, so they went from there’, she tells me.

‘It’s a free and easy garden’, Myles says. ‘The bones of it were there. We preserved some of the planting that was already in place, because if it could grow there, then good luck to it!’ Myles is referring to the steepness of the slope – the site was ‘basically just rock, with a tiny bit of topsoil here and there.’ To overcome the lack of planting space, the team used a product called Terra-Lock – a system of soil filled bags that can be planted into, forming a green retaining wall. Plants were planted into the bags, and also in pockets of soil created behind the bags.

It’s an eclectic mix. ‘We wanted to create something with a bit of levity; a garden with form and sculpture within the planting. The plants also had to be as tough as nails, that was essential.’ The team took Sarah plant shopping at Living Sculptures nursery, where they sourced many of the larger plants like bottle trees, cacti, yuccas, and cedars. The larger plants, paired with the existing ones like echium and olive trees, and infilled with smaller grasses and groundcovers means that the garden, even though it’s only been planted for five months, already feels full and abundant.

Much of the structure of the garden, such as the pathways, deck, and gazebo were in place when Myles and the E-GA team were engaged. They worked with the existing bones of the garden, adding finesse and flair to encourage people through the space and down to the river. A firepit set into paving and groundcover underneath a glorious Moreton Bay fig provides an enticing destination within the lower part of the garden.

I ask Sarah what she likes most about the garden. ‘The tranquillity’, she tells me. ‘It’s so quiet down there. There’s a real sense of peace. We’re very lucky. The garden is better than I imagined.’

This Week

Architecture

A Dessert-Inspired ‘60s Home Makeover!

From banana Paddle Pop yellow, to chocolatey timber, this 1960s home makeover by Wowowa brings colour and personality to this mid century ho...

Shopping

The Aboriginal-Owned Homewares Brand Bringing First Nations Art To Homes + Classrooms Across Australia!

Bundjalung/Minjungbal woman Emma Rolls of Emro Designs shares her collection of rugs, cushions and soon-to-be-released picnic mats featuring...

Interiors

This Revamped Edwardian Home Has A Different Mood For Every Room

Interior Designer Georgina Jeffries delivers a classic yet contemporary makeover of a heritage home – where moments of delight are everywh...

Architecture

A Malaysian-Inspired Adaptable House In Brisbane

'Three House' by architect John Ellway sees three pavilions brought together as one breathable, flexible home in Paddington.

Homes

A Modern Family’s Treetop Rental Property

The heartwarming North Warrandyte rental of Tilly Barber, her six-year-old son Mars, and friends Albee Barton and Justyn Burrow.

Art

The Secret Mystical Paintings of International Art Sensation, Hilma af Klint

The visionary Swedish artist’s enormous colourful artworks were hidden from the world for decades. Now, they are on show at Art Gallery of...

Studio Visit

The Amazing Art-Making Of Thea Anamara Perkins

The Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist is renowned for her vivid, personal portraits of prominent First Nations figures. We talked to the accompl...

Creative People

Andalusian-Inspired Lampshades, Handwoven In Sydney

Lana Launay makes her textured light covers from natural materials such as coffee-stained raffia, coconut shell rope and bamboo yarn.

Stays

A Quaint + Charming Holiday Cottage That Feels Like Home

Lotte's Hjem is a 150-year-old weatherboard nestled in the heart of Pambula on the Sapphire Coast.

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life of ‘Hamilton’ Star, Chloé Zuel

We go behind the scenes of the Australian production of the most famous musical in the world - with Eliza Hamilton herself!

Food

Julia's Miso Salmon Bowl With Udon Noodles And Crunchy Greens

The onset of winter and lockdown in Victoria means we're back in comfort food mode – and this warm miso salmon bowl with crunchy greens h...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Creative People

A Truly Magical Tapestry Collaboration Between Local Artists + Weavers

Works by Eugenia Lim, Atong Atem, Troy Emery and Hayley Millar Baker were recrafted as tapestries by weavers at the Australian Tapestry Work...

Architecture

An Architect’s Reworking Of Sir Roy Grounds’ Former Balmain Home

A heritage 1970s house in Balmain once owned by Sir Roy Grounds has been its re-engineered by its present owner, architect Conrad Johnston o...

Gardens

A Grandmother's Accessible, Flower-Filled Dream Garden!

Outdoor Establishments have turned a barren acreage in outer Sydney into an elderly client's dream garden featuring Eco Outdoor products.

In Print

A Rustic Shed Accommodation On The Victorian Surfcoast Hinterland

Lose yourself in the classic Lynda Gardener aesthetic with her new book 'Curate: Inspiration for an Individual Home' published by Hachette A...
Ali Heath

View Comments

Similar Stories

Dream Job

From Intern to Senior Landscape Designer At Eckersley

26-year-old Joshua Cocks charts his journey from University intern to working across award-winning projects, with one of Australia's top fir...
Elle Murrell

Roundup

Our Favourite Gardens of 2018

A look back through the most popular gardens we featured in 2018. So lush!

Stays

A New Way To Experience The Garden Of St Erth

The Diggers Club's rambling open garden in Blackwood, just outside Melbourne, now offers glamping!
Georgina Reid

This Week

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life of ‘Hamilton’ Star, Chloé Zuel

We go behind the scenes of the Australian production of the most famous musical in the world - with Eliza Hamilton herself!

Stays

A Quaint + Charming Holiday Cottage That Feels Like Home

Lotte's Hjem is a 150-year-old weatherboard nestled in the heart of Pambula on the Sapphire Coast.

Gardens

A Grandmother's Accessible, Flower-Filled Dream Garden!

Outdoor Establishments have turned a barren acreage in outer Sydney into an elderly client's dream garden featuring Eco Outdoor products.

Interiors

This Revamped Edwardian Home Has A Different Mood For Every Room

Interior Designer Georgina Jeffries delivers a classic yet contemporary makeover of a heritage home – where moments of delight are everywh...

Studio Visit

The Amazing Art-Making Of Thea Anamara Perkins

The Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist is renowned for her vivid, personal portraits of prominent First Nations figures. We talked to the accompl...

Shopping

The Aboriginal-Owned Homewares Brand Bringing First Nations Art To Homes + Classrooms Across Australia!

Bundjalung/Minjungbal woman Emma Rolls of Emro Designs shares her collection of rugs, cushions and soon-to-be-released picnic mats featuring...

Creative People

Andalusian-Inspired Lampshades, Handwoven In Sydney

Lana Launay makes her textured light covers from natural materials such as coffee-stained raffia, coconut shell rope and bamboo yarn.

Creative People

A Truly Magical Tapestry Collaboration Between Local Artists + Weavers

Works by Eugenia Lim, Atong Atem, Troy Emery and Hayley Millar Baker were recrafted as tapestries by weavers at the Australian Tapestry Work...

Food

Julia's Miso Salmon Bowl With Udon Noodles And Crunchy Greens

The onset of winter and lockdown in Victoria means we're back in comfort food mode – and this warm miso salmon bowl with crunchy greens h...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Architecture

A Dessert-Inspired ‘60s Home Makeover!

From banana Paddle Pop yellow, to chocolatey timber, this 1960s home makeover by Wowowa brings colour and personality to this mid century ho...

Architecture

A Malaysian-Inspired Adaptable House In Brisbane

'Three House' by architect John Ellway sees three pavilions brought together as one breathable, flexible home in Paddington.

Art

The Secret Mystical Paintings of International Art Sensation, Hilma af Klint

The visionary Swedish artist’s enormous colourful artworks were hidden from the world for decades. Now, they are on show at Art Gallery of...

In Print

A Rustic Shed Accommodation On The Victorian Surfcoast Hinterland

Lose yourself in the classic Lynda Gardener aesthetic with her new book 'Curate: Inspiration for an Individual Home' published by Hachette A...
Ali Heath

Architecture

An Architect’s Reworking Of Sir Roy Grounds’ Former Balmain Home

A heritage 1970s house in Balmain once owned by Sir Roy Grounds has been its re-engineered by its present owner, architect Conrad Johnston o...

Homes

A Modern Family’s Treetop Rental Property

The heartwarming North Warrandyte rental of Tilly Barber, her six-year-old son Mars, and friends Albee Barton and Justyn Burrow.

Similar Stories

Dream Job

From Intern to Senior Landscape Designer At Eckersley

26-year-old Joshua Cocks charts his journey from University intern to working across award-winning projects, with one of Australia's top fir...
Elle Murrell

Roundup

Our Favourite Gardens of 2018

A look back through the most popular gardens we featured in 2018.

Stays

A New Way To Experience The Garden Of St Erth

The Diggers Club's rambling open garden in Blackwood, just outside Melbourne, now offers glamping!
Georgina Reid

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 – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.