A Tale Of Two Trees In This Lush Inner-City Garden

This inner-city garden is so wild and woolly you’d think it was out on the fringes of metropolitan Sydney. But in fact, it’s right in the heart! Designed for creative clients with busy schedules, landscape architect Katy Svalbe created a luscious garden scape filled with native plants that each perform a particular role. At the centre of this design are two character-filled trees: a gnarled and twisted frangipane tree at the front of the house, and a lemon-scented gum towering in the backyard.

This exciting patch of urban wilderness feels like it has a life of its own!

Sasha Gattermayr

The statuesque lemon-scented gum towers above the back garden. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

The lemon-scented gum stretched up into the sky. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

‘A planting palette of dripping dichondra and sun-kissed rasp ferns’. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

A burst of ferns at the base of the lemon-scented gum. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

Coreten steel drums form the raised garden beds and create the earthy garden palette. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

A perfect green oasis. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

The patio looks out over the abundant, green sanctuary! Photo – Nicholas Watt.

A beaten back path winding back towards the residence. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

A classic Redfern entryway. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

The gnarled and twisted frangipane in the front yard. Photo – Nicholas Watt.

Sasha Gattermayr
15th of May 2020

Landscaping this sumptuous sanctuary in the middle of Redfern was just as Bullamakanka sung in the ’70s: ‘Give me a home among the gum trees’. But for landscape architect, Katy Svalbe of Svalbe + Co, it was more a case of building a home between the twisted frangipane ’round the front, and the statuesque lemon-scented gum out the back. These two trees frame the entire garden palette, as materials and plants were chosen to complement the trees at either end of the property.

Katy describes the garden’s ‘delicious ochre patina’, layered through the raised garden beds made from corten steel, a ‘rusted’ look material which also facilitates the undulating heights between the verandah and garden. Pre-existing sandstone pavers were repurposed to create a meandering garden walk, and recycled railway sleepers form a landing pad at the rear of the property for bikes and bins to rest. A burst of ferns at the base of the stretching gum acts as a sponge to capture run-off water from the slope, while the client’s potted plant collection is clustered closer to the residence.

At the front, the clients sought a landscaped welcome-mat of sorts, to frame the ‘wise and gnarly’ frangipane at the entry. Layers of vegetation across the old worn path revealed layers of mint green and fuchsia tones that Katy instinctively filled with ‘a planting palette of dripping dichondra and sun-kissed rasp ferns’.

‘Materials were chosen for their capacity to age gracefully,’ Katy explains. ‘Plants were selected to fulfil various roles: for their foliage, their hardiness, their power to green as well as their ability to attract pollinators, native birds and provide a yield.’

Katy talks with excitement about the no-fuss garden she has created for her busy creative clients. ‘It’s a veritable hotspot of diversity, nestled where you’d least expect it!’ she says. This abundant urban oasis on a pocket-sized piece of land is pure heaven!

Katy Svalbe used to be one half of design firm Amber Road. See more of her landscaping projects as Svalbe & Co. here.

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