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 Cultivated Wilderness In Inner Suburban Melbourne

Gardens

After seeing team Phillip Withers’s ‘I See Wild’ installation at Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2017, Melbourne-based couple Malcolm Watkins and Peter Kerr (of PLK Interiors) engaged the landscape specialists to create a captivating garden to surround their Cera Stribley and AV-ID designed residence in Toorak. 

Comprising three separate pockets of garden that each required a distinct horticultural approach, Phil and his team devised channels of foliage that connected the landscape with the architecture, while also giving the separate sections a distinct character and function. Not to mention one seriously vibing infinity pool!

2nd April, 2021

The front garden greets entrance at the threshold of the property. Plantings: tree aloe, bay laurel, forest pansy, cycads, bay laurel, cousin it, prostate swamp sheoak, laurustinus balls, string of pearls. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The main garden on the middle level is the connection between the residence and garden. Plantings: jacaranda, grass tree, knobby clubrush. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The dramatic pool is entered from the main level garden. A Queensland bottle tree sneaks its way up the side. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The rear garden wraps around the pool’s monolithic sandstone body. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The pool overlooks the cactus garden at the end, and this tranquil pocket on the side. Plantings: Queensland bottle tree, silver banksia, cleistocactus. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The functional main level garden is an interplay between hard (rocks) and soft (lawn) materials, complete with bluestone crazy paving! Plantings: imperial bromeliad, red back Australian ginger, crassula. Japanese cheesewood, heartleaf bergenia, cardboard palm. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

Natives like kangaroo paw and tall sedge provides pops of colour and texture in the rear garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The black steel battens create a wavy fenceline that dissolves into the garden. Plantings: hard rush, buxus ball, European palm, red back Australian ginger, cycad, heartleaf bergenia. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The main garden is characterised by the dramatic raised pool island. Plantings: jacaranda tree, Japanese cheesewood, grass tree, fan aloe, knobby clubrush, dwarf swamp sheoak, red back Australian ginger. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

Plantings: grass tree, knobby club rush. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

Plantings: soft tree fern, rhapis palm, dwarf swamp sheoak, kalbarri carpet. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The tranquil fish pond creates a moment of serenity in an otherwise dark and forgotten corner. Plantings: leopard plant, kentia palm, water lily morning glory, upright millfoil. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

The cactus beds at the rear garden are contained by curved corten planters. Plantings: cleistocactus, olive, tuckeroo, euphorbia, spiny head mat rush. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

A winding pathway makes its way through correa alba, European fan palm, tall sedge and dwarf swamp sheoak. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

Plantings: agave , spiny head mat rush, tall sedge. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

A view back into the house from the edge of the pool. Plantings: waterhousia, knobby clubrush. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Landscape design – Phillip Withers. Landscape construction – Form Landscaping.

Sasha Gattermayr
Friday 2nd April 2021

This residential garden in Toorak is growing wilder and wilder by the day, which is actually the point.

‘The aim for the planting was to present a wild and diverse set of species to help build an oasis-like environment,’ says legendary landscape designer, Phillip Withers. With a palette consisting of 81 plant varietals (!) and his own practice’s installation at MIFGS 2017 in mind, he and his team set out to cultivate a wilderness around the home designed by Cera Stribley architects, with interiors by AV-ID

The final garden design (which was built by Form Landscaping) consists of three pockets of landscape, each with their own distinct personality and function. The front garden is a verdant welcome mat which serves to soften the architecture of the home upon arrival; the rear garden contains the body of the raised pool, a cactus garden and secreted pond; and the main garden on level one provides direct connection to the home via a landscaped patio and entry to the pool.

The sections of the garden closest to the house (such as the front garden and patio that connects the pool to the main pavilion) are characterised by the interesting and luscious shapes of an exotic palette, while the sections closer to the boundary are built with more localised flora, borrowed from the neighbouring surrounds. 

At the main level, the pool is skirted by a small lawn, native grasses and a squat charcoal grass-tree. A young jacaranda tree sits at the centre and will become a majestic living sculpture at the heart of the home.

On the lower level, an L-shape bend in the residence floor plan created a sheltered nook between the pool and the house, which was in danger of becoming a dark cavity lost amongst its sunny surrounds. Phil rectified this closed-in corner by installing a decorative lily pad pond surrounded by ferns and Bangalow palms. Inspired! 

This winding rear garden wraps the pool’s raised body, with its edge overlooking the cactus beds from the end and the secluded fishpond from the side. Native violets, banksia and kangaroo paw provide bursts of vibrant colour against the soon-to-mature saplings. A cluster of silver torch cacti will create a statuesque presence once fully grown and a direct reference to the ‘I See Wild’ installation.

The contrast between hard and soft materials mirrors the contrasting planting schemes in different pockets of the garden: raised corten planters contain beds of soft flora; matte black steel battens form an undulating pool fence; and bluestone steppers are cut along jagged lines and placed haphazardly to create crazy paving. Every element has been thought about in relation to itself and its neighbours. 

The luscious garden will benefit from ongoing stewardship by the Phillip Withers team to ensure its wilderness will be tamed and maintained for years to come.

See more projects from Phillip Withers here.

This Week

Architecture

An Elwood Bungalow That Draws From Within

A innovative extension around a circular garden creates an inward focus to this California bungalow extension by Rob Kennon Architects.
36.05

Podcast

Dinosaur Designs Co-Founder Louise Olsen On Building An Iconic Australian Brand, On TDF Talks

Lucy Feagins talks to the legendary designer and artist about building an iconic Australian design brand.

14 Brands Making Waves With The Wiggly Trend

From undulating limestone vases to wiggly steel coat-stands, here are 14 wavy furniture pieces and homewares we love!

Architecture

A Minimalist, Semi-Prefabricated Beach House

Architect Hannah Tribe of Tribe Studio developed a prototype for a partially prefabricated kit home for her own family beach house in Bundee...

Interiors

A Curvaceous + Calm Edwardian Home Renovation

Working within the exisiting footprint, CJH Studio transformed this Melbourne home with smart planning and minimalist interiors.

News

A Lifetime Of Mim Design Projects In One Book!

‘Works’ is a tome celebrating 21 years of Miriam Fanning’s sophisticated interiors + architecture practice.
Sasha Aarons

11 Brilliant Lighting Designs That Will Light Up Your Life!

From delicate frosted tubes to sculptural glass chandeliers, these are the finalists in the Lighting Design category of The Design Files + L...

Shopping

A Childrenswear Label That Takes Us Back To The Golden Years - WIN With Goldie + Ace!

Get ready to send the kids back to school in style with the Golden Years collection from Goldie + Ace!
Sasha Gattermayr
  4 hours ago

Architecture

A Grecian-Inspired Update For A California Bungalow

Alcorn Middleton update a 1980s family home with arches, white-washed columns and a inspired by quintessential Santorini architecture.

Shopping

The New Ceramics Studio Built On Centuries Of Inherited Knowledge

The debut collection from new ceramics studio House Editions by Claudia Lau brings porcelain bowls, plates and vases in experimental glazes

Architecture

A Mid-Century Reimagining Of A Bells Beach Home

Bones House by Lachlan Shepherd Architects is a mid-century inspired makeover of a brick veneer home facing Bells Beach.
2.37

Interiors

YSG Studio Brings 'Afternoon Delight' To This Dreamy Kitchen Design for Laminex

We take a closer look at YSG Studio's stunning new collaboration with Laminex!

Homes

A Cheerful Beachside Retreat

Virginia Morris' colourful 1980s Anglesea home, located just 100 steps from the beach!

Interiors

The Timeless Update Of A 1950s Portsea Beach House

Pipkorn Kilpatrick improve the flow and functionality of this 1956 home originally designed by Robin Boyd, ensuring its legacy remains in ta...

Creative People

The Trailblazing Couple Behind Brisbane's New Indigenous Art Centre

Amanda Hayman and Troy Casey are the entrepreneurial couple behind Brisbane's most exciting new art gallery and retail space!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Gardens

A Sweeping Country Estate Created From Dust

Dangar Barin Smith design an incredible Australian country garden in the Hunter Valley, complete with nearly 40 crepe myrtle trees and TWO m...

Gardens

A Productive Acreage Turned Residential Swimming Hole!

A pool realised from a converted dam is the centrepiece of this Terrey Hills landscape project by Landart.
Sasha Gattermayr

Gardens

A Magical Family Garden As Productive As It Is Pretty

The lush suburban garden of passionate self-taught gardener Anastasia Elias - created from scratch in under two years!

This Week

11 Brilliant Lighting Designs That Will Light Up Your Life!

From delicate frosted tubes to sculptural glass chandeliers, these are the finalists in the Lighting Design category of The Design Files + L...

Interiors

The Timeless Update Of A 1950s Portsea Beach House

Pipkorn Kilpatrick improve the flow and functionality of this 1956 home originally designed by Robin Boyd, ensuring its legacy remains in ta...

Shopping

The New Ceramics Studio Built On Centuries Of Inherited Knowledge

The debut collection from new ceramics studio House Editions by Claudia Lau brings porcelain bowls, plates and vases in experimental glazes

Interiors

A Curvaceous + Calm Edwardian Home Renovation

Working within the exisiting footprint, CJH Studio transformed this Melbourne home with smart planning and minimalist interiors.

Creative People

The Trailblazing Couple Behind Brisbane's New Indigenous Art Centre

Amanda Hayman and Troy Casey are the entrepreneurial couple behind Brisbane's most exciting new art gallery and retail space!

Architecture

A Minimalist, Semi-Prefabricated Beach House

Architect Hannah Tribe of Tribe Studio developed a prototype for a partially prefabricated kit home for her own family beach house in Bundee...

Architecture

A Grecian-Inspired Update For A California Bungalow

Alcorn Middleton update a 1980s family home with arches, white-washed columns and a inspired by quintessential Santorini architecture.
36.05

Podcast

Dinosaur Designs Co-Founder Louise Olsen On Building An Iconic Australian Brand, On TDF Talks

Lucy Feagins talks to the legendary designer and artist about building an iconic Australian design brand.

News

A Lifetime Of Mim Design Projects In One Book!

‘Works’ is a tome celebrating 21 years of Miriam Fanning’s sophisticated interiors + architecture practice.
Sasha Aarons

Homes

A Cheerful Beachside Retreat

Virginia Morris' colourful 1980s Anglesea home, located just 100 steps from the beach!

Shopping

A Childrenswear Label That Takes Us Back To The Golden Years - WIN With Goldie + Ace!

Get ready to send the kids back to school in style with the Golden Years collection from Goldie + Ace!
Sasha Gattermayr
  4 hours ago

Architecture

An Elwood Bungalow That Draws From Within

A innovative extension around a circular garden creates an inward focus to this California bungalow extension by Rob Kennon Architects.

Architecture

A Mid-Century Reimagining Of A Bells Beach Home

Bones House by Lachlan Shepherd Architects is a mid-century inspired makeover of a brick veneer home facing Bells Beach.
2.37

Interiors

YSG Studio Brings 'Afternoon Delight' To This Dreamy Kitchen Design for Laminex

We take a closer look at YSG Studio's stunning new collaboration with Laminex!

14 Brands Making Waves With The Wiggly Trend

From undulating limestone vases to wiggly steel coat-stands, here are 14 wavy furniture pieces and homewares we love!

Similar Stories

Gardens

A Sweeping Country Estate Created From Dust

Dangar Barin Smith design an incredible Australian country garden in the Hunter Valley.

Gardens

A Productive Acreage Turned Residential Swimming Hole!

A pool realised from a converted dam is the centrepiece of this Terrey Hills landscape project by Landart.
Sasha Gattermayr

Gardens

A Magical Family Garden As Productive As It Is Pretty

The lush suburban garden of passionate self-taught gardener Anastasia Elias - created from scratch in under two years!

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.