A Brazilian-Inspired Garden With Epic Bayside Views

Michael Bates of Bates Landscape started work on this garden 12 years ago, under different owners. Once the property was sold, the new custodians re-engaged the landscape designer to rework the garden, to complement a new renovation.

Centred around the new Madeleine Blanchfield-designed residence, a bold sculptural artwork, and a desire to activate all parts of the steep and windy site, Michael’s new garden layout connects a variety of functional and aesthetic pockets through a central lawn.

Each outdoor space in this vast and varied garden is its own moment!

Sasha Gattermayr

The rooftop terrace is designed around a ghostly tree sculpture. Photo – Jason Busch.

Mediterranean plantings surround the rooftop terrace. Photo – Jason Busch.

Glorious views overlooking the water! The house was designed by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects. Photo – Jason Busch.

Greenery drapes the built environments and spills into the deeper corners. Photo – Jason Busch.

Looking down on the eating terrace, which connects the new house to the lawn and sprawling garden garden beyond. Photo – Jason Busch.

Large sandstone steppers from Eco Outdoor connect the raised terrace to the wild and organic garden. Photo – Jason Busch.

The deeper one goes into the steep site, the wilder the sub-tropical garden becomes. Photo – Jason Busch.

The garden is designed to dissolve into the background as you move towards the perimeter, completely obscuring the boundary line. Photo – Jason Busch.

Perfect sunset light hits the rock formations on the rolling site. Photo – Jason Busch.

Sasha Gattermayr
6th of July 2021

Landscape designer Michael Bates trained with master Japanese landscaper Masayoshi Uchiyama in the 80s, who enlightened him to the practice of ‘borrowed scenery’. In layman’s terms, the concept prompts designers to consider the landscape beyond the perimeter as part of the composition of a garden. The views beyond the boundary are part of the vista, and should be incorporated into the final design.

Michael took this concept and ran with it when designing this garden in Sydney’s Lower North Shore, that overlooks a spectacular secluded bay. The clients had recently commissioned Madeleine Blanchfield to design an angular contemporary residence with a monochrome palette, so Michael turned to the rolling headlands and surrounding surf to create a lush, organic counterpart to the modern residence.

‘There were many lush plantings in the neighbouring properties that we were able to weave in to the planting plan to blur the boundaries,’ says Michael. ‘This makes the garden feel like it went on forever.’

A sub-tropical planting palette inspired by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx was devised to complement this borrowed landscape, and create depth in the foliage textures on the ground level. For contrast, the rooftop garden is abundant with a mix of hardy Mediterranean species, succulents and flowering groundcovers.

Plantings are one thing, but structure was another. Briefed by the new owners to create space for a terrace entertainment area, a rooftop garden and a mini golf green (!) on the steep site, Michael required a central element to unite all these disparate elements together.

‘My big idea was to create a larger, flat lawn space which stitched all of the different landscape features together,’ says Michael. ‘This made the garden feel like one space with many places.’

Large sandstone steppers from Eco Outdoor facilitate connection between the house and the garden, lowering visitors down from the raised lounge terrace down to the lawn, where they can then meander through each pocket towards the boundary.

This complex, multi-functional garden is knitted together by its sweeping views and tropical palette, which allow purpose-driven spaces to dissolve into the wild attitude of the terrain. A feat of cohesive garden design!

See more projects by Bates Landscapes here.

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