‘When our clients invited me to see the property they had purchased it was evident that the previous family had loved and lived in this home for a long time,’ explains landscape designer, Christopher Owen of Fieldwork. ‘Perfect roses in the front garden, perfect lawns, fruit trees, a giant old pizza oven and a vegetable garden larger than a swimming pool. It was a time capsule, and it was difficult for me to stand there and know that all of it would change.’
Rather than totally reinventing the space, Christopher decided to interpret the garden based on these first impressions.
‘My clients have a young family and what I saw was history repeating,’ he says. ‘I wanted to talk to the heritage elements of Haberfield as a suburb, the cultural legacy, and lean into the nostalgia I had felt on my first visit, but also embrace the fact that a young 21st century family were going to live here.’
The site was very deep, meaning there were multiple opportunities for landscaping in and around the house. Christopher envisioned the front garden as ‘a conversation with the street and the community’, so he planted three crepe myrtle trees to mirror those planted along the street. Grasses, lowlying greenery, towering acanthus mollis and soft purple perennials create a cushiony and textured lower layer.
A passage along the side of the house became a passive garden leading to the side entry. While Christopher characterises the abundant front garden as ‘a horticultural riot’, pavers and trees guard this subtle entry to the residence from the main street view.
Once inside, a internal courtyard sits amongst the communal areas of the house (renovated by Sam Crawford Architects). A sweeping curved concrete wall (by landscaper Rhys Smith) frames the calm space, which is filled with a cortex steel pond, stone steppers and large trees. This section is a soft, delightful pocket of the garden – still packed with plantings but secluded and more private than its front counterpart.
The passage garden continues along the side of the house to the backyard, sustaining the same continuous palette throughout. In this rear section of the garden the plantings remain along the perimeter of the fence, wrapping the lawn and pool in a leafy embrace.
For such a vast, multi-functional and decorative space, there must be a mixture of influences. A few touches of Japanese design principles are mixed in with the philosophies of designers Wolfgang Oehme and James Van Sweden, who encouraged the replacement of lawns with ornamental grasses and perennials underpin the structural design.
But most of all, Christopher’s vision for this garden was intuitive. ‘I wanted it to be clothed in plant life and have a feeling of abundance,’ he says.
That he has achieved with splendour!
See here for more projects by Fieldwork.