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How This Young Photographer Transformed Her Rambling Coastal Garden In One Week!

Gardens

With a little help from her friends, photographer Kate Shanasy totally transformed her jungle-like garden in Blairgowrie, Victoria, into an entertainer’s coastal delight – in just one week!

Inspired by designer Fiona Brockoff’s Sorrento garden (‘just around the corner’), Kate swapped finger grasses and overgrown ivy for sand grit, boulders and native plants. Here, she tells us how she did it.

26th August, 2022

Kate Shanasy’s new garden is an entertainer’s coastal delight! Photo – Kate Shanasy.

Kate created meandering paths through the garden with Eagle Point Dust. Photo – Kate Shanasy.

Kate sourced the boulders from Rock & Redgum in Dromana. She’s used them as boundary markers, texture and for seating around the fire. Photo – Kate Shanasy.

Kate has planted Pig Face (Carpobrotus glaucescens), Correa Alba (Westringia fruticose and Alyxia buxifolia), and Banksia (integrifolia Sentinal) around the bathing area. Photo – Kate Shanasy.

‘I love the crazy paving that winds around the bottlebrush tree to the shower,’ says Kate. ‘We planted Dichondra around the pavers and the way it’s grown is just so beautiful.’ Photo – Kate Shanasy.

Kate says the best time in the bath is in the early evening when the sun is going down. Photo – Kate Shanasy.

Dichondra (convolvulaceae) is planted between the pavers for ground cover. Photo – Kate Shanasy.

Kate Shanasy in her coastal garden! Photo – Kate Shanasy.

Bea Taylor
Friday 26th August 2022

When Kate Shanasy moved into her new home in Blairgowrie, Victoria, March 2021, she couldn’t see the house from the street. The garden was an overgrown jungle of weeds, agapanthus, yuccas and ivy.

‘It was chaos, you certainly couldn’t walk through it,’ she says. 

From the moment she moved in, she started designing a new garden that would help her embrace the slower pace of life by the coast, and allow her time to connect with and appreciate the nature around her. 

She was inspired by an image of a garden online, which she later discovered belonged to designer Fiona Brockhoff

‘I obsessed over this photo,’ says Kate. ‘I really appreciated its balance of sculptural plants versus rugged edges and its mix of colours, textures and materials – all sympathetic to the natural surrounds, yet exciting to look at.’

She imagined herself meandering through the shell-grit paths and throwing a linen cloth over the garden table for a long lunch. And, in one week from kick-off in November, Kate made that dream a reality! Here, she tells us how she did it:

BEFORE: The garden was inaccessible and overgrown. Photo – Kate Shanasy.

DURING: Landscape designer Daniel Fulton and his team cleared the garden in one day! Photo – Kate Shanasy.

DURING: With help from her friend, horticulturist, Andy Kepitis, she created a planting design filled with native species. Photo – Kate Shanasy.

See the progression! Photo – Kate Shanasy.

The design…

The garden is located in front of the property so I already knew I’d get to enjoy it everyday. But I wanted to give purpose to linger outside. So the outdoor shower, bath and sunken fire pit were the most important design features. 

The plan… 

The rough plan was to clear the block of introduced species and re-plant natives to mimic the ocean beach bushland and walking tracks. Simple and cheap! After engaging landscape designer Daniel Fulton and discovering my dream garden could be achieved, the plan escalated for the better. 

The execution… 

Dan came through with an excavator on Monday 8 November and the site was pretty much totally cleared by day one (bar two bottlebrush trees and a few established ti-trees we wanted to keep). 

After that Dan and a team of four landscapers moved earth for the sunken fire pit and raised ‘dunes’, positioned the boulders, paved the Endicott crazy paving, built a deck, set the shower post in, cut the curved edges into the existing concrete driveway and prepared the site for planting. 

For the planting… 

To cut costs down we did all the planting ourselves, it was so physically demanding! 

My horticulture friend, Andy Kepitis helped with planting. I ordered six units of the local mulch for the ‘garden zone’ and two units of the Eagle Point Dust for the ‘sandy dunes’ zone. When it arrived, the truck poured two mountains over my driveway. I definitely underestimated how much shoveling work was involved. My friend Emilia Fabris sweated it out with me over two full days to layer all the toppings over the garden with two shovels and a wheelbarrow. It had to be done in two days so I could access my car out of the driveway and we did it.

The plants… 

My favourite is cushion bush (Leucophyta brownii) because it looks like coral and is so comfy to lean on. I’ve also used; Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) for windbreak and to attract native birds, Banksia integrifolia ‘Sentinal’ for fence screening and as a backdrop for bath/shower area, Correa albaWestringia fruticosa and Alyxia buxifolia for topiary, Prickly spear grass (Austrostipa stipoides) for contrast and texture, Pig Face (Carpobrotus glaucescens) because it reminds me of my Grandma’s beach house and because it’s easy growing ground cover with fun pops of pink in bloom, and Dichondra repens for ground cover between the Endicott crazy pavers. 

For the electrics… 

My 74-year-old dad dad installed the electrics to perfection, which amazed everyone on site the following morning. He dug a tunnel under the existing concrete driveway and fed the cables through a pipe. The result is magic. At 5pm every night, the winding path is lit up from the front gate to the front door with a detour to the shower and bath. The two bottlebrush trees light up as well.

The result… 

I can’t express how magically satisfying it is to sit in the bathtub as the sun is going down to soak the garden in. Native birds drop by and you can hear the buzzing of the bees with the roaring sounds of the ocean over the dunes. 

We planted Dichondra around the pavers and the way it’s grown around the steps is just so beautiful and enchanting. I’m already excited when it’s bath time, but the journey there, skipping across these luscious steps, just makes it even more special. 

Future plans… 

Effectively I’ve taken the bathroom and lounge outdoors so my next move is to drag the kitchen outside. I’d love to install a pizza oven in the sunken fire-pit area, and eventually build a kitchen garden out the back with veggies and an orchard. 

I also had a fernery under the front balcony and front door entrance that was going to overlap with the shower/bath zone, but I had to pull the pin on that to save money. I’m still keen to introduce the ferns at some stage.

I often think to myself; “This actually happened. I dreamt this, I wanted this and here we are. It’s even better than I imagined.”

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net