Elemental House is a fully off-grid, sustainable retreat by Ben Callery Architects. The award-winning home produces and stores its own power, collects its own rainwater, and treats its own wastewater on site. But the property’s landscaping, which survives only on rainfall, is just as impressive.
In creating a home that interacted with the elements in both design and function, owners Sue and Jim enlisted Kathleen Murphy Landscape Designs (KLMD) with the task of anchoring their new build in the remote surrounds of High Camp – about an hour out of Melbourne.
‘The brief was to create a landscape treatment rather than a garden,’ KMLD’s Kathleen Murphy says. ‘They wished to have the site [that was] cut from the new build softened, and to blend into the wider landscape.’
The property’s position was another key consideration for the low-maintenance garden. Perched on a hill overlooking stunning panoramic views, it is exposed to the harshest of Australia’s elements; low level cyclonic winds, an extreme bushfire attack level, and the unforgiving hot summer sun.
‘My vision for the space was to blend and blur the boundaries so that where the garden starts and ends has a very soft natural transition,’ Kathleen adds.
‘I wanted to create areas of protection from the elements, hence the gabion wall that protects the barbeque area from the wind. There are two decks on either side of the dwelling so the when the wind is coming from a certain direction you can find shelter on the other side of the house.’
Taking cues from the natural surrounds, local stone was repurposed to create the garden wall and bench seat that’s framed by a beautiful Eucalyptus camaldulensis tree, also known as a river gum. Tuscan stone was chosen for the gravel paths and mulch to help blend it in with the existing stone already on-site, building on the natural colour palette of muted greens and greys.
Kathleen says a limited variety of native grasses from the Poa, Dianella and Lomandra species were planted on mass to create a green outlook at every turn, having beautifully ‘filled in’ since the project was first completed a few years ago.
Elemental House’s resulting garden has also encouraged new birds to visit and perfectly enhanced its expansive hilltop views – whether you’re enjoying them from inside the retreat, or outside in the open-air.