Other people's gardens

Filling in the pool

Barbara Landsberg garden

What to do when a swimming pool has reached the end of its useful life? In this Rose Bay garden the pool’s use-by expired two years ago. The grandchildren had long since abandoned the blow-up purple octupus that was once a summer stalwart, the stone paving was cracked and the pipes were rusty.

When landscape architect Barbara Landsberg was first briefed about filling in the pool, she imagined it becoming a lawn terrace, edged with hedge, forming a green foreground to a view of the city, just as the pool had done in aqua. But that was before she met the pool’s owner and wandered through her garden. Landsberg’s 86-year-old client, (who wishes to remain anonymous) has lived here since 1960 and still gardens every day.

Foliage textures

Her existing garden was a fascinating collection of plants in pots and in the ground, each with its own story of provenance or family history. Landsberg immediately realised that a lawn terrace would be exactly wrong. Instead her solution is an intensely planted garden of winding paths and curved beds packed with horticultural interest. The paths seamlessly combine new stone paving with the old stone flagging and the curved beds allow for easily reachable plants, all low enough to handle and to not obscure the view.

Barbara Landsberg garden

But first, the pool. Full of water, the structure of the pool helped stabilise the garden beds, paths and sandstone terraces of this sloping property. So simply emptying it and demolishing the shell posed structural risks. Instead, the pool was decommissioned, but the structure retained and turned into a kind of giant plant pot. A silt basket was put in place over the drainage hole then road base was pumped in and topped with 70 cubic metres of soil.

foliage textures

Landsberg’s client was keen to join the fashion for succulents, which Landsberg matched with grey and silver foliages and small, soft flowers. She also left plenty of planting gaps, knowing that her client was an avid reader of Lambley and Diggers catalogues, and an inveterate nursery visitor. The result is a textural and tactile garden whose paths you can’t walk without patting something or other and admiring a new plant combination. From the shaded terrace of the house, the pool garden is a patchwork of low colour, its paths an invitation to explore. It looks great and delivers what the pool no longer did – hours of fun.

Lycoris lutea

Even better, you can admire it yourself at the Hidden Design Festival, when Sydney’s best landscape architects convince their clients to open their gardens to the public. Eight gardens are participating this year, with the designers present to answer questions. A bonus fringe Hidden day on April 30 will take in three Blue Mountains gardens, including Landsberg’s Withycombe, at Mount Wilson. April 2-3, $33 (Sydney-Mountains combo tickets $55).

It’s time to:

Get a free tree
The City of Sydney is giving away 1000 free trees to residents of the City of Sydney next Saturday, March 12 at Sydney Park. There are small medium, deciduous, evergreen, native and exotic choices. Take a rates notice or driver’s license to prove your bona fides. The giveaway starts at 10am and lasts only til the 1000th tree.

See roses
Goulburn calls itself the City of Roses and boasts more than 8000 named roses in its public gardens alone, as well as its own rose, ‘City of Goulburn’, a floribunda with scallop-edged apricot blooms. The city’s annual rose festival in on March 12-13. Details: www.goulburnrosefestival.org.au.

Volunteer for Vaucluse House
Vaucluse House is looking for new garden volunteers to maintain and develop the gardens, in particular the heritage kitchen garden. Volunteers work every second Monday 9am-1pm. Find the application form at www.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au. Applications close March 14.

Get to the Fair
Lanyon is an historic homestead and garden on the southern outskirts of Canberra. In autumn it plays host to the Canberra Plant Fair. This year more than 30 stallholders will gather on March 12 and 13, from 10am-4pm. More: www.hsoc.org.au

Buy begonia
The annual NSW Begonia Society sale is on this weekend at 226 Annangrove Road, Annangrove, from 10am-4pm on Saturday 12 March and 10am-3pm on Sunday 13 March. Stock up on the ground-covering, shrub and cane begonias that do so well in Sydney. 226 Annangrove Road, Annangrove. Gold coin admission.

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