Other people's gardens

Great garden ideas

My garden column isn’t running in Spectrum this week, due to a much-shrunken section. (Send your outraged notes directly to Herald!) So instead I thought I’d share some bits of a story I wrote for the current issue of Garden Clinic, highlighting some clever ideas from the professional designers who convinced their clients to open their gardens for the Hidden Festival of Outdoor Design this year.

Frame the view

Garden by Seed

Take a cruise around Sydney harbour and you see the same multi-million dollar mistake repeated all around the shoreline. People remove the trees, thinking they are maximising their view. So how fabulous is this! The client wanted the existing angophoras to stay, which was just fine with designer Jenny Paul of Seed Garden Design. She added clipped balls of westringia contrasted with the fine textured movement of Lomandra ’Tanika’ and purple fountain grass. Rather than blocking the view, the trees frame and change it so that is constantly shifts with each step you take on the terrace or in the house. Boats and water and the far horizon slide between the silky sculpted branches of the trees in a much more alluring way than if it was all in front of you, all the time.

Love the built-ins

Garden by Quercus


In small spaces chairs can cause of forest of legs that visually diminish the space, and makes getting around your guests with the pitcher of margaritas an obstacle course. Built-in seating is a clean-lined answer. In an inner city terrace courtyard, shown above, Richard Rimmell for Quercus built a bench seat into raised planting beds with maidenhair ferns enjoying the shade underneath.

Garden by Adam Robinson

In a small northern beaches courtyard designed by Adam Robinson, above, an L-shaped bench has wooden slats and seat, with cushions chosen to tie in with the colours of the garden and the interior of the house. The tropical foliage of frangipani, bamboo and Strelitzia nicolae explode overhead.

Live out the front

Garden by Marcis Hoskings

Too often our front gardens are used for show and not for living. Marcia Hosking of Hosking Partnership turned this around for her eastern suburbs clients. Their backyard is overlooked by towering apartments, but the front offered privacy behind a camellia hedge. Marcia pulled up the boggy and overshaded lawn and replaced it with paving broken up by rills of native violet, added a screen of sweet-smelling evergreen magnolia and a water-feature between two lovely weeping grafted mulberries, and atmospheric lighting. The family has been lunching and dining and entertaining out here ever since.

It’s time to

See grevilleas
The special enclosed section of the Illawarra Grevillea Park is only open a few days a year. This weekend, July 2-3 and next weekend, July 9-10 constitute the winter opening. Expect gorgeous grevilleas, great views and plants for sale. Grevillea Park Road, Bulli. Entry $5. www.grevilleapark.org.

Take cuttings
Ensure cold-sensitive coleus aren’t lost over winter by taking lots of cuttings. If you have nowhere warm to overwinter them, keep the cuttings in water. They won’t all survive the transplant from water to soil so make sure you double up.

Collect leaves
Pick the fallen leaves from the foliage of lower-growing plants so they don’t get smothered.

Buy fragrance
Daphne is one of the signature scents of winter. ‘Perfume Princess’ is a new variety that flowers over a long period, with an intense perfume, in gardens or pots, semi-shade or full sun. It’s Australia’s Nursery and Garden Industry Plant of the Year for 2016.


3 thoughts on “Great garden ideas

  1. Anne Smith says:

    Thanks, Robin, for your thoughtful and useful landscape ideas. I missed your landscape column in today’s smh. Strange that comment about the structure, colour, shape and form of beautiful landscape is not seen as a vitally important part of ‘Spectrum’, a newspaper section which which purports to be about the arts.

    • Robin Powell says:

      Thanks Anne. As it turns out gardening has slipped from the schedule for this weekend too as Spectrum takes a hit from 40 to 32 pages, along with other sections in the Saturday paper. I’m assured this is a temporary state of affairs and that gardening will be back. I hope so. I love having somewhere to write about the intersections between plants, gardens, people, design, culture and history.

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