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Landscape Architect

Toorak a GogoCity Gardenscape
/ William Martin

20 , 20 Holgar&Holgar Younqi

20 60 1000 1300



Landscape Architect


rengarebga Plectranthus argentata


This favourite era of mine produced some of the most modern and exciting buildings (and some of the most dreadful) of the 20th century. They were often built by the finest European craftsmen who immigrated to Australia during and after the Second World War, which was indeed the case here. The house was design by Holgar & Holgar in the 1960s and early 1970s. The existing garden mirrored much of the leafy suburbs of Melbournes East, being over treed and without obvious design. Many trees had been planted, each competing with each other with no obvious feature trees that could be retained. This was further compounded by two street trees planted by the local authorities. Betula youngii and a catastrophic horror Alnus jorullensis are entirely unsuited to Melbournes dry summers and can cause massive damage to street kerbing and private infrastructure. Restricted space My initial brief was simple: design a period garden to enhance the building and be wise with water. (Melbourne was in the grip of water restrictions due to a long drought still in place.)

Great architecture is often challenging for the garden designer. How to work with such greatness? Compete or complement? I decided to split the difference. The canvas was blank and the possibilities were only restricted by the tightness of space. This was a late Sixties subdivision of an older estate cut down to around 0.100.13ha (a third to a quarter acre) with a fair proportion of that area taken up by the house. There were three small beds that could not be altered much, as they were surrounded by an exposed aggregate driveway. The first design decision was to smother the three small beds with off-white quartz aggregate to complement the driveways and the pristine white house. Ah ha, that was the easy bit. The second consideration was the (painstaking) choice of the more prominent plants to highlight (not as specimens) and complement the lesser plant choices. Enhancing features Grass trees (Xanthorrhoea australis) were the ideal choice. The solid black trunks and airy fila-

ment heads were just the foil for the mass of concrete and glass of the house. These splendid plants are complemented by a range of sedges (Carex buchananii), a scattering of golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii), various phormiums and succulent companions. To cap the front garden off, I acquired a magnificent 25-year-old staghorn fern (Platycerium superbum). This was positioned to enhance a curved architectural feature atop the broad entrance porch to one side of the front door. This fine fern has been grown over chunky porous concrete blocks and gives a sense of proportion to the spacious set of wide marble steps. My initial brief was to deal with the front garden only. But as this area unfolded, my clients requested I move further afield to the smallish, but challenging, narrow side gardens and rear. This area was given over to a kidney-shaped swimming pool surrounded by much exposed aggregate paving. It consisted of a broad terrace and dining area, once graced by a wooden cabana covered with passionfruit vine. Sadly, both succumbed to old age.


Landscape Architect


ing manner through plantings of rengarenga lily (Arthropodium cirratum) and a prostrate form of the very versatile Australian native Plectranthus argentata, under the moisture sapping birch. Sprinkled thoughout is the most versatile sedge Carex buchananii. The final touches The back garden presented another challenge. The swimming pool takes pride of place over a good third of the given area. It is surrounded by exposed aggregate terrace and paths with a small, narrow garden area before the boundary fence. The original tree plantings of several Cupressus torulosa (ill-suited for such narrow confines) were only recently removed, leaving a legacy of sub-surface stumps and roots. Mmm! The original narrow bed edging was some rounded, volcanic rock-retaining the soil. This rock was removed and the beds were again topped with a mineral quartz mulch in readiness for an eclectic brew of drought tolerant exotica. One corner was reserved for the young 10-year-old master of the property. He showed great enthusiasm for the selection and implementation of his garden, replete with some creative sculpture he conjured up with building material off-cuts used in the garden construction process. Plants used in this area ranged from Strelitzias to Miscanthus, various succulents and, pride of place, the almost never planted Cussonia paniculata (cabbage tree). The fence around this area was the usual suburImportance of space The western side garden was filled with a number of camellias, an original silver birch and a couple of space-challenged citrus trees in poor shape. The first step was to remove all but the birch (which served as a sun filter for a second floor bedroom) and to continue the use of white quartz as mineral mulch. The mulch serves a second role, as a brightener for the rather dark area. It also gives a sense of greater space. Often the importance of space and void is a misunderstood element in gardens. Planting for this area was kept at a minimum, to further enhance a sense of space and allow easy egress and ingress. The original exposed aggregate stepping stones were re-laid in a windban standard issue paling variety. This was clad with the versatile ripple iron, finished with an undulating top edge to add interest and a foil to an enormous blocky pile under construction beyond the fence.The final touch was to construct a sympathetic replacement for the cabana atop the outdoor dining area in steel, rather than the short-lived timber original.


Landscape Architect