RELAXED COASTAL RETREAT
Set in the beautiful coastal community of Coledale just south of Sydney, this site posed a number of challenges to award winning landscape designer Grant Boyle of Fig Landscapes.
What were the clients hoping to achieve through the design?
The site was a bit of a wasteland, it was very steep, unusable and overgrown. So the brief was basically just to create some usable space. My clients have two young sons. They!&re an active family, but they!&re also very busy !X they run two businesses. So they wanted something that was super low maintenance. They didn!&t want to be out there pruning hedges. They wanted a garden that just looked after itself. They didn!&t want to have to paint walls, so it was important that whatever we used was going to be able to cope with the coastal environment.
One of the main challenges being that it is an exposed coastal site. It!&s about 300 metres back from the beach and it!&s very steep, and really exposed! So, I had to select materials and plants that were able to survive in those conditions. Different textures and colours were incorporated, but largely it was a coastal themed garden. Plants were selected from Australia, New Zealand, and the Mediterranean that are proven in coastal environments.
It was a very relaxed structure in terms of planting. There wasn!&t anything formal about it; they just wanted to have that sort of relaxed coastal feel.
A lot of the hard materials you used on the project are recycled.
Part of my company ethos is re-using materials, using recycled materials, and upcycling. We try to be as environmentally conscious as we can. So I!&m always drawn to using recycled materials. I love the rustic charm and the interest they can create in a garden.
With the recycled railway sleepers you basically build the walls and there!&s nothing more to do to them, and in fact they look better with age. As the timber greys off and they age a little, they start to sit really nicely in the environment. A stone or rendered wall needs maintenance to look good. So the sleepers were a natural choice, when I first saw the site, I knew that I was going to use the sleepers.
The crushed granite was chosen for the pathways and the fire pit area because it!&s a free draining material. The fire pit is a recreational area with a more low maintenance feel, where if we!&d done paving, there would always be a level of maintenance that would be required !X cleaning, sealing... it was about making the garden really feel natural and part of the environment.
To edge that area we used what!&s called corten steel. It!&s a mild steel that forms rust on the surface. Again, it was about creating a little bit of interest in the garden, and also tying in with those natural, Australian looking materials.
How much water does the garden require?
There!&s no irrigation on site. All the plants were chosen for their ability to survive even in dry periods !X not only are they surviving, they!&re thriving. Everything is looking amazing, and like I said, with absolutely no irrigation.
We did bring in quite a bit of new soil and mulched the site heavily with forest fines mulch, which is recycled timber pallets that have been chipped up and mixed with leaf litter.
Did you style the outdoor furniture as well?
Yes, I styled everything. As a landscape designer, part of what I do, when I design a space, I recommend to the client the furniture I think would work best in that space. I have quite a good relationship with Eco Outdoor who supplied the furniture for that particular project.
I like the outdoor shower as a functional feature.
They!&re three hundred metres from the beach, and the Dad, Phillip and the two boys who are, I think six and seven now, they!&re all really keen surfers, so the outdoor shower was part of the brief. When they come back from the beach they can wash their boards off, they can rinse off and wash out their wetsuits before they go inside.
Can you list off some of the plants you included in the job?
The larger specimens included banksia (Banksia Serrata), tuckeroo (Cupaniopsis anacardioides), and there was also a tree fern (Cyathea Cooperi). Bamboo slender weaver!&s (Bambusa textilus var. Gracilis), was used for privacy along the boundary and some of the ground covers included pig face (Carpobrotus glaucescens) and creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) which are both native.
We used quite a few different types of grasses including purple fountain grass (Pennisetum advena !&Rubrum!&), blue flax-lilly (Dianella caerulea), and lomandra (Lomandra longifolia !&Tanika!&) !X all really tough grasses.
In the shrubs we used white correa (Correa alba), coastal rosemary (Westringia fruticosa), we also used French lavender (Lavandula Stoechas), and Echium candicans which we pruned into a large ball and is a nice feature especially when viewed from above on the back deck.
We also used some succulent species like Agave. So there are a lot of plants from Australia and then there are your lavenders and others from the Mediterranean. It was a real mix of those two areas.
What were some of the main design considerations on this project?
It!&s just really about creating those levels and the layout for the stairs; I didn!&t want to have a set of stairs that just went straight down the site. I intentionally designed them to meander through the site, to lead you through the garden and create a bit of interest as you walk down into the different zones.
I was largely governed by the contours of the site and that really led me to form the shapes that I did. I really tried to work with the site. We didn!&t have a huge budget to work with, so I was mindful that we couldn!&t excavate a lot of material out of the site and we couldn!&t afford to bring a lot in. We really had to work with what was there.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from all different places; nature is just constantly inspiring in different ways. Different landscapes inspire me, I!&ve travelled to the outback quite a few times, to Uluru, and that!&s an amazing place. There!&s so much inspiration out there, and Australia in general, there’s so many different types of landscapes that no matter where you go you are constantly inspired. I!&m pretty lucky to live on the coastline in Sydney. Everywhere you walk there is inspiration.
I get inspiration from architecture as well. I look at a site, at the architecture and try and draw inspiration from that - how can we connect the building and the garden together and make them work more harmoniously?
You've only got to open your eyes to find inspiration.