EMERALD PROJECT


This site began as a brand new build on a block that hosted nothing of significance other than a beautiful mature Copper Beech in the rear corner. It was decided to make a feature of this tree since it would be in full and glorious view from the top of the driveway.

As the build was to include garages both front and rear of the house, the number and spread of built structures meant that this quarter acre block was effectively fragmented into several small and disconnected spaces. These needed to relate to each other but also be an expression of the varied conditions and outlooks from the house.

The clients had a large number of pre-purchased plants, namely Magnolia grandiflora, Buxus sempervirens and Ficus hillii that they wanted to use. It was decided not to use the Ficus due to their invasive root systems, given the small size of the garden spaces and proximity to the house. The Magnolias were spaced down the driveway and underplanted with pruned Buxus, to draw the eye to the Copper Beech. The Buxus were repeated in the front garden but left unpruned. On the other side of the driveway a compact form of deciduous Magnolia were planted to form sculptural shadows against the house wall and underplanted with Gardenias; the perfume of both on a warm evening would waft up through the bedroom windows.

The front garden surrounds a carport and second parking space and is shadowed by several large Eucalypts and Oaks on the verge. Plants choices had to be able to cope with this root competition as well as short periods of full summer sun due to the westerly aspect. A combination of rounded shrubs, upright perennials, deciduous feature trees and climbers were employed to give visual and sensory interest for as much of the year as possible. The numerous hard surfaces were softened by use of cascading Casuarina glauca or espaliered Trachelospermum jasminoides.

To the rear of the house the entertaining area is over two levels. The upstairs deck has distant views in two directions, though these are marred somewhat by the rooves of adjacent properties. Narrow, columnar trees and/or trellised climbers are utilised to screen to a prescribed height without obscuring the views and without impinging on the limited space for access paths. A Magnolia soulangeana ‘Black Tulip’ is planted beside the deck to screen the neighbouring backyard and perfume the deck in spring. At the bottom of the steps the ground has been levelled to incorporate a much coveted pizza oven and provide seating while they cook.

Again, the intersection of several hard surfaces has been softened with planting, repeating species used in the front garden in addition to culinary herbs. Steppers through a prostrate groundcover traverse the slope between the garage and the house to access the utilitarian side of the building. As this area will be used to accommodate the dogs it is gravelled and contains only hardy, non-poisonous species. The kitchen window has been screened from the neighbouring house with columnar Crabapples and given a green outlook with trellised climbers attached to the fence.

Below the garage is a small space for the productive gardens and chooks. To protect from the dogs this is fenced and the entry highlighted by a lych-gate. Where possible vertical spaces are utilised by trellising fruit trees and climbers. Raised vegetable and herb beds provide ease of access, protection from the chooks and facilitate drainage on these otherwise heavy volcanic soils.