These clients were looking for a low-key, relaxing garden to surround their Asian inspired house. Located on a south-facing hillside, this imposing structure perched awkwardly atop a steep, bare, grassy slope and desperately needed context and scale to improve it’s setting. It was important not to impinge on the 180 degree views from Western Port Bay to the You Yangs, while still screening from the busy road below. Additionally, this garden would be largely viewed from above due to the double storey at the rear of the house. An imposing new build on the block next door needed to be screened as well.

The simple, organic sweeps of the garden echo the rounded contours of the site and are soothing to the eye. I carefully selected plant species that reiterated these curves, choosing predominantly spherical forms that would ultimately merge and form gentle undulations and rounded shapes. A sinuous Corten steel retaining wall in the front garden continues this theme.

The clients wanted to avoid a “flowery” garden so I selected species for their foliar interest and cross checked these against those that held this interest for much of the year, either through colour variations, shadow effects or deciduous form. To create height and eventually settle the house into its landscape forty-six trees were installed, none exceeding a mature height of 10 metres (to maintain the views). Specimens were selected for idiosyncratic, gnarled form to contrast against the unifying spherical theme of the understorey plants.

Large granite boulders were hand selected and installed in key sites to bring some gravitas to the site, and to provide a counterpoint to the lightness of the extensive foliage. The same granite was repeated in a smaller form in gabion walling, used to retain some of the steeper slopes. Where practical the natural grade of the slopes were left unchanged; it was felt that to terrace it too much would interrupt the curvaceous nature of the site.

A small water feature has been contoured and lined to retain stormwater for much of the year; a mixture of hardy water ferns, Iris and rushes will ebb and flow with the seasons, and provide habitat for frogs and birds. The ducks have already moved in.

Seating has been optimised in various places around the garden, providing options to sit quietly within the space, or observe it from above. Level changes (steps) are wide and gradual, to encourage strolling and pausing. Wherever possible scented plants have been used to add to the sensory experience of being immersed in the garden.

To finish the development of this garden, gravel paths and stone steppers will define the numerous paths that enter the planted spaces. To date the clients have been exceedingly happy with the result (though still in its infancy) and now choose to spend time in the garden, rather than just looking down on it from above.