In Focus

Featured Garden: Landscape design in Canterbury

Felicity Allen

Felicity Allen

July 2022
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Landscape designers and outdoor constructionists, Ian Barker Gardens, recently renovated a beautiful outdoor space in Melbourne’s inner leafy suburb of Canterbury.

What was the client’s vision?
The vision for the front garden was simple: to make heads turn and create a showstopper that would command roadside attention.

Tell us about the brief.
Aside from wanting to command roadside attention with this garden, a dedicated front entrance was a must. The home’s exterior has a heritage feel, especially at the front, and it was essential that the landscape design and planting palette compliment this style while looking contemporary. A pool and entertaining area were high up on the family’s priority list in the rear garden.

What was the process from here?
Our first step was to visit the garden, where we were delighted to find well established Magnolia and Japanese Maples trees. Ian’s preference is always to keep or reuse existing plants wherever possible. He was quick off the mark to recommend a design that would showcase these trees, albeit in a different configuration.

Once the client agreed to keep some of those well-established existing trees, how did you ensure they would work with the rest of the design?
To achieve the front entrance our client desired, they put their trust in Ian’s judgement to uproot and transplant 20+-year-old trees to other areas of the garden. To do this was costly and not without risk; however, that leap of faith has been a crucial part of transforming this garden.

We employed the services of an established tree transplanting company. Using high-pressure water jets to cut around the tree roots cleanly before removing them helped reduce shock to the trees. With this technique, the chances of success increase from the average 70% to a much more enticing 98%.

To further increase our chances, we chose to carry out the transplant when the weather was cooler and before the leaves turned. Repositioning the 6-metre-high Maples allowed us to create a simple, lush canopy, which gave our client’s the clearly defined, direct access to the home they were after. The tree’s sheer stature and maturity make this front garden a showstopper.

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Tell us about the surrounding garden and plants that were used.
The remainder of the front garden followed a simple, evergreen planting palette. To underplant the Japanese Maples, we used Viola hederacea ‘Native Violet’ and an evergreen ground cover that produces tiny white and violet flowers. Nestled amongst the groundcover is a feature pond that provides interest in the garden and the calming sounds of trickling water. Along the front of the home, we planted Plectranthus ’Mona Lavender’ – an excellent plant for shaded areas.

How did the clients want to move between the spaces?
To allow access from the front to the back of the home, we designed a slightly contemporary offset path to travel from the front garden into the rear – connecting the ‘old with the new’. The offset Filetti ‘Endicott’ inlays break up the Flamed ‘Smokey Grey’ Granite Pavers to add interest and warmth to the design. Flanking the path is a variety of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, including Ophiopogon japonicus (Mondo Grass), Iris germanica, Ajuga reptans, Hellebores ‘Black Beauty’, Liriope muscari ’Royal Purple’, Arthopodium cirratum ‘Te puna’, Asplenium bulbiferum and our favourite – Buxus sempervirens spheres. We installed a mesh concrete screen along the fence and planted Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston Ivy), eventually covering the entire screen, providing beautiful colour in summer and autumn.

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As you move from the front to the back of the home, the garden becomes more contemporary. Tell us about that.
We were excited to welcome a more contemporary design at the rear of the house. We achieved this through plants, paving and steppers, as well as an outdoor entertaining area. Surrounding the pool is a pleached Ficus hilli ‘Flash’ hedge underplanted with Trachelospermum jasminoides. We used Flamed ‘Smokey Grey’ Granite paving and steppers throughout the rear garden and around the pool for continuity throughout the landscape design. We designed an undercover outdoor entertaining area that could be utilised all year round and incorporated a timber deck for warmth and texture. To add an element of green to the space, we created a living pergola using Platanus orientalis underplanted with Liriope muscari ‘Royal Purple’.

What is the best part about designing gardens?
We take such pleasure in watching our gardens grow – and this project is certainly no exception! We are thrilled with how it’s progressing and are so grateful to our clients for trusting it. It’s a garden that we hope will bring them years and years of joy and tranquillity.

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