The site of this bushy, Fairfield garden presented many challenges to Mcnuttndorff Landscapes: a steep slope, a new pool and three existing eucalypts whose large root networks tunnelled throughout the property. But the owners called in the right green thumbs!

‘We primarily had to work around the existing levels and the root systems of the trees, to both protect and highlight them in the garden,’ explains Lori McNutt. Once the designers established the eucalypts as the anchor for the garden, everything else fell into place.

A deck was built out from the house to connect the residence to the garden. From here there are two sets of stairs: one leading down to a crazy-paved courtyard, and another providing entry to the pool.

At the other end of the courtyard is another set of stairs, this time leading up to a raised gravel level that gives way to a wild ‘rockery’ of plants and grasses that stretches all the way up to the slope to the rear perimeter. Bluestone pavers create a winding path past this greenery while cut-boulder steps lead up to a raised platform at the crest of this slope that Lori calls the ‘gin deck’.

‘It was important to create a sense of fluid and circular movement throughout the design – it’s a bush garden surrounding a pool, and like its natural inspiration, nothing is linear,’ says Lori. This fluidity also caters to the many functions the clients desired of their home garden, in no particular order ; ‘swimming, drinking gin and tonics, growing, veggies, building a firepit, sunbathing, eating, exploring.’

The design was inspired by the local landscape designers of the 1970s, such as Ellis Stone and Gordon Ford, but Lori decided to incorporate a few exotics into the predominantly native space for a modern twist.

‘There are native shrubs and grasses, like Banksias, and Correas, Kangaroo grass and Poas, giving a soft grey green and fluffy texture to the garden, with creeping groundcovers like Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ and Pigface dripping over rocks,’ Lori describes. A variety of tree ferns, foliage plants, lush carpets of viola, architectural bromeliads and grass trees create the base level, while ‘structural plants’ like agave and succulents punctuate the scheme.

This planting palette is designed to reflect the rugged banks of the neighbouring Yarra, and to fit in well with the borrowed landscape visible from beyond the boundary line. Where possible, the plantings are supported by local materials – Australian hardwood, local bluestone and basalt – besides a luxe Italian granite called porphyry, which the clients decided to splash out on.

All in all, the garden is varied and exploratory. This natural oasis with curves, rocks and lush plantings is hardy, versatile, and just a touch romantic!

The ‘rockery’ lies behind the pool, with bluestone steppers creating a path and slabs of cut boulder forming a staircase up to the floating gin deck. Photo – Michael Kai.

A mix of native species and semi-tropical plants constitute the scheme. Photo – Michael Kai.

McNuttndorff Landscapes made use of the tricky steep site by planting up the slope and installing a ‘gin deck’ at the peak. Photo – Michael Kai.

Timber battens at varied heights make an attractive pool fence! Photo – Michael Kai.

The materials create just as much a textural feast as the plants! Here crazy paving intersects with timber battens and a rock wall ledge. Photo – Michael Kai.

The root networks of the existing trees and the sloping site meant the levels of the garden were varied and challenging. Hence the crazy paved courtyard sinks below the pool level and decks either side, but provides a route to the garage. Photo – Michael Kai.

Bursts of green foliage pop out everywhere, even at the base of this old eucalypt! Photo – Virginia Cummins.

Succulents, grasses, tree ferns and ground covers create a layered green base level. Photo – Virginia Cummins.

An almost birds-eye-view gives a great layout of the final design. Photo – Michael Kai.

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