Breath of fresh air
A wild and idyllic garden thrives on the city’s fringe
When landscape designers are working out a planting scheme, they naturally consider the best plants for the site. Local conditions such as soil quality, prevailing winds and topography all impact on which plants will be most successful.
But when landscaper Matt Leacy walked on to this site on Sydney’s northern beaches, there was an altogether different problem with which to contend.
Spread over 1.6ha, the former farmland at Terrey Hills included a house surrounded by an exotic garden and a sprawling site featuring a range of native plants and a dam.
While the owners wanted to integrate the exotic garden into the native environment more successfully, Matt says the main stumbling block was the appetite of the locals.
“The wallabies that came onto the property ate everything we put out,” he says.
“We deliberately put plants out to see if there was something that they wouldn’t eat but there was nothing they didn’t like.”
The owners wanted to make their dam more accessible and visible and had already concreted it to stabilise water levels.
First order of business was a new fence to keep larger wildlife at bay and secure the site.
With such a substantial area to work with, Matt set about designing a more accessible pathway from the house through the property to the dam via a timber walkway.
As the site sloped away from the house, there was an opportunity to create a relaxing vantage point halfway down the path with a platform large enough to accommodate a dining space complete with built-in seating.
Sandstone sourced mostly on site was used to create low retaining walls, giving the platform a sense of structure, while a mature jacaranda was planted to provide shade.
“It’s the perfect point to overlook the property,” he says.
To create better access to the dam, Matt proposed a wide timber jetty, while a separate bridge would offer a more direct route through the garden.
“We built the bridge to give direct access to the rest of the property so that you wouldn’t have to walk all the way around,” he says.
However, the dam had already been concreted so supporting piers which would have penetrated the bottom were not an option. Instead, the jetty was cantilevered over the water to provide a comfortable vantage point, while river stones sourced sustainably were added to the dam to help it blend into the natural environment.
Open garden scheme
Previously, Matt says dense shrubbery meant the dam was only partially visible from some parts of the property.
The plan was to open up the view across the water and beyond to the rest of the garden while maintaining the casual semi-rural feel.
Some of the larger shrubs were removed,