Breath of fresh air

A wild and idyl­lic gar­den thrives on the city’s fringe

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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.”

Vis­i­ble view

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,

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