Inside Out (Australia)
RETURN TO NATURE
Indigenous plantings and a coastal aesthetic help blur the boundaries between a new garden anda its beachside location
This stunning coastal getaway garden on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula blends a relaxed beachhouse vibe with indigenous plantings and a modern outdoor living, dining and entertaining area
You don’t need to be told that this is a garden on the coast. The plants, loosely arranged in gravel the colour of shellgrit, look like they’ve come straight from the dunes. Shadows slant through the slats of the screens on the home’s facade onto smooth concrete like shadow lines on a sandy bush path. Of course, none of this is by chance. Daryl Powell, who built the house and garden, grew up in this part of the Mornington Peninsula and the house is a return to his roots. The brief he gave to landscape architect Brett Robinson of Acre was for a garden with a relaxed beach-house vibe that would feel like a getaway.
As house blocks shrink and houses grow, the demands on a garden become more acute. We crave privacy, but we also want a pool, outdoor kitchen, entertainment area, somewhere quiet to sit with a book, a nook that catches the winter light, oh – and maybe a spa. Brett came up with a neat solution to the multiple demands of this modern garden, gave it an authentic coastal aesthetic and kept it low-maintenance to boot.
He started by dressing the fence lines with advanced specimens of coastal banksia, Banksia integrifolia, which is indigenous to much of Australia’s east coast. The banksias now form a dense screen that neatly disguises the fact that the house is in a built-up area, not an isolated bit of beach. Having erased the boundaries, Brett then broke up the space into small ‘rooms’ to offer different experiences and make the garden seem bigger than it is.
At the front of the house, a soft planting of grasses and groundcover stretches from the road, grounded by three mature olive trees that were rescued from a local olive farm. A path leads from the driveway through a textural mix of low plantings into another small garden, which can be enclosed on all four sides to act as a parents’ retreat directly off the master bedroom.
The backyard is dominated by the pool. Brett believes that too often swimming pools are “expensive holes in the ground”. So when this one’s not in use, he demands it pay its way as
“This is a new house and garden but within a short period of time, it’s settled into the surroundings and feels like it’s been here much longer” DARYL POWELL, HOMEOWNER
a water feature. Three black waterspouts recirculate the water, introducing flickering light effects and a soundscape of moving water. The pool is tiled with silver-grey tiles so that the water takes on the blue of clear, sandy-bottomed shallows instead of the vivid tones of turquoise. “We also brought the spa up out of the pool and lined it in bluestone,” he says. “When it’s not in use it’s like a reflflective pool, mirroring the banksias above.”
Tucked in alongside the pool is a fifirepit, with the pool deck doubling as bench seating around the fifire. The pit itself, crafted in black powder-coated steel, echoes the window frames and black benches of the kitchen. In front of the rumpus room is another small deck, where sun lounges catch the afternoon sun in winter.
The decks, designed to contribute to the coastal aesthetic, are constructed of large-profifile blackbutt, which will silver up to the colour of driftwood and blend with the gravel pathways. The planting also matches the beach house vibe. The local council mandates a percentage of plantings be indigenous to the area, so as well as the banksia on the fence line, succulent Carpobrotus rossii acts as groundcover, while Poa and Lomandra form grassy mounds.
The impact of local plants is one of the great surprises of the garden for both designer and client. “As a landscape architect, I’m generally focused on hard-scaping, but I love the way the plants in this job play off each other and off the hard forms in the garden,” says Brett. “I’m really proud of it.” For Daryl, though he loves the pool and entertainment area, it’s the plants that offer a deeper experience. He fifinds that coming home from a walk on the beach to a garden with the same plants he’s just walked past on the dunes gives him a sense of connectedness to the landscape that far surpasses what he imagined as the outcome of the garden. To see more of Brett’s work, go to acre.com.au, and find out more about Daryl’s work at madebuild.com.au.