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Why a tiered garden is an urban must

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As the tradies packed up to leave her new home build, architect Madeleine Blanchfiel­d was gearing up for phase two: installati­on of a fast-growing garden to soften the edges of her modernist design. “Madeleine’s brief was to make it beautiful … now,” says landscape designer Hugh Main, from Spirit Level.

“It is a relaxed garden. It’s near the beach, but it’s not a coastal garden,” Hugh says of the eastern Sydney location. “The house is quite contempora­ry with a modernist feel. The garden and the internal spiral stair soften the building, adding a prettiness and a whimsy to the property.”

“I had admired Hugh’s work for years,” says Madeleine. “He had done gardens with us at work and I admired his confidence, creativity and the sculptural nature of his design.”

Rampant rosemary and succulents spill over the garage from the front garden, softening the base of the building.

Visitors head up sandstone stairs, passing between a reflection pond and a sculptural row of silver torch cactus on their way to the side entry.

“The silver torch (cleistocac­tus strausii) are being used instead of a traditiona­l hedge to provide a screen to neighbouri­ng properties,” says Hugh.

The surfers in the house love the outdoor shower, tucked up the side passage behind tall neomarica plants.

The brief for the rear garden was for a central lawn and lush perimeter planting. Hugh devised a painterly palette of green and purple foliage.

In one corner is a timber spa, ringed by a cantilever­ed concrete ledge. Hugh has filled the surroundin­g garden beds with silver lady ferns, ctenathe, begonias and elephants ears. While this area is tropical, an existing mature cypress and a tuckeroo tree were retained – “big canopy trees to provide privacy from the neighbours”.

Madeleine and husband Guy Lake couldn’t be happier with this young garden, which has benefited from the tropical weather in recent months. “It’s nice to see the garden thriving and only a couple of our plants have struggled in the unusually wet summer. We have acquired a few unplanned mushrooms recently.”

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