GAR­DEN Com­bin­ing in­ven­tive land­scap­ing with nat­u­ral­is­tic plant­ing means this glo­ri­ously tex­tured gar­den is a se­ri­ously en­vi­able space

A com­bi­na­tion of nat­u­ral­is­tic scenery and in­ven­tive land­scap­ing trans­formed this prop­erty in Aus­tralia’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula into a painterly lake­side won­der­land


Fred and Anna San­ders were on the look­out for the right lo­ca­tion to build their dream house when they found a par­cel of land in the un­du­lat­ing hin­ter­land of the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula, an hour south of the Aus­tralian city of Mel­bourne. As soon as they drove onto the site, they knew they’d found a place to call home. Al­most a hectare in size, the plot was sur­rounded by na­tional park­land and blessed with sweep­ing views out to Port Phillip Bay. It also boasted a 50-year-old dam, which was later en­larged to cre­ate a lake that now cov­ers a quar­ter of the prop­erty, form­ing a spec­tac­u­lar wa­ter fea­ture around which the San­ders’ new abode has been built.

Once their home was com­plete, they en­listed land­scape de­signer Robert Boyle to cre­ate a gar­den that would har­monise with the house and its sur­rounds. Hav­ing no piped wa­ter sup­ply, the gar­den needed to be self-sus­tain­ing. Thank­fully, the rich red soil and an av­er­age an­nual rain­fall of 700mm (cap­tured and stored in 190 000 un­der­ground tanks) make this achiev­able.

Boyle’s first task was to re­move the ghostly trunks of gums that had with­ered and died. In their place, he cre­ated an over­storey with na­tive Aus­tralian trees such as weep­ing lilly pilly, Hill’s weep­ing fig, flow­er­ing and le­mon-scented gums, and de­cid­u­ous species in­clud­ing maples (Acer ‘Oc­to­ber Glory’ and Acer ‘Au­tumn Blaze’), Chinese elm and ‘Moss White’ silver birch.

‘I wanted the gar­den to blend in with its sur­rounds, but that didn’t mean all the plants had to be na­tives,’ says Boyle. ‘In­tro­duc­ing other species can en­rich the en­vi­ron­ment. We just had to make sure that they were drought-tol­er­ant.’

He brought in truck­loads of soil to con­tour the site, cre­at­ing level lawn ar­eas bor­dered by veg­e­tated slopes and clipped hedges. ‘ We tried to echo the nat­u­ral land­scape, where the solid shapes are cre­ated by forests and the voids by the pas­tures,’ says Boyle.

The gar­den is lay­ered, with pock­ets of plants de­signed to re­spond to the range of con­di­tions in the area. The de­cid­u­ous trees, for ex­am­ple, are si­t­u­ated around the lake where they are shel­tered by the house. On the western, bay-fac­ing side of the dwelling, there are va­ri­eties that with­stand and re­flect the windswept coastal plant­ings: dar­winia, cor­rea, gre­vil­lea, kan­ga­roo paw and dwarf banksias. Other top-per­form­ing species in this lo­ca­tion in­clude feath­ery grasses such as mis­cant­hus that sway in the wind, plus mound­ing of­fer­ings such as sil­very liquorice plants and tree ger­man­ders, which are dipped into wavy hedges.

Boyle loves to use stone in his gar­den de­signs. Here he has po­si­tioned gran­ite

boul­ders from a nearby quarry around the lake and, on the coastal side, there’s a se­ries of colos­sal slate slabs, some mea­sur­ing 3m in length. ‘They look like they’ve al­ways been there,’ he says. In be­tween these flag­stones, thyme serves as a fra­grant groundcover.

The San­ders’ prop­erty is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of what Boyle aims to achieve. ‘If a gar­den is too for­mal, it makes you feel like you need a din­ner suit,’ he says. ‘I love gar­dens that are re­laxed, which blend softly and gen­tly into the land­scape.’ boyle­land­

T HIS SPR EA D, F ROM LEFT Spires of ev­er­green feather grass catch the af­ter­noon sun at the lake­side prop­erty of Anna and Fred San­ders in Mel­bourne’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula, Aus­tralia; in his mis­sion to blur the bound­aries be­tween the gar­den and its sur­rounds, land­scaper Robert Boyle has in­cor­po­rated splashes of red in fiery maples, with plant­ings such as grasses, river wat­tle, white In­dian hawthorn and Mediter­ranean spurge to cre­ate lay­ers of colour, tex­ture and height.

T HIS SPR EA D, CLOCKWISE F ROM R I GHT As well as pro­vid­ing con­trast, grey-silver shrubby ger­man­der and deep red- and lime-tipped leu­co­den­drons add vis­ual di­men­sion in their vary­ing heights; on the coastal side of the prop­erty, colos­sal slabs of slate in­ter­spersed with fra­grant thyme lead the eye to vis­tas of Port Phillip Bay beyond; liquorice plants and soft grasses line the path, with Chinese elm and silver birches form­ing a back­drop; a tol­er­ance to drought was one of the con­sid­er­a­tions when land­scap­ing plans were con­ceived; the en­demic bower wat­tle; de­cid­u­ous maples bring crim­son ac­cents to the mix; ‘I look across to the bay and I just love ev­ery­thing - the fore­ground and the back­ground,’ says Anna; creep­ing ju­niper forms a land­ing for fall­ing maple leaves.

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