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.’ boylelandscape.com.au
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.