Carolyn & Joby Blackman, S. Yarra

272 Domain Rd. South Yarra (2016)

Open Date
12-13 Nov. 2016
Garden Entry

Note: This garden was opened in 2016

Finished in 2008, the clients brief for this garden was clear – they love gardens, trees and green – and they like to garden. They also wanted to have a space that would become their retreat for family fun and entertainment. The clients deeply recognise the restorative and relaxing properties that gardens and plants can provide in an increasingly built and stressed world; trees and gardens were to feature rather than built landscape form.

However, as a family with adult children, extended family and lots of visitors, the front garden area was essentially a car park, housing 3-4 cars at any time. The clients were clear that if the design didn’t accommodate at least 3-4 cars then the garden would not be practical for them. The initial design response was that a great deal of time was spent looking at turning circles of various cars in order to maximise the amount of vehicles that could be parked in the front space.

Once the practicalities were established, a formal design was adopted to provide locations for the formation of trees (standard Mt. Fuji Cherry) and corresponding bands of Buxus hedge that were to be the backbone of the front design. Surfaces in the front were kept permeable where possible to allow as much rainfall to penetrate onto the site to benefit the garden and reduce run off. The gravel surface also seamlessly integrates the garden design with the car parking, the intention being that the scene is dominated by the rhythm of the trees and hedge bands, not the car park spaces.

The side garden was an absolute gift. It is rare to have space at the side of a home that does not need to service as a driveway and we wanted it to be something inviting and cocooning. We chose Catalpa bignoides ‘nana’ grafted standards as the specimen for the strong visual and practical link front to back. Our determination to create a verdant and immersive garden element that awakened you somehow and created a sublime light quality was met with such enthusiasm by the clients.  We wanted people to feel something when they walk into this space.

The main rear garden provided multiple challenges, the main one being a steep gradient. The brief was to incorporate a swimming pool with a Mediterranean flavour and lawn area that could possibly take a marquee. Screening was also a big issue to be dealt with as the multi-storey flats next door dominated, overlooking over the private space. The main feature of the rear garden design is a circular set of stairs on the main axis from the home to the pool terrace. The dominating scale of this element is purposeful in order to create a generous feature that seeks to integrate the upper and lower level practically while making the transition between the levels more of a journey than a simple ‘flight’ of stairs. The landing that intentionally breaks up the flight of stairs visually integrates with a secondary axis across the lawn to the lower end of the Catalpa walk, making the whole area seem more cohesive and generous. The craftsmanship in the stair case is evident with each piece of Port Fairy blue stone being hand worked to shape and aris-edged on site.

The bamboo ‘forest’ and screen hide the clothesline, neighbouring flats and a bank of tanks for rain water harvesting pool top up/irrigation. This bamboo area creates a forest feel that the ‘bridge’ to the studio passes through, a symbolic transition for the artist owner. The traditionally styled pergola was designed to provide a focal point for the swimming pool level as well as a destination. The citrus garden in behind houses large underground concrete tanks to harvest storm water for reuse on the garden.