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Big Things Come in Small Packages


It’s amazing how much you can fit onto a standard house block if you take your time to really think about what you need, then plan your garden to suit those needs.

The problem with most of us is we are in a hurry, and tend to act on impulse when we put our garden together. Not so for the owners of this wonderful Australian Gold Coast home. Together with Sue Bampton - garden designer and student from ACS Distance Education - they have put together a garden which is both visually stunning, and totally functional for their lifestyle.

There are four main areas to this garden; a small front courtyard, an outdoor “living room” garden surrounding the swimming pool, the canal garden at the rear, and the south-side garden.

The Front Courtyard

This area is bordered on three sides by a high, grey, rendered brick wall, to match in with the same coloured render used on the house walls. Bright coloured flowers such as Day Lilies and Ixora fill a bed on the street side of this wall. These are plants that flower for long periods, perhaps six months or more each year, and the colour contrast is spectacular set against the dull tones of the wall.

A lot of thought seems to have been given to the use of colours in the plants chosen for inside the courtyard. Colours do have a psychological effect on how we feel, even if only subtle, the effect is still very real. Warm colours like reds and yellows make us feel more active and alert. Cool colours like white, blue and green, make us more relaxed.

Most of the area inside the front courtyard needed to be paved driveway, to facilitate movement of cars. The terracotta colour of the driveway matches the roof tiles, and goes well with the grey wall; but it is a warm colour; and the entrance needed to have a softer and welcoming mood, both for the owners and guests alike.

To achieve this, the space available for planting is at most times mainly green (a cooler colour). The large half circle bed between the two gates is filled with blue and white flowering plants - also cooler colours. Sections of the drive are edged with a low clipped hedge. This provides a green border to “cool” the effect of the warmer terracotta coloured drive way.

In the front courtyard, the Ixora with its orange flowers and a Poinciana tree with red flowers have been used to make a statement; their vibrant coloured flowers contrasting against the grey walls.

Even though the Ixora does have hot coloured flowers, flowering will occur less here than in the bed along the street (because it is being clipped so often; and that removes the flowers).

The Outdoor “Living Room”

This is the hub of the garden, with a lot of paving for easy maintenance and to maximise useable space. A large shade wing provides protection for most of the area. The pool provides a visual feature and cools the surrounding air on a hot day, as well as being somewhere to cool off and keep fit for around 6 months of the year.

The gazebo is an exceptional design. By using the same colours and materials it appears as a natural extension to the house, but providing a place for outdoor dining virtually any time of the year. Roll up plastic blinds on the gazebo’s sides enable this whole garden area to be opened up to cool canal breezes on a hot day; or closed off from cold winds in winter. If it rains, the blinds can be lowered for protection, and if desired, the blinds can be opened only partly or on one side.

The furniture used in this outdoor area is mostly timber, which fits in with the timber frames of the doors and windows in the house. The house opens up onto this area in several places including a servery from the kitchen, and large double doors from a living room (which allows the entertaining area to be extended from the inside out) if so desired.

Apart from a few small garden beds, plants in this area are mostly in terracotta pots. The colour and sizes of the pots creates interest of various sizes, creating a visual effect that would not be achieved by plants in the ground. In addition, this provides the owners with greater flexibility to change the look of their garden. Despite being large, these pots can be easily rearranged from time to time, to create a different effect, or if need be they can temporarily remove a sick or poor looking plant until its appearance has improved.

The Canal Garden

As you reach the outdoor living area, a spectacular and somewhat unexpected view opens up onto a wide flight of stairs leading to an oasis of green lawn that makes you want to take your shoes off and run barefoot; or lay beneath the shade of the poinciana tree.

The steps then continue on down to the canal where a luxury cruiser is moored to a pier. From here, the owners can take a boat ride to the Casino, Marina Mirage, or simply cruise the canals and do some fishing - whatever takes their fancy.

This area is made to feel semi-formal, by the use of contrasting hedging with red foliage Alternanthera and rich green Murraya. This effect is softened at the corners closest to the canal by white flowering carpet roses bordered by Mondo grass on the edge of the wall.

This area of the garden is more exposed, but as such takes full benefit of the cooling breezes drifting across the water, and the views to be enjoyed from the house.

The South Side Garden

Despite being on the south side, being in the sub-tropics this area does get a lot of sun in all but winter. As such, it has been necessary to place a shade wing over part of this area to keep both the paving and house from getting too hot. The far end has, however, been left open to allow sun to get to the washing line. In this hot climate, it is not as necessary to have direct sun to dry clothes – as much as in temperate areas. The whole area is softened by a boundary planting of shrubs, and climbers.

In summary, this is an inviting garden that has been well thought through, before even the first plant was planted. If you want your garden to suit your lifestyle, needs, and budget; you will achieve far better results on all three counts if you plan first.

Our thanks to the owners and the designer for allowing us to show you this garden.

Sue Bampton works as a Garden Designer in South East Queensland.

She can be contacted on Phone: (07) 55227958 or 041 4830221

Article by John Mason and staff of ACS Distance Education.



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