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5 awesome ideas from Hidden Garden Design Festival

This years Hidden Garden Design Festival did not disappoint.

Grab some tips and trends from the professionals who showed gardens in 2016.


Fill the pool! Garden design by Barbara Landsberg


1. Frame the view

Take a cruise around Sydney harbour and you see the same multi-million dollar mistake repeated all around the shoreline. People remove the trees, thinking they are maximising their view. So how fabulous is this! The client wanted the existing Angophoras to stay, which was just fine with designer Jenny Paul of Seed Garden Design. She added clipped balls of Westringia contrasted with the fine textured movement of Lomandra ’Tanika’ and purple fountain grass. Rather than blocking the view, the trees frame and change it so that is constantly shifts with each step you take on the terrace or in the house. Boats and water and the far horizon slide between the silky sculpted branches of the trees in a much more alluring way than if it was all in front of you, all the time.


Garden designer, Jenny Paul was delighted with her client's decision to keep the Angophora costata trees in her harbourside garden.


2. Love the built-ins

In small spaces chairs can cause a forest of legs that visually diminish the space, and makes getting around your guests with the pitcher of margaritas an obstacle course. Built-in seating is a clean-lined answer. In an inner city terrace courtyard Richard Rimmell for Quercus built a bench seat into raised planting beds with maidenhair ferns enjoying the shade underneath.


Built in seating designed by Adam Robinson


In a small northern beaches courtyard designed by Adam Robinson, an L-shaped bench has wooden slats and seat, with cushions chosen to tie in with the colours of the garden and the interior of the house. The tropical foliage of frangipani, bamboo and Strelitzia nicolae explode overhead.


Floating timber bench designed by Richard Rimmel for Quercus


3. Fill in the pool

When designer Barbara Landsberg, of Landsberg Garden Design, first took the call about filling in the pool in this eastern suburbs garden, she imagined a hedged lawn, something quiet and simple so as not to detract from the view. But then she met her 86-year-old client, who is a keen gardener, and completely changed her plans. Instead, the pool’s original coping and the old diving rock were incorporated into sinuous paths around easy-to-reach garden beds intensely planted with a range of richly textured plants. The result is ever-changing, drawing its owner out into the garden to happily explore and nurture its treasures every day.


Eastern suburbs garden by designer Barbara Landsberg


Succulents in the Barbara Landsberg


4. Trending

The trend this year in pots was roughly textured pale stone. Especially effective were Marcia Hosking’s giant, characterful pots filled with the healthiest giant peace lily, Spathyphyllum wallisii ‘Sensation’, ever seen. (Find pots like these at Terracotta Trading, Lane Cove.) On the plant side, we liked the blue iris, Neomarica cerulea, which is a cousin of the very useful Brazilian walking iris. Like it, this beauty handles dry shade, but does it with glaucus blue foliage and brilliant blue flowers from summer into autumn. Matt Cantwell of Secret Gardens had it matched with felty silver plectranthus. We also like Matt’s use of the tropical birch, Betula nigra, which has wonderful peach-tinted papery bark and a floating feeling to the soft foliage. It is a much better choice in warm climates like Sydney, and as far north as tropical Queensland, than the cold-loving silver birch.


Textured pale stone pots in the Marcia Hosking designed garden


5. Live out the front

Too often our front gardens are used for show and not for living. Marcia Hosking of Hosking Partnership turned this around for her eastern suburbs clients. Their backyard is overlooked by towering apartments, but the front offered privacy behind a camellia hedge. Marcia pulled up the boggy and overshaded lawn and replaced it with paving broken up by rills of native violet, added a screen of sweet-smelling evergreen magnolia and a water-feature between two lovely weeping grafted mulberries, and atmospheric lighting. The family has been lunching and dining and entertaining out here ever since.


Outdoor living by Marcia Hosking