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Relaxed style

Sydney-based designer Marcia Hosking gave a holiday vibe to this compact garden.

Words: Chris Pearson, Pictures: Mike Bell

Meet garden designer, Marcia Hosking

With its sweep of bangalow palms swishing in the breeze and bougainvillea tumbling over the walls, this laid-back home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs could be in the Caribbean. But when its designer, Marcia Hosking, first saw it the garden was laid out in a “very European style”, formal and structured with boxed hedges and topiary. In 2016 when the owners remodelled their home, discarding its classic French look for something more relaxed, they wanted their compact garden to kick its shoes off too.

For Marcia, that required some tough decisions. “With trepidation” she uprooted two large magnolia trees from the front yard and relocated them to the boundary. She replaced them with clusters of bangalow palms, underplanted with the succulent Crassula ‘Blue Bird’ as lush ground cover. But the results were immediate. “They instantly changed the aesthetic and mood of the garden to complement the transformation of the house to the lighter, somewhat Bahamas feel it has today,” says Marcia.

In keeping with the theme, the white-rendered walls of the house – repainted from the ochre walls with green shutters of old – proved a powerful backdrop and foil for generous drifts of white-blooming bougainvillea which, she says, “seems to flower for most of the year”, and rich green Boston ivy.



During the renovations, a substantial house was approved to replace an existing home next door. With lack of privacy becoming a looming issue in the backyard, Marcia bordered the pool with Michelia longifolia alba, mid-green, small-to-medium evergreen trees with large perfumed white flowers in summer.

Cobblestone sandstone paving at the front of the house, laid in sweeping curves echoing the garden bed, creates a sense of arrival, while at the rear around the pool, the sandstone flagging presents in a crazy-paving format suggesting informality, its larger size also making the space appear bigger.



Meanwhile, a pergola in rough-cut hardwood with a latte pole roof, abutting the living areas and accessed through sliding glass doors, adds to a sense of enclosure and privacy while providing a peaceful outdoor retreat. Its bleached timbers create a rustic, handcrafted feel, at home with the ambience the owners and Marcia wished to create. Again evoking that look in the courtyard that wraps around the house sit groupings of massive terracotta pots planted with architectural specimens, succulents such as agaves and cacti, “all of which create a sense of drama and add variety to the space”, she says.

While this garden is relatively compact, that didn’t make Marcia’s job a breeze. If anything, it was harder. “Smaller gardens are often the most challenging as every nook and cranny, including the lush and interesting vignettes here, needed to be just right. But here my job was made easier by a client with a strong and beautiful aesthetic,” she says.



Australian Landscape Designers

This is an edited extract from Australian Landscape Designers in which Belle magazine celebrates in lavish style 26 of the country's best designers of gardens. From Paul Bangay’s beautiful work on an historic garden in inner-city Melbourne, to Carolyn Robinson’s magnificent Eagles Bluff in the wilds beyond Tenterfield (come with us to see that one for yourself on our Gardens of New England tour!), the book is a treasury of inspirational ideas and aspirational spaces. Interviews by Chris Pearson and portraits by Nicholas Watt also give you a sense of the people behind the designs. It’s a great tour -without ever leaving your armchair. Australian Landscape Designers, published by Belle/Bauer Media, $70.




About this article

Author: Chris Pearson