How to grow Inspired The Wrap Up: Hidden Design Festival 2015

The Wrap Up: Hidden Design Festival 2015

Hidden Design Festival offers a look at some of Sydney’s most exciting, professionally designed gardens. 

Here’s a look at a bit of what caught our eye this year.

Text and photos: Robin Powell



Christopher Owen's planting has made this garden sing. Photo - Robin Powell

Bold choices

How’s this for a bold shed solution! Instead of putting it behind fencing or walls, Brendan Moar hides the shed in plain sight, dressed in brilliant stripes. His clients knew what they wanted for their small St Peters garden – something that felt like an oasis but was also adventurous. They got just what they ordered. Ribbons of corten steel wrap around tiers of mixed planting that step up from a dining and lounging terrace directly outside the back door. While the planting is an exciting combination of foliage colours, shapes and textures- with quite a few edibles for the keen household cooks – it’s the shed that grabs attention first! In front of it is a fire pit, surrounded by a low curved sandstone bench. On the towering brick wall of the adjoining property, tall zigzags of chain support climbers. The colours of the shed are picked out in painted pots displayed on steel shelving unit in front of the opposite side fence, which will soon be covered in climbers. Or perhaps not. The owners have been given notice that the house, and its wonderful new garden, will soon be demolished to make way for a motorway.


Brendan Moar can squeeze a forest of plants into an inner-city space. Photo - Robin Powell

Brendan Moar makes a challenging problem, like a boring shed, into an attractive feature. Photo - Robin Powell


On the roof

Apartment gardens offer a real challenge. They are mostly hot, usually windy and often uncomfortably exposed. On this Redfern rooftop Adam Robinson has created a lounge room, dining room and views from the interior by focussing on practicalities and aesthetics. The original walls have been extended vertically with horizontal panels to offer protection and privacy. The heat is mitigated by a remotely operated shade sail that can be swung over lounge or dining area, and whose in-built wind sensor furls the sail when the wind gets too strong. All exterior walls were painted a deep grey, and other tones are used in the planters, pots and sofas, brightened with occasional pops of yellow. On the floor, textures and visually interesting tiles have been used, their copper tones picked up in the planting. Plants were chosen for their hardy, low-maintenance requirements and an irrigation system through the planters mean there is little to do for the owners but invite friends over and shake the cocktails.


Adam Robinsons starts with a clutch of cushions and extends from there. Photo - Robin Powell

Hardness of form and a perfect match of colours. Adam Robinsons. Photo - Robin Powell 

exquisite pots. Adam Robinsons. Photo - Robin Powell

Living outside

It’s the built features of this garden by Matt Cantwell for Secret Gardens that make us want to move in. The generously wide deck with its soft-covered sofas, cushions, throw rugs and coffee table books is an invitation to relax. The space is patterned by the shadows of the slatted roof, which is topped by Perspex to create a rain-proof (if not storm-proof) zone, with a 50 per cent shade cover. The sitting area is screened from the near neighbours by steel wires that support single strands of Madagascar jasmine, Stephanotis floribunda. This twining climber has dark-green leathery leaves, and gorgeously scented, creamy-white flowers in summer. It will need to be trimmed to keep it at single strands and maintain the sense of a light airy screen. The view from those loungy sofas is down the garden to the vegetable patch, built as three raised wooden beds on a crushed granite floor and to the shed, screened by ingeniously designed wooden slat panels. On the other side of the deck is an impressive outdoor kitchen, within easy reach down the steps to another large pergola giving coverage to the dining table. Pandorea ‘Snow’ Bells will soon cover this pergola.



Trained stephanotis. Matt Cantwell. Photo - Robin Powell
Matt Cantwell. Photo - Robin Powell

In harmony

So what do you think of the pool fence? That’s it on the far left: trimmed and chamfered hardwood posts supporting stainless steel mesh. It looks invisible partly because of the transparency of the mesh, but also because the materials are completely in sympathy with the whole of this large garden and the Federation mansion at its heart. (In case you’re wondering, the building at the bottom of the garden shown here is not the house, but the sewing room and studio!) Graeme Greenhalgh, from Tropic of Sydney, has chosen a fascinating array of some 250 plant species that are thriving under a canopy of palms and mature trees. The hardwood used in the pool fence is also formed into tripods to support a precariously leaning Phoenix palm and a show of staghorns near the outdoor shower by the new poolhouse. The cohesiveness of the materials and the colours – a palette of cream with accents of apple green and dark drab – lend a harmony to the large space, and give the garden a sense of having been here forever.


Graeme Greenhalgh's pool fence (and garden). Photo - Robin Powell

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Author: Robin Powell