a waterwise front garden

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Designed in 2004, this garden represents a drought-hardy solution to a unique situation. The home is obviously not an ultra-modern, contemporary building, and as such, I felt the more obvious modern, minimalist style of garden would not suit the house. The low maintenance requirements of my client have been a major factor in the evolution of this garden design.

I wanted the front garden to be very tough and water miserly because I realized the client’s energy, and focus would be directed more toward the backyard (which was to be designed at a later stage), where more time was to be spent (and views of this garden would be enjoyed from inside all year round).

The resultant front garden is a hybrid of modern and more traditional garden design approaches, which relates to the style of the home. The combination of house and front garden is an appropriate picture in the suburban streetscape. Although rain water is harvested for this garden, the tank size requirement has been kept to a minimum, and only needed in the event of stage four water restrictions.

The height of the house is softened by three specimen trees (Acer Rubrum ‘October Glory’). These deciduous trees provide vertical texture, whilst maximizing light into the front of the home in Winter. Their magnificent autumnal foliage provides interest and the pinkish red colour relates to the ‘redish’ tones of the house bricks.

The exposed aggregate driveway and front path provides functional access for cars and people, without dominating the view of the front of the house. I felt strongly that to have pavement with a geometric pattern (brick or tiles, etc) would only have added to the visual noise of the two storey brick walls of the home.  Fortunately, the discrete, amorphous exposed aggregate provides a subtle yet tactile element to the front landscape.

This tactility is continued by utilizing small river pebbles as the front ‘lawn’, and larger feature rocks within the mounded garden beds add even more interest.

An ‘island’ amongst the pebble lawn is formed by a mounded garden bed which is mass-planted with dwarf Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon Japonicus ‘Kyoto-dwarf’). This island extends on both sides of the path to the front door so when one approaches the front door, the journey has interest, almost as if one is crossing the different garden elements on a bridge. At one end of this ‘island’, feature rocks form a theatrical base for a stand out specimen of Agave attenuata. This architectural plant makes a stunning focal point and is also lit at night.

The garden bed across the front boundary is mass-planted with a prostrate conifer (Juniperus Conferta), and this plant has proven to be particularly drought tolerant, and it provides protection to the soil and plant roots beneath. The prickly foliage discourages dogs which is an advantage when there is no front fence, and there is a park next door.

Curved hedges of a native rosemary hybrid (Westringea ‘Wyngabbie Gem’) and box-leaf privet (Ligustrum Undulatum) provide more traditional structure to the garden, as well as partially enclosing the garden, thus making it more intimate, whilst maintaining the drought tolerant theme.

Border planting of another drought-hardy, strap like-plant (Liriope ‘Magestic’) adds modern texture to the mix, and Sasanqua Camellias (‘Paradise Blush’), combined with white Azaleas (‘Alba Magnifica’), have proven surprisingly drought-tolerant (once established) and further contribute to the mixture of traditional and modern/architectural plants in this garden.


The result is a particularly low maintenance and drought friendly garden, which combines traditional and contemporary plants and design structures to effectively relate the house to its surrounding environment. This garden illustrates that there is more to drought tolerant gardens than merely native plants, and that modern garden design can be blended with traditional elements to enhance a period or older style home.


This article is an extract/edited version written by Scott Brown which appeared in Backyard & Garden Design Ideas : Waterwise Edition Issue 2 October 2007 (p 46-47)




Brighton & East Melbourne  03 9596 7244   Fax  03 9596 7844   Email : design@scottbrown.com.au