Words by James Dessent, Images by Etienne Mortier
In this week’s feature from Phillip Withers Landscape Design, we talk to a couple in Toorak about how their garden helped transform their new house into a home.
In December 2015, Phillipa and Stephen Head moved from their family home in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne into a stunning double story new-build in a quiet leafy street in Toorak. They were both obviously very excited about their new house and the lifestyle changes it would provide. But that’s not to say there weren’t some mixed feelings when it was time to say goodbye to their home of 20 years. “In a way, we watched our children grow up in that house so it has a lot of special memories attached to it,” said Phillipa. But with some important family gatherings to host on the horizon, the couple turned their attention to the garden.
Through consulting with the team from Phillip Withers Landscape Design, Phillipa and Stephen were able to hone in on some key features they wanted from their garden. These included creating an “inside-outside feel” that helps connect the house and the outside spaces, privacy from neighbouring properties and an easily accessible veggie patch. According to Creative Director Phillip Withers, the importance of identifying what a client is looking for in a garden cannot be overstated. “We want to create a space that works for our clients, both elegant and useful,” said Phillip. “We make sure we’re able to do this with all our clients by firstly listening to their needs and then using our experience to steer them in the right direction.”
To address the privacy issues, a row of Ficus trees were planted along each fence line in the backyard, which in time will provide ample coverage when fully matured. Custom made planter boxes made from sustainable Australian Cypress were installed in the front yard and are now bursting with fresh produce such as snow peas, beetroot, broccoli and cauliflower. “I love having the veggies out the front because it’s easy access for me and it’s given the entrance to our home quite a unique look,” said Phillipa. There’s also a mix of semi formal plants and herbs out the front (such as Portuguese laurel, dwarf bay laurel, thyme, rosemary, armeria as well as a swirling buxus hedge.
And aside from the impressive corten water feature by Lump Sculpture (installed by Waddell Landscapes and Head Homes), the star attraction of this garden, according to Phillipa, is of the vertical variety. “With the window splash back running the entire length of the kitchen, we wanted something a little more interesting then a clothesline or a fence to look at,” she said. “Just being able to see all the different plants in the vertical garden through the splash back when I’m inside makes me feel a lot more connected to the garden.” The vertical garden was installed by Phillip Withers Landscape Designs and consists of, among others, philodendron, lomandra, liriope, parsley and mint for texture and use and huechera and nandina for a pop of colour.
Earlier this year, Phillipa and Stephen hosted a birthday and engagement party in the backyard of their new house. New memories were created and it’s starting to feel more like a home. “A new house just doesn’t really feel lived in until it has a garden,” said Phillipa.