A Tiered Coastal Landscape – Gordons Bay Garden by Secret Gardens
Gordons Bay, NSW, Australia
Perched on a steep incline in picturesque Gordons Bay, a tiered garden from Secret Gardens sees the outdoor spaces match the uncompromising and site-specific house they surround.
A passion project of sorts for Secret Gardens founder Matt Cantwell, the brief was simple but demanding in its own right. “The garden needed to complement the architectural style of the house design, but the clients also wanted something…perhaps a bit confronting,” Matt explains. The property is perched on a steep incline, which sees the block plunge some 12 metres from street level to the back boundary. The nature of the site means that the garden is buffeted by strong winds and salty sea air, making soil retention difficult.
Such a varied and challenging block meant careful consideration was required for every portion of the garden. This first saw Secret Gardens level the garden and create a series of intimate and distinct outdoor spaces, headed by the olive grove in the walled courtyard on the street facing (western) side of the house. Collaboration with architects of the house Milieu Creative saw a deck built on the lowest level of the garden on the eastern side nearest the ocean, with succulents and native plants spilling out throughout the tiered garden above. Also allowing for a solution to the steepness of the site, the terraces step down throughout these garden beds from the house, all the way down to the ocean.
“The garden needed to complement the architectural style of the house design, but the clients also wanted something…perhaps a bit confronting.”
Above the tiered garden, an infinity pool laps up the impressive ocean views. The pool is separated from the terraces by lush lawn encircling an established frangipani, which was retained from the original site. It is, however, the front of the property that offers the most breathtaking experience this garden has to offer. Described by Matt as his favourite feature of the garden, the garage rooftop has an array of cacti and succulents planted on its roof. To achieve this rooftop garden, the garage roof was required to be reinforced so it could bear the weight of the 300mm deep soil.
A hardy palette of greenery, tailor-made for tough coastal conditions, hints at the further drama to come. The garden is both complementary to the architecture and highlighted against it. “The striking black backdrop of the house and the fence really makes the vegetation stand out. I love it when plants really work with the architecture. They are striking and sculptural,” Matt says.
Described by Matt as his favourite feature of the garden, the garage rooftop has an array of cacti and succulents planted on its roof.
Achieving a balance of intimacy and ambition – a feat made all the more impressive by the project’s inherent challenges – Secret Gardens creates a dramatic and textural response to the site and the architecture of the home’s architecture.