Cloudy & contemporary — A timeless, lawnless Melbourne garden

Cloudy & contemporary — A timeless, lawnless Melbourne garden

Landscape architecture by Bethany Williamson, BWLA

Situated in the leafy suburb of Camberwell, this garden was designed to sit comfortably with a house that integrated both the original front façade with a contemporary renovation and extension. The garden and its contemporary feel is both current, yet timeless.

This Prospect Hill home in Melbourne’s inner east is home to a family with high-school and university aged children. The owners undertook a significant renovation and extension of the home (with Neil Architecture) which is when renowned Australian landscape architect, Bethany Williamson of BWLA, was brought in to design the surrounding garden.

The traditional front of the house remained, but the new extension was contemporary. The goal of the front garden was to give a nod to the heritage façade of the home, but also hint at the contemporary space that visitors would arrive at as they walked through the front door. 

Billowing buxus mounds create a sense of calm.

The Brief

The client’s brief for the front garden was quite open. Car access was not needed in the front of the property as the owners entered off a lane at the rear of the property. The front garden was predominantly a space that visitors and guests entered as they stepped off the footpath.

It was decided early on that there wasn’t to be any lawn in the front, to reduce the time needed for mowing and maintenence. This decision delighted the BWLA team, as it allowed much more room to play with plants.

Because the front garden was purely a space to pass through, the aim was to give visitors a reason to stop, and take a moment to breathe, before stepping through the front door.

An entrance to give visitors a reason to stop, and take a moment to breathe, before stepping through the front door.

The Transformation

The garden design was approached with the idea of using elements that are deemed as traditional choices, but with a contemporary twist.

The garden is simple in design but contains many layers and textures — making the space feel comfortable and well balanced. It is a garden that is easy to spend time in.

The homeowners now spend time in their peaceful front garden, which was a space they didn’t previously use.

The main element within the garden is the use of Japanese buxus (Buxus microphylla). A very popular plant for traditional hedging — but in this garden it has been turned into a sculptural medium.

The buxus has been used to create undulating mounds. The mounds add a sculptural element and inject personality into the space. This evergreen plant also provides the garden with constant green when the silver birch trees drop their leaves and the flowering perennials have finished blooming.

On one side of the central path there are three silver birches (Betula pendula) providing height. Behind these feature trees is a long mound of buxus with a bed of flowering perennials behind. These provide an element of wild amongst the clipped and structured elements. They also add a welcome burst of colour during the warmer months.

On the other side of the path are two separate buxus mounds surrounded by a groundcover of star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), and a Jacaranda tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia) in the corner underplanted with oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

A Jacaranda mimosifolia in the corner underplanted with oakleaf hydrangea.

The Result

The front garden and main entranceway to this home has become well loved by both the residents of the home and the wider community.

Since the garden has been completed it has captured the hearts of many, of which some stop at the front gate and peer through to capture a closer glimpse. “We love hearing this as it means our work isn’t only being appreciated by our clients, but appreciated by the wider neighbourhood as they walk to the train station or go on their daily walk with the dog,” says Bethany.

The homeowners now spend time in their peaceful front garden, which was a space they didn’t previously use.

The star of the show has to be the billowing buxus mounds. These large evergreen shapes help ground the space and go a long way in creating a feeling of calm in the garden.

Key Plant Selection

  • Prunus lusitanica (Portuguese laurel)

  • Ficus hillii (Ficus ‘Flash’) — pleached

  • Pittosporum tobira (Pittosporum ‘Miss Muffet’)

  • Buxus microphylla var. japonica (Japanese Boxwood)

  • Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star jasmine)

  • Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea)

  • Betula pendula ‘Moss White’ (Silver birch tree)

  • Jacaranda mimosifolia (Jacaranda tree)

  • Agastache ‘Blue Boa’ (Anise Hyssop)

  • Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower)

  • Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’

  • Rugosa ‘Rugspin’ (Rose)


About BWLA

At BWLA, we are passionate about great design. Being able to create a space for someone that reflects who they are but also enhances the way they live is what inspires us. We understand that the success of our work relates to how well the garden speaks to the architecture of the house, but also how it respects and blends with the landscape beyond. Working from courtyards to acreages, from coastal to rural and city properties, we love the challenge of working in different environments, different cities and different climates. Each site has its own story to tell and we feel privileged to discover and tell these stories.