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Sustainable garden design inspiration

Today's gardens not only consider the environment, they are designed to partner with the surrounding area and consider the needs of local wildlife. Take a look at a selection of garden design ideas that incorporate local plants and vegetation to the fullest.


A dry and dusty garden is transformed into a wonderful oasis with the addition of architectural elements and hardy plantings. A pair of salvaged doors invite visitors into the garden and provide an interesting feature.

Passing through the gates, a gently meandering flagstone walk passes near a strongly sculptural fountain embellished with pebbles, coral, shells and water plants.





A large, curving fieldstone bench backed by huge (pre-existing) elephantine yuccas is topped with cushions in a range of joyful colours and patterns.

Facing onto a busy suburban street, this garden serves not only as a sound buffer, but also as a quiet retreat. Previously an asphalt parking lot, the area was laid with informal beds and gravel paths to create a natural setting that blends with the style of the house. The path meanders through the garden and leads to hidden features along the way.

This charming courtyard garden invites you to stop and take a deep breath as you discover new elements along the way. Designed to be water wise, the garden incorporates a variety of indigenous drought-tolerant plants, succulents and grasses - an almost maintenance free garden that only requires occasional weeding and watering. A sandstone fountain set amidst pebbles and foliage refreshes the setting.

This garden design brings together urban living without sacrificing luxury, comfort and a strong connection to the environment.

Three couples formed a team of passionate green building professionals to design and build four units that share a habitat-friendly open space providing food production, beauty and a place to gather as friends. The front garden, between the street and the home, carefully balances a traditional flower garden and lawn with strong, water-wise plant choices and paving materials.

Access to the building is gained through a narrow side pathway that opens up into the central garden. The pathway is planted up with a variety of indigenous and drought-tolerant plants. The transition space has been transformed into an allée of edible fruits and fruit trees.

To maximise the habitat value for pollinators we incorporated diverse, high habitat value, low water use, pollinator friendly plantings, water sources with access and safety for various species, protection from predators, food sources and nesting areas specific to local species.

The walk, which leads to the front door, is a colourful experience that gently meanders along strategically placed boulders, architectural plantings and custom art pieces mounted on the wall. At the end of the walk, a gate leads to the alley where the residents can walk or bike to a variety of neighbourhood amenities including parks, restaurants, shops and churches.

The gardens surrounding the home were devastated by fire, with the exception of some thoroughly singed Oaks and a couple of olives. These hardy survivors are re-sprouting, as are the native plants. The homeowners decided this was their opportunity to redesign the gardens to better suit both their lifestyle and the site.

A design was put together to greatly reduce water use and maintenance, have as light a footprint on the land as possible, blend with the surrounding wilderness, be friendly to wildlife and protect the property from future conflagrations.

New veggie beds and a few fruit trees provide fresh produce year-round. Using galvanized stock tanks as 'raised beds' provides inexpensive wildlife- and snail-proof gardening, reducing the need for traps or poisons.

New stone walls and terracing provide several new outdoor areas including, an intimate patio off the master bedroom, a shady sitting area adjacent to new veggie beds, a spacious patio for entertaining and a new cedar 'spool' - bigger than a spa, smaller than a pool - replaces the pre-fabricated Jacuzzi that was destroyed in the fire. Three levels of seating, each with a different view and exposure to the sun, flank the spool and overlook a meadow planted in native species.

The gravel driveway at the front entry provides a good fire break and was increased by 25%, reducing the planted area and improving previously constrained parking and turnaround. We increased the size of the front stoop with bricks salvaged on site, creating a separation between the parking and the front door and a more generous entryway.

Margie Grace, founder and lead designer of Grace Design Associates, is a landscape designer and contractor. An avid traveller and perpetual student of gardens, she prides herself on bringing the values of old world craftsmanship and a sophisticated design sense to her work on gardens, large and small, residential and commercial.



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