The bush meets the sea in this charming country garden

The luxury of time allowed this sprawling garden to become practically perfect.
Purpletop vervain flowers gathered by the cottage.Photography: Simon Griffiths

Come springtime, Stephanie and Jason’s 0.6-hectare property swells with pretty colour, buzzing bees, and a sweet gum blossom perfume. Their homestead is located on a corner parcel in Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, in a suburb where the bush meets the sea and outdoor living is favoured.

Stephanie grew up in the area, and Jason hails from Warrnambool, and together they run King’s Gardens & Pools, a thriving landscape design business that works within a wide range of garden styles.

Curved stone driveway and hanging gums and pencil pines.
Virginia creeper grows on the arbours. The topiary gives structure to the beds and helps define areas. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)
Pink Sedum flowers and lawn with pencil pines and gum trees.
A London plane tree creates dappled shade across the edge of the putting green while pink sedum adds a pop of pastel. The curves in the beds soften the home’s straight lines. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)

At the couple’s property, 100-year-old Bellarine yellow gum trees tower over the carefully carved zones incorporating the south-facing home, a pool, the original tennis court and putting green, and two holiday cabins. When Stephanie and Jason purchased the plot in 2016, it took them six months to strip back the weeds and remove unwanted trees.

Purpletop vervain flowers gathered by the cottage.
Pops of purpletop vervain decorate the gardens in front of this home, owned by Stephanie and Jason, partners in life and landscape design. The couple replaced dated front columns with solid timber posts, embellished with wisteria vine, giving the home a rustic country look. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)

“We wanted to keep the rural bush feeling, and I knew perennials would soften the look of the home,” says Jason, citing the wisteria vine, which grows along the facade as an example of this. Designing the front garden was the key first step. “Everything followed on from there.”

Wisteria-covered cottage awning.
Wisteria vine adds a whimsical touch. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)

The layered outcome balances wild abundance with structured formality, where curved garden beds invite you to meander through the drifts of colourful perennials and under drooping gums. “You come across so many styles and ideas when you run a pool and garden design company,” Jason shares. “Keeping the vision firm can be challenging, but you always have to bring it back to the original idea. The time I’ve had in our garden has taught me a lot about what plants like and respond to.”

The planting has been an experimental process, but the garden has found harmony with repeated plant varieties and the topiary elements adding sculptural definition.

Country garden shrubs with lemon gums and pencil pines.
The variation of heights, textures and colours creates an inviting patchwork, but the repetition of the plantings keeps it looking organised. Waterwise natives add sculptural definition to the drifts of cottage-style perennials. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)
Lemon-scented gum and round shrubs.
A dwarf lemon-scented gum is underplanted with clipped westringia. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)

“When you look out the front door, you get these big banks of repetitive colour that sit in front of the native trees on the streetscape.”

Westringia and lemon gum.
“The dwarf lemon-scented gums fit our natural landscape planting scheme,” says Jason. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)
Pencil pines and shrubs by a curved stone driveway.
The u-shaped driveway was pre-existing, but the front lawn was bare. “I had to get this area right because it’s the entrance and the first thing everyone sees,” says Jason. Pencil pines add height to the front garden. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)

On the eastern side of the homestead, the couple removed a leaking 1980s-era pool and replaced it with a show-stopping above-ground infinity-edge design that will eventually be engulfed by a layer of lush leafiness. “We didn’t want to see a pool when we looked out of the house – we wanted it to look like a pond or water feature,” Jason explains.

The couple’s daughters, Maggie, eight, and Frankie, five, are particularly fond of the update. “We really enjoy the sound of the kids playing together in the pool,” says Jason.

Infinity pool and the surrounding garden with gum trees and shrubbery.
From the pool you can see the surrounding landscape, which has the effect of making the garden feel more expansive. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)

A circular irrigation system is just the ticket for water conservation. Large rainwater tanks keep the gardens and lawns hydrated, and drainage underneath the beds ensures the property is truly waterwise. “The drained water goes back into a main central pipe that is pumped back through the tanks, where it can be redistributed again. It cost a bit of money to set it up, but it’s very rewarding,” Jason explains.

Sustainable spotlight
Infinity pool surrounded by gums and a stone planter.
The infinity edge design of the pool acts like a skimmer that collects fallen leaves, negating the need for a pool cover. “The foliage moves over the edge and drops into the trough where the drain is,” says Jason. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)
Infinity pool and cottage with gums and stone planter.
Materials include blackbutt timber decking and Clancy natural sandstone cladding on the planter box. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)

As their own clients, Stephanie and Jason have relished working deadline-free. The pair have also transformed the two old cabins into an award-winning holiday retreat called The Woods. “It’s taken six years to get it all to this point, and we absolutely love it,” says Jason.

Fire pit and pink and white cottage flowers.
The couple’s cabins, which won Australia’s Best Self-contained Accomodation at the 2022 Australian Tourism Awards, feature an outdoor fire pit. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)
Green garden tractor seat plants.
The tractor seat plants add a circular motif. (Photography: Simon Griffiths)

Landscaping: King’s Gardens & Pools, kingslandscaping.com.au.
Holiday stay: The Woods Ocean Grove, thewoodsoceangrove.com.au.


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