Garden: Country charm

Set in a picture-perfect spot, this garden’s rustic outdoor area makes even the chilliest of nights a toasty treat
Angus McRitchie

Whether it’s in winter, or at the height of summer, this idyllic holiday home buzzes with excited voices, as guests and family spill out into the spaces beyond.

Winter garden
(Credit: Angus McRitchie)

Cascading informal flower beds jostle for space with rural stone and timber landscaping features, while the adjacent lake is the perfect locale for quiet reflection, swinging in a hammock between the towering conifers that form an evergreen backdrop to the property.


The owners of this highland retreat have enjoyed breaks here since the ’80s. However, after undertaking renovations to the home, they decided it was time to refine some of the landscaping, reworking the driveway and creating a welcoming fire pit – a rustic ‘outdoor room’ away from the main house has become an additional drawcard on this 1.2 hectare estate.

Landscape architect

Calling on the skills of landscape architect Stuart Webster of Stuart Webster Design, the decision was made to tuck the pool around the house, making it flush and level with the deck, and to build up the existing plantings. “We mounded up giant beds of peonies to give more seasonal interest,” says Stuart. “The land slopes down from the pool to create a large island effect from the garden side.”

Fire pit
(Credit: Angus McRitchie)

Fire pit

Elegant in its simplicity, the fire pit is located only a short walk from the abode, following a picturesque stream, and beautifully extends the living areas of the home. A retaining wall comprising imposing boulders and dry walls of rough-hewn stone curves around a circular, informally paved area.

At its epicentre is the glowing fire itself. With its festive feel, this feature is a must-have in many of Stuart’s designs. “Even the small urban gardens,” he says. The fire pit is the focal point of a cosy outdoor space to be enjoyed throughout winter; a comforting place for sharing stories.

A flat-topped boulder and sturdy logs act as side tables to Adirondack-style seating. Similar oiled mahogany chairs are available from Ocean Country Furniture. 

Timber bridge in garden
(Credit: Angus McRitchie)

Into the woods

Imposing stands of conifers surround the property, creating an evergreen, fairytale-like woodland backdrop to the seemingly wild, but actually meticulously planned garden. A weathered timber bridge leads across a natural mountain stream that runs through the property.

Water feature in garden
(Credit: Angus McRitchie)

Go with the flow

The stream’s course has been subtly enhanced with rustic stonework to form an enchanting water feature (above). Adding another sensory layer to the landscape design, its crystalline sound celebrates the freshness of wintry weather. Self-seeded plants and moss are encouraged to grow between the cracks of the stonework structures, adding to the woodland aesthetic.

“We like the change of texture and contrast that two or three materials bring – wood, stone and water.”

Stuart Webster, Landscape architect
Stepping stone path through garden
(Credit: Angus McRitchie)

Follow me

A stepping-stone path, which appears to float lightly on the surface of the pond, leads to the fire pit. “It works really well,” says landscape architect Stuart Webster. “It’s a totally different experience.” Clumps of iris stand reed-like along the banks.

Garden pool
(Credit: Angus McRitchie)

Pool with a view

“We elevated the pool to be flush with the deck,” says Stuart. “As the home is so close to the lake, the water table is very high. We wanted to excavate as little as possible so the pool would sit solidly in
the space.” Check the pool safety regulations that apply in your area with your local council, as they vary between states and territories.

Garden pool
(Credit: Angus McRitchie)

Key materials

Fire pit/water feature stone: Re-create with Flat Bush Rock, and Granite Bush Rock, ANL.

Pool decking: Get the look with 65mm x 19mm ironbark decking, Abbey Timber. Finish with Sikkens Cetol HLSe in Silver Grey.

Pool surround: For similar browse the Natural Bluestone paving range, Rietmans.

Landscape architect Stuart Webster, Stuart Webster Design

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