Outdoor Renovations

Tropical wonder: an eastern suburbs garden revival

After being left largely untouched for years, this expansive Sydney garden was restored to its former jungle glory

Brimming with mature trees and plants, this beautiful old garden in Sydney’s east had been left to its own devices for many years before garden designer Barbara Landsberg was asked to “reinvigorate” it. “It was like a sleeping beauty,” says Barbara of the garden. “It had stood still in time essentially.”

double bay jungle party path
Sandstone features throughout, including on pathways, terraces and walls. (Credit: Photography: Jason Busch)

“What we needed to do was to really enliven the garden, to refresh it, and renovate it,” says Barbara Landsberg, Garden Designer.

The brief was to renovate the pool area and surrounds plus create better access to the garden above, which had become overgrown. But the refresh didn’t necessarily involve making drastic changes. “That was something that was quite important, that we retained its character because it’s an enormous garden and we were working in one half of it,” says Barbara.

“The other half was going to almost, more or less, remain the jungle it is because the pathways through it were still in passable condition – that was possibly going to be another stage of work – and it was full of very large, lovely old trees.”

double bay jungle garden hydrangeas
Plants here and throughout the garden need a strong architectural presence to manage the scale of the rock and the landscape; three slightly different plant palettes were used throughout. (Credit: Photography: Jason Busch)

The work encompassed the terrace surrounding the pool, a mid-garden and a garden behind the house. The owner wanted to once again have accessible pathways to wander through and to be able to sit and enjoy spending time in its surrounds. While the pool stayed the same, the surrounds were renovated and new planting added. The old sandstone around the pool was removed and new sandstone laid in its place.

double bay garden jungle pool
Planting in the pool area is tropical, with agaves, philodendrons and heliconia. (Credit: Photography: Jason Busch)

The planting throughout the property features a mix of textures and hues creating contrast and interest. The garden features “so many plants,” says Barbara. The main “hero” plants are the giant taro, with its huge elephant ear-like leaves, and the bromeliads with strong rosette forms and purple leaves. 

double bay garden staircase
Two staircases – one at each end of the pool – lead up to the garden above. (Credit: Photography: Jason Busch)

Three slightly different plant palettes were chosen – one for around the pool, one in the mid-garden and one in the upper garden area. “Planting was difficult in that it is one of those Sydney gardens that gets a lot of shade, then gets beating sun,” Barbara recalls. “We also needed to cohere with the existing garden plants which is somewhat classic Sydney and sub-tropical.”

double bay jungle garden path
The stepping stones on the pathways are reclaimed pieces of sandstone from the original garden paths and walls. (Credit: Photography: Jason Busch)

While the pool stayed the same, the surrounds were renovated and new planting added. The old sandstone around the pool was removed and new sandstone laid in its place. “The old sandstone was deeply worn and had also started to buckle so that was lifted and the new terrace of Sydney sandstone was put down,” says Barbara.

double bay garden bed pool
The plants by the pool are suited to the watery surrounds. “The garden didn’t call for anything formal,” says Barbara. (Credit: Photography: Jason Busch)

A sandstone rock face runs from the top of the property down towards the pool and provided challenges with the design. “It’s really beautiful but makes planting the garden extremely difficult because there’s little soil in some areas so we had to work out how to retain enough soil in which to plant,” explains Barbara. Drainage was also a big issue with a series of “unseen” drainage channels installed. 

double bay garden driveway
The garden and lawn at the front of the house were simply “refreshed”, hedges were clipped and large potted greenery moved to line the entrance. “It’s a nice counterpoint to the garden up behind the pool,” says Barbara. “It was really important to leave this as a void of lovely, open green space just outside the house.” The result is a street facade that oozes clean-cut class. (Credit: Photography: Jason Busch)


Garden designer: Barbara Landsberg, Lnadsberg Garden Design, (02) 9387 1155, landsberggardens.com

Landscape builder: BLAYD Architectured Landscapes, blayd.com.au

Softscaper and mainenance: Fynbos Gardens, fynbos.com.au

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