Landscape designer Andrew Donnola had plenty of ideas about what to do with the small “dumping ground” of a backyard he was faced with in the Sydney home he shares with his family. On the wishlist were pockets of lush greenery, a play area and a space for entertaining, plus there was a small, neglected swimming pool to work around.
The swimming pool has been given a revamp, an expansive merbau deck is now the perfect spot for children’s games and entertaining, and new greenery supplements existing plantings to create a lush, tropical garden feel.
The existing pool, with its uneven ‘crazy paving‘, was ready for a makeover. The original pebblecrete pool shell stayed, but the paving was ripped out and the whole area relaid with cement-based pavers. A new dwarf retaining wall behind it now holds in place a raised garden bed, faced with cladding made from reclaimed sandstone.
The mature duranta tree was retained and underplanted with a mix of ficus lyrata, prince of orange, philodendrons as ground cover and bromeliads, with the bronze tones of the underfoliage picking up on the sandstone.
A tiny scrap of exhausted lawn has been sacrificed for pavers from Eco Outdoor, while the original steel shed beyond, now veneered in brickwork and clad in cedar batons, is an attractive storage area for the pool equipment and toys.
A decorative rusted-metal screen is set into a chocolate-coloured rendered wall with an orange-painted backdrop. It gives the garden a dramatic focus, especially at night when shadows are cast across the space. A bank of long planters runs right along the base.
“Framing in white pots allows the chocolate brown and rust to stand out,” says Andrew. Existing mature greenery, supplied by cordylines and ferns, has been supplemented with a mix of easy-care plantings and sculptural pots that deliver hits of green throughout the space.
The unwelcoming narrow side entry and front garden have also been given a revamp. The driveway is now a smart blend of poured concrete and oiled hardwood framing, with a mass planting of Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ on the nature strip introducing a softening effect.
The stepped side entry combines a custom-mixed slab of concrete blended with Cowra pebbles as a terrazzo effect, and merbau decking. Andrew also reworked the plantings, retaining some statement greenery, taking cuttings from the existing cordylines and planting them on. Adding birds of paradise and Philodendron ‘Xanadu’ extended the tropical feel.