Plant /Life: Brian & Trish Perkins

There’s nothing like strong architecture to draw from when designing a garden. It can contribute greatly to a garden’s sense of place, providing a clear framework and direction and informing all aspects of the design process – from material and plant selection, to layout and detailing. This 1960’s home in the Melbourne suburb of Toorak is a great example of a highly resolved connection between the architecture of house and garden.

A gorgeous spot for a morning coffee! Butterfly chairs from Angelucci 20th Century and Jardan Stanley stool. Styled by The Outdoor Stylist. Photo – Annette O’Brien

Brian and Trish Perkins bought their property around six years ago, undertaking extensive renovations prior to moving in. They enlisted Cameron Paterson of Grounded Gardens to design and build the garden.

‘Cameron had worked with us for several years on our old house in Malvern. He has a great eye and I completely trust him with design,’ Trish says.

The design brief was for a relaxed, low maintenance garden drawing on the modernist architecture of the house. Cameron achieved this through selecting plants well suited to the microclimate they’re planted within – meaning they’ll thrive without requiring too much attention. ‘I wanted the garden to feel relaxed and easy. I chose plants that would effortlessly thrive in their environment, as well as plants that would contrast well in terms of foliage, texture and scale.’

The materials selected by Cameron also contribute to the modernist feel of this garden. Large stone boulders amongst clumps of native plants, slate crazy paving, and decomposed granite pathways provide a simple, earthy backdrop to the space, and clearly reference a mid century aesthetic.

Environmental sensitivity was another important factor influencing the design of this garden. ‘We try to be as self sufficient as we can regarding water and electricity,’ says Trish. ‘We’ve installed water tanks, grey water systems, solar heating and solar hot water, and the garden is primarily watered from the recycled shower and laundry water. We also have a compost bin that feeds the garden.’

This is a wonderful garden. Not only is it sympathetic to both the architecture of the house and the wider environment, its also incredibly beautiful and practical. And, most importantly, it’s loved by both client and designer! ‘I can honestly say that when my wife and I design a garden for our future home, it will be very much like this one,’ says Cameron. And Trish says, ‘Our favourite thing about the garden is the way it connects the house with the earth, it’s a marriage made in heaven.’

This story was produced in collaboration with The Design Files. All photography by Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

Brian and Trish Perkins, and Soup the dog (!) in their Toorak garden. Photo – Annette O’Brien
Abundant shade tolerant planting is used to frame the stepping stone walkway connecting different spaces within the garden. Mixed plantings of Liriope (Liriope muscari) and mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) grow amongst the stones whilst Japanese maples (Acer palmatum spp.) provide privacy along the boundary fence.
Concrete herb planters. Photo – Annette O’Brien
West Australian woolly bush (Adenanthos sericea) reaches towards the light. I love the form of this wild native! Photo – Annette O’Brien
Jerusalem sage (Phloemis fruticosa) is one tough AND lovely Mediterranean shrub. It looks great in this garden tumbling over the edge of the slate paving. Photo – Annette O’Brien
Lush plantings overflow along the paved pathway and entrance stairs. Photo – Annette O’Brien
A meandering decomposed granite pathway is flanked by native shrubs such as coastal rosemary (Westringia spp.), Grevillea and Banksia species. Photo – Annette O’Brien
A simple white painted wall provides a minimalist backdrop to large pots of feather grass (Miscanthus spp). Photo - Annette O'Brien
Butterfly chairs from Angelucci 20th Century and Jardan Stanley stool. Styled by The Outdoor Stylist. Photo – Annette O’Brien
A clump of mother in laws tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) at the front door sets the modernist tone for the rest of the garden. Photo - Annette O'Brien