January 12, 2024

Gardens of wonder and awe

Creating the idyllic outdoor space is all about well-considered and clever design. We speak to four designers of Master Landscapers South Australia award-winning gardens to find out what constitutes a luxury garden, each designer selecting their own creations that showcase their luxe credentials.

Master Landscapers South Australia Sphere
Kylie Hutt’s work in a Bridgewater garden sees massed perennials and roses set among majestic established trees.

Kylie Hutt, Sphere Garden Design Studio

Kylie Hutt met Jenny Martin while studying garden design and they subsequently set up Sphere Garden Design Studio in 2011 upon graduating. After a decade of creating gardens – and adding “Horticultural Services” to the business title – Jenny retired from the business in 2021 leaving Kylie to run this ever-expanding operation. Kylie now has an all-female team, which consists of five garden designers and four maintenance crew.

Luxury for Kylie is all about creating a special “feel”, with a garden that is well-maintained, filled with happy and healthy plants, has a mixture of spaces with both full sun and dappled shade with as many flowers as possible, and importantly is functional. These elements mean the garden will be well-used and well-loved: luxe.

Any luxurious garden starts with improving soil fertility and drainage, installing automatic irrigation and getting plant selection right.

Choosing plants best suited to the location – whether it be hills, plains, or coastal – is critical. Kylie says providing clients with a plant palette tailored to their locale ensures anything planted will thrive and therefore enhance the garden. Kylie notes, “There’s nothing worse than seeing struggling plants in a new yard”.

Unsurprisingly, then, plants are the reason she chooses a Bridgewater space as one of her favourite garden commissions: blessed with avid gardeners for clients, the brief was to design a yard that complemented the house. Kylie and her team designed a garden filled with an abundance of plants, seasonal colour and spaces for sitting and contemplation. Three years on, the climbing roses and wisteria arbours are filling nicely, as are the massed perennial and rose beds set among a backdrop of majestic established European trees. A stunning result!

Kylie emphasises the need to maintain a garden: “A well-designed and constructed garden deserves to be maintained”.



Josh Hooper’s recently completed Millswood garden earned him the Champion of Champions: Australian Landscaper of the Year award.

Josh Hooper, LT

Always searching for cutting edge innovations to push his garden design boundaries, Josh Hooper pioneered the use of cantilevered steel structure and curved concrete in South Australian gardens; elements that have now become more commonplace in landscape projects.

Josh has been involved in residential construction since 2000 and holds a building licence with both a landscape designer and landscape architect in his team. He defines garden luxury as going beyond basic functionality and typical materials.

“(Luxury) is about designing and incorporating elements that blend and elevate a space to one of opulence, extravagance and grandeur,” Josh says, adding that “bespoke” is the critical component in any of his luxurious designs.

While some elements that elevate a garden to luxury are obvious – for example an intricately shaped swimming pool – Josh says it’s things such as a subtle shadow line around a concrete seat that adds that all-important finishing touch.

A recently completed garden in Millswood – for which he received the Champion of Champions: Australian Landscaper of the Year Award – is a standout. Owned and lived in by a builder, the brief was to design and create a garden of excellence and true to bespoke leanings, the LT team added curved-end pools, convex batten fencing, bright white concrete, distressed timber and expansive lawn.



Caroline Dawes’ work in this sprawling Leabrook garden has seen it transformed into a space of year-round colour and fragrance.

Caroline Dawes, Caroline Dawes Gardens

Award-winning garden designer, Caroline Dawes, says it’s the two green thumbs she was born with that have given her the flair to create the gardens she does. She has evolved from stay-at-home mum with two young boys when she began propagating plants to fill spaces around her yard, to helping friends lay out their gardens, to studying garden design, to now having a career spanning more than 20 years.

While not always approaching designs from a plant perspective, her background in horticulture and knowledge of a broad plant palette has been a real advantage which eminently shows in her gardens.

“Defining luxury is a tough one,” says Caroline, who says that for herself – and her  shady backyard – more sun to grow a wider selection of plants is what would feel luxurious.

“When it comes to designing other people’s gardens, luxury is about creating an oasis: one that is sumptuous, comfortable to live in and suits the homeowner’s lifestyle,” Caroline says. “It is critical that all elements work and blend together. Just popping in a pool won’t necessarily add a luxurious feel if that pool doesn’t visually connect to the rest of the space.”

Caroline says paving is one of the most key elements when creating luxe feel: quality paving elevates any garden art, outdoor furniture or lush planting. Forget concrete, her paving material of choice includes natural stone, travertine, limestone, granite and her current go-to, porcelain “Ebony Granite” … all wet-laid, of course.

As for a memorable commission, a garden in Leabrook stands out by the sheer number and variety of plants she included. Handed a brief that stipulated a dominance of flowering plants, the client let Caroline loose to source and suggest a broad range of blooming beauties, and she chose roses, perennials and bulbs to fill the substantial garden. Remarking how unusual it was to have clients who wanted a largesse of flowers, it’s now a garden of year-round colour, fragrances and a true sensory feel.



Peter Adley’s Fulham Gardens’ landscaping project fitted the brief for a “resort-style feel” to perfection.

Peter Adley, Yardstick Landscape

Peter Adley from Yardstick Landscape has spent 21 years designing and constructing high-end residential gardens. He points out the design process as being the most important, but cheapest, part of the process. For him, listening to and understanding what clients desire, allows him to tailor a garden to meet and surpass their expectations.

“Never do any landscape without a plan,” Peter is quick to point out. “It can be very costly if you get it wrong.”

Peter looks to natural elements – and lots of them – for adding luxurious tones to his designs. Wood, stone and water are key to calming a space down, then there is striking the right balance between open space, garden beds and structures, because they all contribute to that luxe feel.

A recently completed job in Fulham stands out for him.

“Our client wanted a resort-feel, a place where they could sit and relax in style, enjoying a home sanctuary,” he says.

The modest-sized backyard presented Peter and his team many challenges in achieving the brief, but no expense was spared. Innovation was essential, a pool with intricate water features, expanses of stone flooring and specially constructed timber screens provided just some of the special elements around which the garden melded beautifully.

Good design should always feel as if it has “always been there”, not looking as if something has been simply dropped in. He sees luxury gardens as ones that are exceptionally comfortable, places of ease, where there is no pressure to do or tend to anything … and, of course, one that looks as if it has always been there.


This article first appeared in the September 2023 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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