April 13, 2023

How does your garden grow?

The owners of some of our state’s most beautiful private gardens have given SALIFE a special tour of their spaces ahead of this month’s SA Landscape Festival where the public can visit the gardens and meet the designers and landscapers who created them.

Paul Kitto and Ruth Shepherd stroll beneath one of two grand stone arbours in their expansive Hills garden.


Paul Kitto and Ruth Shepherd enlisted Sphere Landscape Design and Horticultural Services to design a grand garden to suit their elegant Federation home, with the construction work completed by Garden Partner.

What was your brief to the designer?We were renovating and extending our Federation home and wanted a semi-formal English-style cottage garden that would complement the house. We also wished to define a clear entrance to the property that would direct visitors to the front door. The greatest challenge we faced was the slope across the rear of the block which required significantly more retaining than indicated in the original scope of works. These retaining walls allowed for extensive formal gardens to be developed at the rear of the house that included a central fountain and wisteria-covered stone arbours either side of the garden.

Describe the completed garden …
It can best be described as a semi-formal English cottage garden with beds defined by box hedges. The beds in the rear garden contain mass plantings of roses interspersed with perennials. Wisteria-covered stone arbours are lined by a row of crab-apples and evergreen hedging magnolias. The arbours add formality and lead one to a large three-tier brass fountain.

The front garden is quite formal with a classic white Federation wooden gate leading through a camelia hedge. Box lined garden beds border a lawn area. A number of Little Gem magnolias throughout the central lawn areas provide an avenue which draws the eye along the length of the front garden and highlight a James Hamilton steel sculpture.

What are your favourite features of the garden?
The fountain with its relaxing sound of running water, and the bird life that is attracted to the beautiful, ever-changing flowers that can be seen throughout the year.

Do you have a favourite spot to sit and enjoy the space?
We have many, depending on the time of day. We sit on the east-facing front verandah to eat breakfast in the morning or relax on the west-facing deck under the oak tree in the afternoon with a glass of wine, overlooking the rear garden.

Are there any aspects that surprised you as your garden evolved?
The most surprising aspect of the garden’s evolution was the easy integration of the old and the new. The original old oak trees, pines and Federation home sit gracefully in their new semi-formal English-style cottage garden.

What does your garden mean to you?
Our garden represents a beautiful, constantly evolving masterpiece that provides a most relaxing and enjoyable environment. This beautiful garden requires significant effort to maintain but it is a labour of love, not a chore, and complements our old Federation home which sits perfectly in the middle of this two-acre wonderland.


Michael Clark with pet cockatoo Molly at his native-inspired Oakbank garden, Habitat Haven.


A delight for local birdlife, this naturalistic and low maintenance garden was designed by Nicki King Landscape Design for Oakbank residents Michael and Fay Clark.

What was your brief to the designer?
It was about creating a garden that would bring native birds into the yard. Every time we came home from holidays, the back yard was full of weeds, the parrots had pulled out the lawn, or the frost had killed it. So, we decided to go with a low-maintenance native garden that would survive the hot summers and cold winters. Nicki was very clever in achieving what Fay and I were after and it’s more than we expected.

Describe your garden …
The desire for a native garden came from holidaying out in the outback, the appreciation for the native vegetation and the wildlife. It has colour all-year-round with multiple shades of greens of the native grasses, flowers and different heights with the tall kangaroo paws and low flowering ground covers. There’s always something changing as you walk through it.

What is your favourite feature?
As you casually walk around the curvature of the path, which meanders through the yard and crosses the water feature, you get to really absorb the garden.

Do you have a favourite spot to sit and enjoy the space?
Sitting on the deck with a coffee and watching the birds fly in and out, or sitting around the fire with friends and family. We get rosellas, wrens, and honeyeaters, but I’m hoping more birds will visit as the garden matures.

What surprised you as your garden evolved?
It was a do-it-yourself back yard, so rather than get a landscaper, I did the labour with the help of a friend. We took out 60 tonnes of soil and replaced it with 38 tonnes of organic soil, and that encouraged everything to grow quickly, which really surprised me.

What does your garden mean to you?
We like to go away holidaying out bush or to Central Australia, and when we come back home, it’s like we’ve still got part of the outback in our back yard. It’s extremely low maintenance, so when we come home after six weeks, we might pull out the odd weed and that’s it. We love it.


Jane Copley loves the tranquility of her Medindie garden which was created by David Baptiste.


Mother-of-two Jane Copley enlisted David Baptiste and Habitat Landscaping Services to create her stunning and tranquil home garden.

What was your brief to the designer?
We first approached David Baptiste to design and build the front garden in 2010. I’d seen his work and liked his style. Sadly, my husband Sam died within a few days of the work starting. Everything, including the paths, had been removed and the front was a mud bowl. David and the boys were amazing. They took care of everything, not only building and planting the garden, but organising security screens for the house and taking the flower deliveries.

When it was time to renovate the back garden, David was given complete control. The only brief was to make it teen-friendly with plenty of lounging space, and I didn’t want to rebuild the pool. The completed garden is many, many times better than I ever could have imagined.

What are your favourite features?
Every nook of the garden is a delight, wrapping right around the house. From the outdoor shower to the gardenias at the sewing room window (my happy place) and the crepe myrtle by the kitchen window.

Do you have a favourite spot to sit and enjoy the space?
My favourite spot for sitting is the wall on the southern side of the front garden by the new dragon tree. I love the outlook from the kitchen to the hanging fireplace and timber work, and the greenery behind the pool.

What surprised you as your garden evolved?
The kids were 10 and three-years-old when Sam died; they are now 23 and 16. Watching the garden grow and mature as the kids have done over the past 12 years has been wonderful; life goes on.

What does your garden mean to you?
I don’t have a green thumb at all, but my mum and sister do, and I appreciate the amount of time and talent that goes into gardening. I love the coolness and sense of calm a beautiful green space provides.


With a swimming pool and modern al fresco space, Jenny and Wendy Roy’s small-yet-mighty Henley Beach back yard has added great value to their lifestyle and is an example of what can be achieved in a modest space.


Jenny and Wendy Roy enlisted Yardstick Landscape Services to design a resort-like yet functional space that fitted everything from an outdoor kitchen to a pizza oven, swimming pool and raised veggie bed in a modest-sized yard.

What was your brief to the designer?
We wanted a cohesive space with natural materials and plenty of green to increase our undercover outdoor area. We also wanted a pool. The biggest challenge was the size and shape of our yard, but Peter Adley was able to come up with a great design that fitted everything in.

Describe the completed garden …
It’s a modern garden with natural timber, stone and plant elements. Curves play an important role in the design. The garden is resort-like, functional, stylish and crammed with different textures, high quality products and innovative features. Rendered walls contrast with slim vertical timber slat panelling, effectively disguising the boundaries and adding personality and interest.

What are your favourite features of the garden?
The spa, vertical garden bed and natural materials.

Do you have a favourite spot to sit and enjoy the space?
In the spa, looking up at the trees.

Are there any aspects that surprised you as your garden evolved?
The different views you get from both sitting in the garden and from inside the house looking out.

What does your garden mean to you?
A space to relax and unwind. We use the outdoor area as a second living room, for play, entertaining and cooking … it has changed the way we live at home.

Each of these gardens and more will be open to the public as part of the SA Landscape Festival run by Master Landscapers of South Australia on April 15 and 16.
Visit salandscapefestival.com.au for tickets.


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

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