November 3, 2022

Masterpiece in Medindie

When a meticulously-planned garden meets a master-built property, the results can be spectacular.

The spectacular grounds that surround this Medindie home have an air of establishment well in excess of their six and half years.

About six years ago, experienced landscaper Mark Bradbrook was faced with a bare block of land. The brief was simple: design and build a garden that matched the high-end design of the yet-to-be constructed luxury home.

The luxury home in question would prove to be one of the last commissions of well-regarded Master Builder, the late David Cheney. The house at 26 Briar Avenue, Medindie, has become a fitting legacy to his signature passion and commitment to quality. The garden Mark created both supports and complements those attributes.

The checkerboard-tiled path stretching towards the house appears to float over narrow sunken pools; rich purple leaves of twin weeping copper beeches draw the eye towards the front door.

The home and grounds that surround it share a feeling of establishment well in excess of their short six and half years. This is testament to both builder and landscaper on their choice and use of materials, design and – importantly – their workmanship. This is a property created for the generations; one that will look just as stunning in decades to come.

Never one to shirk a challenge, Mark drew from his 40-plus years of landscaping experience to envision this garden. With house and garden completed in 14 months, Mark and his Bliss Outdoor Living team – including the irrepressible four-legged Albert – spent countless hundreds of hours on site. Beginning with the installation of a substantial two-and-half-metre-high retaining wall across the entire back boundary, the garden began to evolve.

Pastel-hued lemon and apricot roses blooming near the front path provide a soft contrast to the manicured hedges.

Dealing with sloping ground can be a challenge, although Mark’s natural eye for levels proved invaluable in seamlessly marrying the topography across this more than 2000 square-metre site.

Railing against the pool-and-broad-sweeps-of-hardscape style that proliferates in many new builds, the inspiration for this garden was drawn from the property’s classic Italianate design. The home’s strong rectangular shape and ornate features are echoed throughout the garden as Renaissance Italy meets leafy Medindie.

Formal hedges, structured features and manicured evergreens are key to this garden’s immense charm.

Form and symmetry are achieved thanks to the angular lines of clipped Japanese Box that encircle each of the many garden beds. A plant Mark has used with great success for decades, Japanese Box’s ability to be narrowly trimmed and still develop a lush, thick canopy sees this high performing yet undemanding variety used extensively throughout this design.

Walking through the front gate, the attention to detail is immediately evident. The checkerboard-tiled path stretching towards the house appears to float over the bordering narrow sunken pools. Each pool has a number of burbling jets, ensuring that water’s calming movement creates this garden’s soundtrack.

Cloud-pruned conifers create eye-catching sculptural shapes.

Water plays an import role throughout, with six different aquatic features installed around the property. In the front garden, linking each of the path’s sunken pools is a small waterfall that is fed by a raised pond. Rising out of each pond is a slender, mirrored stainless steel fountain. The  amber hue and soft reflections allow this feature to subtly blend into the landscape, while still adding a touch of contemporary to the traditional design.

The cloud pruned conifers are a horticultural delight and introduce yet another intriguing layer to this garden. Known as “niwaki”, which means “garden tree”, much care is taken to train these conifers into tightly-foliaged tufts that resemble clouds. This time-honoured Japanese garden art is said to depict the distilled essence of the tree, and its unique shape fits remarkably well amongst the other plant life.

The creator of this garden, landscaper Mark Bradbrook of Bliss Outdoor Living and four-legged friend Albert enjoy returning to check on the garden’s progress.

Pastel-hued lemon and apricot roses blooming near the front path provide a wonderfully soft foil to the manicured topiaries and hedges. In a garden where green dominates, subtle floral elements such as these are noticed and appreciated.

When David Cheney suggested to Mark that a date palm would look good somewhere in the yard, Mark began the search for a specimen to do the space proud. A month later, not one but two fully established Canary Island date palms had been sourced and craned into position, one in the front and the other out back. Both looking healthy and happy, they are commanding focal points that help support the illusion of maturity across the entire garden.

Deciduous trees including standard gumball liquidambars put on a show in autumn.

Ficus “Flash” has been used as the boundary plant, creating a green privacy screen. Originally planted as one metre high saplings, they have reached more than seven metres in height and filled out spectacularly in only a short time. This hardy evergreen tree with its dense, shiny foliage that shows three shades of green and a speckled grey trunk is another one of Mark’s favourites due to its versatility, as it can be grown in full sun to semi-shaded positions.   

The rich purple leaves of the weeping copper beeches certainly catch the eye and are quite an unusual find in suburban Adelaide. As are the mop top Indian bean trees lining the pool pathway. Forming a dense, broad-domed canopy atop a grafted trunk, this plant produces a naturally rounded head of foliage without the need for pruning and shaping. These deciduous plants, along with standard gumball liquidambar, weeping mulberry, crab apples and others, provide much enjoyed garden seasonality.

Water plays an import role throughout the design, with six different aquatic features installed around the property ensuring a calming soundtrack.

Paths, over a number of levels, are laid out to achieve maximum curiosity value as you stroll around the garden. Each of the many garden rooms is revealed at the very last moment, thanks to clever positioning of plant screens.

The wide lawn in the back yard is bordered by a line of topiaried bay trees underplanted with star jasmine, behind which is the pool. Tiled in shades of blue and surrounded by impeccably-paved bluestone, the pool doubles as both a functional and aesthetic feature. 

Further into the yard is a pond, complete with a bronze water carrier statue selected by the client. Behind is an arch and seat with Pierre de Ronsard roses eager to climb and fill the structure.

Throughout the build, Mark was always looking at innovative ways to use existing products for longevity in design. His clever use of house bricks, laid on their side, is an excellent example of this, giving the driveway and some paths a real point of difference.

Again, experience counts when it comes to deciding where time and money is best spent to get maximum return. Instead of feature retaining walls, concrete sleepers were used to secure the cutaways, with vigorous creeping fig planted. It only took a few years for the enthusiastic creeper to fully cover the retaining wall, becoming the hero of this spot.

Of course, this garden is no stranger to the sound of hedge clippers. There is constant need for trimming and tidying to maintain the plants, especially the borders and hedges.

The home’s strong rectangular shape and ornate features, designed by well-regarded Master Builder, the late David Cheney, are echoed throughout this large garden.

It’s always a great delight for Mark, and of course Albert, to return for the annual review, walking the yard and talking to the clients about what they feel is needed to keep up with their and their children’s changing lives.

This garden is continually evolving and one the clients love living in. Mark and his Bliss Outdoor Living team are immensely proud to have helped design and develop this horticultural masterpiece.


This article first appeared in the September 2022 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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