There’s quite a skill in making a garden look like it just sprung out of the earth.
So perhaps it’s no surprise to learn landscape architect Jane Irwin picked up the NSW Award of Excellence at last month’s Australian Institute of Landscape Architects for this project along the cliff front in Vaucluse.
While many homes in the exclusive suburb have opted for carefully manicured gardens, Jane says the owner of this property wanted something out of the ordinary.
“This only happens when the client is really engaged with the design process and they have vision themselves,” she says. “She is quite a spiritual person and she’s interested in the environment and design and the connection between the two.”
Jane arrived while the house, designed by the late architect Paul Pholeros, was being built.
“The house is beautifully designed — it’s modest and beautifully detailed,” she says.
“When we got there, the pool was going in already and the (pool) planting had been done by (horticulturalist) Jonathan Garner.”
The owners had opted for a natural pool — a freshwater, chemical-free system using the plants for filtration.
Jane followed through, creating a clifftop garden that looks as though it has sprung up organically. She used sandstone from the existing house to create a sunken stone firepit, and brought in extra stone to create a structural element.
“We exposed some sandstone on site and other pieces we brought in,” she says. “We used the roughbacks — the pieces that are cut off the blocks, like you cut the crust off the bread.
“As much as possible, we didn’t want to take anything off site or bring anything in.”
Because the building of the house was so advanced, some stone and soil had to be lifted in via crane to place it.
Any planting needed to be able to withstand the sometimes harsh conditions, including strong north-easterly winds, so Jane chose native pig face, cactuses and grasses endemic to the area.
Bates Landscape carried out the landscape contracting. Jane says while planting took a matter of weeks, construction of the garden was completed over several months.
More: Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture, jila.net.au