MEET FIONA who enjoys relaxing in her resort-style garden all-year-round.

When we bought the architect-designed home in 2009 it had a Mediterranean feel to it with a garden to match. As an interior designer I could see the potential to create a more contemporary subtropical resort vibe. As well as renovating the interior, my husband and I wanted to add a lap pool and re-landscape the garden by introducing some lush planting and details such as large-scale planters and designer outdoor furniture.

Green Screen

We did the garden in two stages, re-planting first, then adding a lap pool a couple of years later. We worked with Damian Wendelborn of Urbanite Landscape Design to create the garden design. One of the first things we did was add some screening at the front of the house, replacing the low hedge with much taller sculptural, subtropical plants to soften the exterior and hard paving. We needed something that would grow high enough to screen the front door from people going down the shared driveway. The Chamaedorea Costaricana was chosen because it’s an easy-to-grow clumping palm with abundant soft fronds. The palm fills out quickly and creates a lush subtropical look. The tall plants down the south side of the house are Strelitzia nicolai (giant white bird of paradise). They are a great screening plant for a two-storey house.

Making an Entrance

Having my own interior design company Fibonacci, I had an overall plan of how I wanted the interior and exterior of the house to look. One of the first things I did was create some drama in the entry courtyard by adding spiky, sculptural succulents in black pots from ECC. The small plants are aloe bainesii and the tall one is a dracaena. The planters are by Serralunga, an Italian company that specialises in manufacturing high-grade plastic pots. Despite their large size, they can be easily shifted around the property because they are made from plastic.

Outdoor Rooms

In a relatively densely populated suburb like this, privacy can be an issue. We have succeeded in creating private outdoor rooms by using a mix of strategic planting and slatted timber screening stained in dark brown. This north-facing space off the kitchen catches a lot of sun. The bamboo helps create a screen of green between the bedrooms on the upper level and the neighbouring apartments. The marble-top table is my own design and the resin vases and bowl are by Dinosaur Design. The lion head was here when we bought the house. I have softened it a bit by planting the bamboo.

Fabulous Foliage

The lap pool gets plenty of use in summer. Because of its proximity to the house it has been designed to double as a decorative water feature at night, with under-water lighting set into one side of the pool. The black objects are seating/side tables from the Meteor collection, also by Serralunga. The leaves in the foreground are from a cluster of cycads, which create a visual focal point poolside. This species, Cycad Lepidozamia peroffskyana, has no spines, making this beautiful plant very garden-friendly. The tall trees are Evergreen Mexican Alders, which were here when we moved in. We kept them for privacy and under-planted them with Chamaedorea cataractarum, a small palm tree that is native to Central America. The custom-designed and handmade slatted timber box seat cleverly doubles as a storage container for the pool cleaning equipment. The white outdoors chairs are by Moroso and the white planter is by Serralunga, planted with a cycad.

Cocktail Hour

This is our favourite outdoor seating area. The wall behind the table was demolished, then rebuilt, to give the digger access for the pool project. We added a garden plot, planting Rhapis excelsa and a large Kentia palm to soften the effect of the wall and create shade. The large bamboo-like plant in the right-hand corner is a Chamaedorea Costaricana. Its stem has a sculptural effect while the foliage again acts as a privacy screen from the neighbours. The lower plants with serrated-type leaves are a type of philodendron. The chairs are by Zanotta, from Studio Italia, and the black marble table is by Fibonacci. The pool’s black mosaic tiles were chosen to complement the black joinery of house.

Sun Catcher

The great thing about this well-designed home by Sumich Chaplin Architects is that it opens to three separate outdoor areas that catch the sun at different times of the day. This dining area is a lovely spot for a morning coffee. I see these spaces as an extension of the interior and have decorated them as outdoor rooms. The trees in this courtyard garden are Radermachera sinica and the palm on the left is Chamaedorea cataractarum. Rhapis excelsa, another attractive patio plant, is on the right. The courtyard wall is covered in Ficus, adding a vertical layer of texture to the garden. A large white pot featuring a Chamaedorea elegans acts as a focal point in the courtyard.

Room With a View

We deliberately made the shallow end of the pool nearest to the upper deck to lessen the temptation for the younger generation to use the first-floor balcony as a diving board! The concrete pool was painted to give it a deep dark teal colour. The pool decking and surrounds are Vitex, a hardwood timber from the Solomon Islands. The decking and planting were carried out by Second Nature and the pool is from Partridge Pools.

Indoor Outdoor Flow

I love the way the lounge opens to the lap pool, blurring the line between the outdoors and indoors. With the subtropical planting around the pool, it gives the space a resort-style feel. There’s never any desperation to find a tropical destination to unwind in as we have it all here at home.

Comings & Goings

Ficus provides an attractive vertical screen, transforming the fence down the long driveway. It creates a fantastic blanket of green, disguising the fact that there are a variety of different wall materials and heights bordering the driveway. I like the way it adds a sense of arrival to cars driving down and for those wandering down the driveway on foot it adds to the sense of surprise and mystery. The house is gradually revealed as you progress down the driveway, following this gently curving wall of green.