Zones specialists Matt and Boyd Gillespie took on this landscaping challenge and transformed a steep unusable backyard into a beautiful, multi-leveled and adaptable garden. 

WORDS Stephanie Matheson

Watch this landscaping transformation on 'The Get Growing Roadshow'

Steep and sloping sites often pose a real landscaping challenge and hinder the usability of the outdoor space, as was the case with this property. From the back of the section there was a big gradual slope all the way down to the deck. To complicate matters, this particular section has a somewhat awkward L-shaped layout with a narrow section angled away from the house. This meant that a good chunk of the lawn was never utilised at all and when the new owners moved in their children hardly ever played in the garden.

Matt and Boyd Gillespie from Zones Landscaping Specialists were called in to create areas where the children could play safely and the family could entertain guests outside. They turned this once underused garden into a layered backyard full of potential with an entertaining area around the pool, a play lawn, and a ‘transitional’ lawn that can also be used for playing and might in the future house a sleep out for the children when they’re older. 

What now looks seamless and natural required thoughtful planning and many hours of hard work. Zones’ Stuart Gill explains: “To get these levels right they had to look at where the retaining walls needed to sit. They also used a cut and fill technique; so by bringing the retaining wall up here they were able to pull the soil form the back of the site forwards and compact it and keep it on site.” 

Removing dirt from a site and bringing in materials can be costly and time consuming, especially if access is an issue. Matt and Boyd’s team were able to utilise a neighbour’s driveway, and they were careful to minimise disruption. They brought several truckloads full of quality top soil onto the site so that grasses and plants can grow well. When excavating and exposing clay, this is important and well worth the effort as otherwise the garden will not be able to thrive. The landscaping experts chose Couch grass for this family garden. It’s a tough and hardy grass type that will withstand many family play sessions and get-togethers. 

One of the key challenges of the landscaping design plan was to tie all of the different levels and areas together visually and create a harmonious garden that feels well connected. The Zones team achieved this by carefully choosing materials and plants, and repeating them throughout the whole garden. 
Timber steps provide access to the different levels and also link the spaces together. Landscaping rocks are a predominant design feature throughout, creating immediate impact while also keeping the garden design low maintenance and hassle free. 

Privacy was a consideration and by installing a cost-effective trellis on top of the wooden fence the landscapers provided an improved visual screen while at the same time ensuring that sunlight is not blocked too much and that the section does not feel too closed in. All of the fencing is painted black, which gives the garden a contemporary and elegant backdrop. 

Apart from the ‘landscaping hardware’, plants are of course the primary way to decorate the garden, create impact and ‘set the scene’ for the overall look and feel of the space. Matt and Boyd used Griselinia shrubs for hedging in several places. Evergreen and tolerant to most conditions, these are simple yet stylish plants. Lomandra Tanika grass with its lush green foliage is planted extensively throughout the garden between the rocks, and a host of Deites add further interest to the ‘pool of green’. Puka plants are positioned in key locations as feature plants and to provide some height. 

Working out the right combination of materials and plants is instrumental for the overall success of the final garden, and that’s where the experts from Zones brought in their invaluable knowledge and experience. As Stuart sums it up: “Having a good planting plan in place means that you know where the plants are going and what plants you’re going to use. And you can actually look at how that’s going to achieve the softening of the design scape and pull all these different areas and materials together.”

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