Modern style blooms in the traditional Queensland family garden – and even the trampoline has a place.
When Brisbane landscaper Joseph Nagel talks about his work, his passion for creating is palpable. He talks of “stripping an area back to its bare bones and shaping the earth,” and you know that his work is less a job, and more a labour of love. A walk through the Brookfield garden of one of his latest Definition Landscape and Design clients confirms it – the man is an artist.
Overlooking the tree lined hill of the Brisbane hinterland sits a Cape Cod style home resting within a modern oasis. What used to be a traditional family backyard has been transformed into a picturesque vista that offers up alfresco dining, fresh herbs for outdoor cooking, a pavilion and hideaways for work and play. The garden’s best feature is that its function is just as stunning as its form, and that’s exactly how Joseph planned it. “To me, there’s no point in having a garden that looks amazing in a magazine but that doesn’t work, because people won’t spend time in it,” he says.
It was thanks to functionality that Joseph’s top design aspect was crowned. “My favourite feature is the pavilion – it creates a new room in the garden. It’s really multi-purpose and could easily be used for outdoor entertaining, lounging, dining, but I love that the owners have set up a work studio in this space. If you’ve got to work, what’s better than working in an airy garden room, away from the distractions of the house?” To answer Joseph’s rhetorical question, the only thing better is having a sandpit and swing attached to the pavilion where the kids can play safely under your watchful eye. And he delivered that too.
It is with the pavilion that Joseph granted his clients’ wish for an injection of contemporary style into the property. It also showed his panache for building design. Plantation shutters, a skillion roof and timber bifold doors made the pavilion a Hampton’s style hideaway. These features also kept true to Joseph’s constant desire to promote environmental sustainability by allowing easy adjustment of natural light, temperature and airflow without a reliance on air conditioning.
Having only recently finished the Brookfield project, the plants are still in their infancy and the set-up obviously caters to a family with young children. Give it a year though and the plants will have established into healthy and generous coverings. The exposed timber planters and retaining (made from red ironbark) will have faded to a soft silver/grey colour fading into their landscape authentically. Joseph says within this timeframe the climbers (Trachelospermum Jasminoides) will have filled out around the posts and reached the pergola roof framing.
In five years, the climbers will have formed a “green roof” over the deck pergola and pavilion entry arbor, providing shade for the outdoor dining and play areas. The new trees will be beginning to mature and providing structural height to the garden. Shrubs, grasses and succulents will have spread and filled out to their mature sizes and the Rhapis Excelsa (Lady Palms) beneath the pavilion will be screening this area, in readiness for a future pool.
Not only will the plants have flourished, but the family’s need will have changed and Joseph says the garden is designed to change with them. “The spaces are designed to be multi-purpose and easily changed with the age and stage of the family. The sunken trampoline space will convert to a sunken outdoor lounge, and the sandpit to garden beds when the kids grow up. There are no wasted areas or construction.”
The Brookfield canvas was by no means a small space, but fitting everything in whilst still maintaining a refreshing openness can’t have been an easy feat. Joseph admits he was old-school in his approach, and hand sketched concept plans from onsite so he could truly get a feel for the lay of the land. “I don’t like including elements just for the sake of having them. I prefer to design simple visually pleasing spaces where quality design and materials communicate the feel and intent of the garden. This always helps to create an open and spacious feel.” If your landscape designer can make the trampoline look good, you know you’re onto a winner. The hidden trampoline nook nestled below a sandstone retaining wall is a testament to the creativity of the design. Not only is it a favourite hangout for the kids, but the sunken design means the homeowners haven’t lost their bushland views.
Ensuring the new garden felt authentic and not jarring within the landscape was important not only aesthetically, but also environmentally. Planting natives ensures longevity in a garden and Joseph finds a planting solution in every indigenous Queensland plant. “I often use Elaeocarpus Eumundii for narrow areas requiring height, Randia Fitzalanii as a small shade tree, and Waterhousea Floribunda for a lovely tree if there’s enough space…I often use Lomandra Bunyip or Pennisetum Nafray for mass grass plantings, Westringia Fruiticosa for a tough native hedge, and Viola Hederacea as a groundcover,” he says.
When asked if he had any advice for novice landscapers, Joseph’s response was simple: “Don’t be driven by the latest style and trend. If you love it, build it or plant it. It’s your garden and you’ll derive the most pleasure from things you appreciate.”