Perched on the lower North Shore of Sydney Harbour, this unique garden is divided into distinct zones that include a Moroccan-style pool area, semi-formal grassed space, contemporary outdoor entertaining area, lush vertical garden and a tropical-inspired pergola.

Horticulturalist Peter Dixon is the designer behind the particular project that has evolved over 20 years. ‘When the owners first moved here, the garden was basically a rampant and neglected heap of seedling trees that had completely taken over; the swimming pool was cracked and we practically needed a machete to reach the rear path from the back door,’ he explains.

The initial clearance wasn’t the only challenge the designer faced when tackling this 1,000-square-metre garden. It is also on a steep sloping site, so it has been designed on a series of levels across the entire area. After passing through a cast-iron front gate, the visitor ascends three flights of stone steps past the first terrace, then on to the reconditioned mid-level pool, and finally the uppermost house terrace, which is graced at the boundary end with a stone-framed garden mirror and faux water rill in matching glass mosaic. ‘This creates a rather enchanting “walk by” effect to trick the eye into believing another garden space lies beyond,’ says Peter.

The garden contains many well-thought-out structural elements, including a colonnade created from giant hardwood posts wreathed in flowering Thunbergia mysorensis, and a zigzag chevron of cables that support fragrant Madagascan jasmine. There are also strategically placed cables that support climbing plants as living green fences. In addition, a lush giant ‘green wall’ – a vertical planting arrangement – not only divides the rear garden levels but is a unique alternative to freestanding trees that would otherwise shade and dominate the garden. ‘Not least, it provides a real wow-factor element that can be appreciated from the house,’ points out Peter.

It was the clients’ visit to Morocco many years ago that made a particularly lasting impression when it came to the choice of many of the plants and flowers, along with some of the garden features – including the pool with its lapis-blue tiling, flanked by matching mosaic benches. Nevertheless, practical considerations are also paramount to the garden’s success. ‘Planting must be evolved to deal with a long summer of wet humidity as well as high temperatures that can risk scorching,’ Peter explains. There’s also screening at the boundaries to conceal all perimeter fencing, offer privacy from neighbouring properties and lift the eye to the tree canopies beyond.

Undoubtedly a labour of love, this is a garden that continues to develop, grow and be enjoyed by both its owners and its designer – on every level.

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