Inspiration: Peter Nixon's Paradisus
Four years ago garden designer Peter Nixon traded in his inner-city Sydney courtyard for a big blank corner block on the Central Coast and turned it into this!
Words and pictures: Peter Nixon and Robin Powell
It’s clear from the boundary plantings that Sea-changer is no ordinary suburban garden. All the fences are hidden behind plants: blue gingers glow in the shade of mature callistemons; fine-leafed lomandras contrast with bulky aloes in the sun, and alongside the laser cut gates a sense of arrival is marked by felty kalanchoe rubbing up against a ruff of the lime green tails of Asparagus meyerii.
From the gate, it’s clear what the garden is all about -a verdant tropical vitality, energised by textural contrasts in the planting. A path, with edges smudged by colourful ground covers, leads past the studio, winding around clumps of generously-sized beds to a shaded courtyard Peter calls the Shade Hut, and on to a dining deck edged with easy-care, sun-hardy bromeliads.
It’s four years since designer Peter Nixon moved in to what was a bare block and created his sixth home-work garden, the first with the added complications of coastal winds and salt. Here he’s been able to indulge his passion for plants from the world’s warm-temperate-coastal regions, piling them together with an eye for sharp textural contrasts that provide year-round interest and make the ephemeral pleasures of flowers a double bonus.
I’m enjoying shade and shadows
One of my favourite views of the garden in summer is looking from the dining canopy down to the Shade Hut. For a couple of hours after lunch, the sun shines through the laser cut panel and makes shadow patterns on the textured concrete slabs of the floor. The screen, which divides the entry garden from the rest of the garden, has a cut-out leaf pattern of monstera and philodendron-like leaves which are a good match with the whole feel of the garden. The Shade Hut, essential in my climate, is roofed with a double layer of Naturereed from House of Bamboo, and though it’s retractable I never bother as in the winter the sun angle is low enough to come in underneath the roof. The paving is broken up with irregular lines of a relative of wandering jew called Callisia repens.Though this is quite a weed in Brisbane, I find it a well-behaved, mound-forming ground cover. The dachshunds like it too, -so much so that I can often see the shape of a dog imprinted on the cushiony plant, though it plumps up again quickly.