Clifftop garden wins landscaping award

A remarkable clifftop garden in Sydney's Vaucluse has won the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects NSW Award of Excellence in the Gardens category.

The annual awards celebrate the growing impact of landscape architecture and recognises projects that stand out for their innovative approach. Winners were announced at a virtual event on June 17, with this winning design teaching homeowners everywhere a thing or two about the use of grasses and embracing your local biodiversity.

The striking garden, designed by Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture, creates a delicate balance of functionality and beauty. Incorporating a natural pool into the design, it is a space for both humans and wildlife.

The garden sits on an exposed clifftop and Jane says grasses were used due to their suitability to the harsh conditions: lots of sun, salt air and strong Pacific winds. They also add visual softness to this environment. "I love that they move with the wind, capture light and create delicate shade," she says.

"We often use grasses as a reference to the temperate grasslands that were once extensive in the Australian landscape, but are now an endangered ecosystem. We try to use the grasses in conjunction with the wildflowers that would naturally grow with them, and to select the plants that would naturally grow in that place."

The NSW awards jury said the "Clifftop Garden is an exemplary residential garden that is a sensitive and elegant response to a dramatic and expansive clifftop site. The use of predominately recycled materials, the incorporation of a natural pool, and the focus on using locally endemic plant species and food plants highlight the role that residential gardens can play in contributing to biodiverse and resilient built environments".

According to Jane, gardens such as this can take on a wilder aesthetic as an expression of connection to place and to nature, while also encouraging insects, birds and wildlife. "Even these small patches support biodiversity in urban areas, contributing to healthy ecosystems over a wider area," she says.

Her advice to gardeners on any site, is to really look at your patch of land and try to understand what it wants to be. "Work with the conditions that you have to make a place that is robust, beautiful and full of life."

HABITAT: The award-winning design uses endemic plants. Photos: Dan Harmon.

HABITAT: The award-winning design uses endemic plants. Photos: Dan Harmon.