Recent Home Living Property Culture The Team North Shore Living
Recent Home Living Property Culture The Team North Shore Living


Written by Emma Brancatisano

Images supplied by S-ENSE Leandscapes

As spring settles and summer beckons, the prospect of lazy, outdoor gatherings is a welcomed reprieve.
Gardens can act as a place of entertainment and retreat, satisfying pleasures and often holding equal value to the functionality of indoor space.

But with societal changes and housing pressures, a Sydney landscape designer believes the image of the garden has become stagnant.

“Over the years, we have fallen into a fairly masculine garden design where lots of aspects are quite regimented, clipped and formal,” Russell Wyatt from S-ENSE Landscapes told McConnell Bourn.

“That might work in some spaces. But it has meant we have lost colour, mixed foliage and shrubbery due to this prescribed image of what a garden should look like.”

This stagnancy is coupled with the inherent challenges of higher-density living and the ever-present search for green space.

“Today, you have people who are willing to - or who are required to - live in much smaller spaces. Everything has been narrowed, simply because we are trying to maximise that usable space,” Wyatt said. “It’s a challenge to fit greenery into that.”

With years spent in the landscape architecture and design industry that led him onto setting up his business about 17 years ago, Wyatt’s work aims to broaden views around gardening.

“It’s our favourite pastime and it is perceived as being very simple," he said. “But there’s a difference between pottering around and designing something that can get you a better space at the end.”

Think Ahead

According to Wyatt, success starts with asking the big questions around time, maintenance and catering for children or pets.

“You need to have a garden doing the job it is supposed to do.

Then you can fall back on how that can work aesthetically,” Wyatt said.

“When aesthetics comes first and functionality is left untouched, they can become quite frustrating and tend to not end up being your own space.”

These questions then dictate your design choices, for example the size and shape of garden beds.

“You may be looking for a paved area and a lawn for kids and pets. Suddenly all you have left is a narrow perimeter to do something with the garden,” Wyatt explained, pointing to a common design.

“That typically becomes hedging and then you might only be able to fit in a clipped border.”

To depart from the linear, Wyatt suggests a simple change in shape, “If you put a circular lawn or paved area in a square backyard, you now have deeper corners to add some foliage or colour.”

Covers and thoroughfare

Coverage options such as fixed or flexible roofs are crucial for guaranteeing privacy and optimal vistas.

“These decisions dictate whether you’re sitting in a space looking out at something or whether you’re sitting within the garden,” Wyatt said.

“If you decide to leave it uncovered, you’re looking at the critical things like obvious views, within the garden and beyond, or looking towards a focal point.”

Clever design also involves offsetting spaces to clear pedestrian traffic.

“Typically you’ll find a courtyard off the back of a small space that has a dining table stuck in the middle of it,” he said.

“Offsetting spaces can mean thoroughfares are uncluttered to the house or to the pool and the table remains a stagnant, relaxing and useful space.”


For Wyatt, the basis of any garden comes down to longevity of planting, guaranteed through discussions of plant function over type. “Are they going to be a shade tree, a screen plant, a spillover or shrubbery? This is more useful than getting bogged down on species,” he said.

Then comes a healthy dose of research, preparation and maintenance.

“At the moment in Sydney, we are really challenged by a dry period. Gardens are stressed and a lot of this comes down to not improving the structure of the soil,” he said.

“Look at the plants that you have growing, or those of your neighbours, and see what works … and always be confident in the advice you’re getting.”

Russell Wyatt
S-ENSE Landscapes | 1300 725 567

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