Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Castlecrag Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Castlecrag Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Castlecrag Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Castlecrag Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Castlecrag Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Castlecrag Arthur Lathouris Landscape and Garden Designer /Castlecrag

Castlecrag Garden

This garden is situated in the backyard of a modest residence in a very "rocky" area of Castlecrag.

The garden was dominated by a huge rock ledge covered in weeds with a level difference of almost three metres from back door to top of ledge and a further two metres to the back boundary. Along one part of the back of the house the ledge is less than a metre from the wall of the house with the gutters almost touching the rock.

To add to the residents' woes, "torrents" of stormwater cascaded off the rock into their patio area and sat against the house walls. Nevertheless the owners loved their rocky outcrop and wanted to find a way to enhance its value and beauty whilst gaining easy access to yet more magnificent rock outcrop on the top level and a lovely view over their rooftop towards bushland and Chatswood CBD. They did not wish to damage or remove this beautiful natural feature. They also asked for a water feature, gazebo, washing line, orchid racks and predominantly native planting to blend with two lovely Eucalyptus trees and a couple of well grown Doryanthes (Gymea Lily). Because of the cost of the works many of the final native plantings were tube stock but the Kentias were advanced.

The task was certainly challenging but in the end highly rewarding. The design was carried out in 2002 and as funds became available construction was commenced mid 2004 completed in early 2005 by, Chris Woods of Landscaping Concepts of Sydney, a highly talented and sensitive landscape contractor. The designer was involved during construction and was able to talk through various problems as they arose as well as being instrumental in the setout, determination of levels and material selection. Construction details were discussed with the contractor as the works progressed. Minor changes to the plan were made as the nature of the site revealed itself. For example some plants were left out or garden shapes changed as depth of soil without extra construction was not achievable nor desirable.

Whilst the rock was the dominant form in the landscape, drainage was the major issue. The pebble paths and areas below the rock formations on the top level are all drains. They contain ag lines which direct water to drainage clearance points on the lower level. One pipe comes down inside the steps whilst the other goes behind the gazebo and down a cleft in the rock on the western side. This cleft was filled with horizontally laid "waste" slate purchased very cheaply. It was felt that filling with sandstone would have looked out of place and "demeaned" the beauty of the rock mass. The slate has created an interesting textured contrast.

Strip drains were placed along the length of the patio and the back path, with all tiling falling away from the house. As per plan the drainage system on all levels has withstood every storm.

The retaining wall at the base of the rock shelf was existing but taller. Its height was reduced and then it was painted with Porter's Roman Cement as were all the other walls. As this wall was built up against the rock shelf it was not possible to ensure that drainage was installed behind it. All other constructed walls were waterproofed and drained.

Sandstone walls and tiling, gold granite cobblestone, pebbles and timber were selected as the building materials to complement the natural rock but detail and colour were added with the selection of the pond/fountain tiles and the plum colour of the walls. In fact this colour was selected as it is obvious in the natural rock as well as being a colour that appears in the bark of the stately spotted gum at certain times of the year.

The curved steps form an easy elegant access to the top level and were masterfully cut in without any damage to the rockshelf.

A creative solution on a difficult site, excellent clients and a very good landscaper were all part of the success of this project.