Hang Ten: a Melbourne Garden's Modern Makeover

This garden might be small, but it has been designed for sensational seasonal colour as well as a timeless sense of beauty.

Martina Gemmola/Bauersyndication.com.au/Magazinefeatures.co.za

The owners of this two-storey 1880s terrace in Melbourne, Australia, called on Scott Leung, who is principal designer at Eckersley Garden Architecture, to create a timeless garden. They wanted a green space that would complement the classically ornate front facade of the house and its contemporary rear extension equally well. 

The solution 

Leung’s approach was to ‘keep it classic, simple and understated’. To give the garden an immersive quality, he focused on ‘greening the verticals and developing overhead canopies’. He did this by training climbing plants over all available surfaces, including fences, walls and wire cables. 

The hero plants here are Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), as seen in the 160m2 rear garden displaying its curtain of autumnal red tendrils, and Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), a vigorous fence and wall climber. 

Designer statement 

‘We’ve injected an abundance of green into relatively small spaces,’ shares Scott.  

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Wall’s treat

The boundary wall is thick with layers of green, starting at ground level with Asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum). Boston ivy grows directly on the wall and Chinese star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) grows along horizontal steel wires in front. 

Visual effect

Boston ivy flourishes along the back and side walls of the house. ‘Having greenery on these vertical surfaces makes the garden seem larger because you feel enveloped by green,’ says Leung.

Draped crusader

Virginia creeper grows up a wire and over the pergola, forming a curtain of foliage that dangles over the dining zone. It also grows along wires extending over the pool. At the base of the post is Asiatic jasmine. The pergola is spotted gum, a native Australian hardwood.

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Gorgeous greens

In the 40m2 front garden, Leung laid bluestone pavers in a stretcher pattern, interspersed with strips of river pebbles. Coral-bark Japanese maples (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’) are underplanted with Liriope muscari ‘Royal Purple’. A boundary wall is festooned with Boston ivy, while Virginia creeper grows up a wire to the veranda. ‘Growing greenery on these surfaces extends the garden and cools the home in summer,’ says Leung. 

Curtain call

The front of the terrace is draped in Virginia creeper, carefully trained along steel climb wires. It now hangs luxuriantly both above and below the home’s top-storey veranda.

Quick results

In Melbourne’s climate (similar to Cape Town’s, if somewhat cloudier and cooler), it takes about six months for a Virginia creeper to climb to the top of a two-storey home. ‘Then we train the leaders across a wire for a curtaining effect,’ says Leung. 

Golden moments 

The canopies of coral-bark Japanese maples turn golden in autumn. These elegant, vase-shaped trees grow to a height of 4–5m, perfect for small to medium gardens.

True colours

The beauty of Virginia creeper and Boston ivy, says Leung, is the fact that they ‘hold their foliage from the ground up’, producing continuous greenery without a woody base section.

Pretty timeless

The delicate trailing foliage of Virginia creeper and the dainty leaves of Japanese maples are a perfect match for the intricate iron lacework featured on the veranda balustrade.

Neutral foundation

A restrained colour palette for the hard surfaces was key. Bluestone pavers were laid in a 90-degree herringbone pattern to echo the pattern of the flooring inside the house.

ALSO READ: How to Create a Mediterranean Courtyard Garden

Scott Leung’s favourite creepers: all you need to know 

1. Boston ivy and Virginia creeper are vigorous growers, best suited to temperate areas. 

2. Both are deciduous, but when new growth appears (spring to autumn) they create a complete wall of green, because foliage grows along the plant’s entire length.

3. Both are frost-hardy and thrive in cooler climates. Virginia creeper foliage turns scarlet in autumn, even in mild climates. Boston ivy is more temperature-sensitive but can turn purple or even bright red when mornings are consistently about 4°C. 

4. Virginia creeper and Boston ivy both like full sun but can also tolerate shade. 

5. These self-clinging climbers have disc-like suckers. To prevent them from leaving sucker marks on the wall, train them up a wire. 

6. Controlled growth requires pruning three to four times a year. 

7. Use them to create a canopy for summer shade and winter sun. ‘Even without foliage, the branch network gives a sense of cosiness,’ says Leung.