Although it had a perfect north-east aspect, the overgrown side courtyard of this property on Sydney’s North Shore was in dire need of attention. The owners knew they had a special space, especially as it was conveniently located off the kitchen, but it was completely unusable and lacking in structure. And so it became Anthea Dunlop Landscape Design’s task to transform the courtyard into a semi-formal space that would be perfect for entertaining.

Once the plants that were taking over the courtyard were removed, the existing boundary wall presented itself as having great potential as a structural feature within the new garden design. It just needed to be squared off and then bagged and painted to blend with the exterior colour of the house.

Space was at a premium, so Anthea Dunlop kept the design tight and semi-formal while making sure it felt soft, green and inviting. She divided the ground plan into two zones: twothirds were designated an entertaining area with the capacity to seat eight; the remaining third was to be a contemplation garden.

For the entertaining area, the existing terracotta pavers, which were in stark contrast to the house, were replaced with Himalayan sandstone in a natural finish, which complemented the house perfectly. At the far end of the space, a water feature was placed, providing a wonderful focal point

To keep the courtyard uncluttered, the plant palette is quite limited. To green up the vertical elements, Chinese star jasmine was trained onto stainless-steel wires attached to the boundary wall and a passion fruit vine was planted at the far end, adding softness to the water feature. Japanese box hedging was used to maintain structure within the tight space, with liriope included for movement.

The courtyard’s position by the kitchen and the owners’ passion for cooking inspired the use of edible accent plants. Standard bay trees sit at each end of the raised garden bed and standard cumquats frame the pathway separating the two areas of the courtyard. Of course, any garden owned by avid cooks wouldn’t be complete without a herb patch. This was placed in the sunniest corner and planted with tarragon, parsley, chives and basil.

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