Water Features Work Around a Steep Slope in an Australian Garden

From unusable to incredible, this outdoor area now has tumbled travertine, water features and mod greenery

‘Untouched for decades, this steep site in Northridge, a suburb of Sydney, had an unusable sloping lawn with an unfortunate view of the family’s carport. This outdoor area had little usable space, with the exception of a small paved area surrounded by a rock retaining wall.


Australia Garden 1: Art in Green, original photo on Houzz

Landscape designer Ken Pattinson and his team redesigned the space with a modern slant, integrating several luxurious levels of tumbled travertine, water features and soft greenery. The levels take advantage of the whole space, now a restful oasis that allows the clients to enjoy the Sydney sunshine in privacy.

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Australia Garden 2: Art in Green, original photo on Houzz


Location: Northridge, Australia
Designer: Art in Green
Size: 1,650 square feet


Pattinson met the challenge of the lot’s 7-foot height change with several tumbled travertine patios, each connected with elegant stone stairs.

Curry leaf (Murraya koenigii, USDA zones 10 to 12) and lilly pilly (Syzygium spp) hedges help disguise the dramatic level changes, making the garden feel more approachable. Covering the carport wall in wood hid its true identity and added a warm element.


Australia Garden 3: Art in Green, original photo on Houzz


Pattinson’s zoned lighting plan creates depth and entices people into each gathering area. Brushed chrome fixtures beckon visitors up the stairs, across stepping stones and over wooden patios. Light fixtures in water features highlight adjacent surfaces and plant shapes.

The garden’s main water feature, a vertical spill, spans three of the stone patios, linking them. Water is pumped from the lower level to the top level, then pushed over the waterfall at the top. A one-way valve prevents it from draining to the lower pond when the pump is off.


Australia Garden 4: Art in Green, original photo on Houzz


A tank captures rain running off the garage roof and helps keep the water level consistent.

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Australia Garden 5: Art in Green, original photo on Houzz


Among the plants featured at the bottom level of the water feature are imperial bromeliad (Vriesea imperialis, zones 10 to 11) sweet flag (Acorus spp) and spiny-head mat-rush (Tanika Lomandra longifolia, zones 8 to 11).

Nick Kennedy of Art in Green designed the tumbled travertine hardscaping; he used the same stones on the stair treads, water feature coping and stepping stones.


Australia Garden 6: Art in Green, original photo on Houzz


Turpentine, a durable Australian hardwood, was used for the decks, lounge chairs and carport wall. Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla var.

japonica, zones 5 to 9)bay tree (Laurus nobilis, zones 8 to 10)hawthorn (Raphiolepsis spp)coastal rosemary(Westringea fruticosa) and wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum, zones 4 to 8) are pruned into ball shapes. The consistent use of materials — turpentine, travertine and similar plants — helps unify the multilevel design.

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