Camberwell Japanese garden stream

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The brief

The clients had just bought their property located in the leafy surburb of Camberwell. Their garden was a mix of formal and modern, but they wanted something more naturalistic, without demolishing the entire garden. Originally from New Zealand, they had fond memories of growing up around rivers, rocks and streams. They were keen to reproduce an element of this in the garden, and to introduce the feel of a Japanese garden.

There were some practical requirements too. The front door was actually along the side of the house, with a long straight path running past the main garden. There wasn’t an obvious entrance to the main garden though, meaning that visitors could see the garden, but would have to walk through a garden bed to get there. The clients wanted an alternative path that invited visitors into the garden, rather than to be kept from it. They also wanted more space around the paved area for their outdoor setting.

There were many minor challenges with design and construction of this garden, but the biggest challenge was blending the existing formality with the informality of a Japanese-style garden, and a natural rocky stream.

The response

A waterfall and stream was constructed that runs parallel with the existing front path, following the natural landform. It was fortunate that the most natural position for the waterfall was facing the lounge, kitchen and outdoor entertaining area. It was important to make the scale of the waterfall fit with the existing landform, so I made it look as though it emerged from underneath the path. This gives the viewer another reason to believe that this stream is completely natural.

A stepping stone path leads from the existing front path, across the stream and to the paved entertaining area. The path was made to look naturally part of the stream and hill, and to make the the stream as interactive much as possible. Rock-hopping is a favourite pastime of the clients (and some of their visitors)!

LED Lighting was included in this stream. At night, the Japanese maple has a gentle uplight, to highlight its unique structure. Water lights pick up on the movement of the water and accentuate it.

The outdoor dining area was rearranged, to create a larger paved area for the outdoor setting. The existing timber pergola was extended to cover the new area. Ornamental grape vines will come to cover the new pergola over the next few years.

More garden beds were created around the lawn and around the stream. The plants used included a beautiful Japanese maple, Nandina ‘Moon Bay’, mondo grass, liriope, Loropetalum chinense, Korean box, and Pieris japonica. In the stream are Acorus gramineus, and Japanese irises. The lawn was reduced in size and contoured with a gentle hill, perfect for lying down and listening to the calming water.

The clients are very happy with the final result.