Eckersley Garden Architecture offers a revitalised approach to landscape design. Merging experience and creativity, their passion lies in crafting unique relaxed gardens that invite the inhabitants to enjoy their outdoor space.
Scott Leung (Director, Eckersley Garden Architecture)
What sparked your career in landscape design?
I got the ‘outdoor bug’ from my father who loved working in the garden. He was also a keen golfer which meant we always had an immaculate lawn (although I’m not so keen on high-maintenance lawns today). This childhood interest led to a horticultural course at Burnley, after which I fell into the job with Rick Eckersley. That was 25 years ago, and I haven’t looked back.
What fuels your creative process?
Our family often hikes through national parks to see what works in nature and these observations show up in my work. Plants are always evolving and I’m always wanting to try out new things. We also love visiting art galleries regularly to feast our eyes on beautiful artwork and sculptures – an enjoyable way to feed the imagination.
Can you tell us about a design project that’s particularly noteworthy or challenging?
A unique project was designing the rooftop garden for Yve Apartments in St Kilda Road, Melbourne (designed by Wood Marsh Architecture). This was part of a renovation project, so the building was already fully occupied with permanent residents. This meant that our design had to satisfy not only the architects (known for creating iconic, exacting buildings), but all the owners as well. After much consultation and a few rounds of presenting the design to all parties, the overall effect achieved for the garden is amazing. Everyone is thrilled with the result. We integrated curved lines to replicate the building’s shape. The garden is a restful sea of green foliage and beautiful textures. In November, when the trees are in flower, it turns to a sea of white. The rooftop is exposed to strong winds so we are still keeping a close eye on the young trees to ensure trunks don’t bend wildly as they grow.
Your client list is diverse – why do you think people come to Eckersley’s for their garden design?
Yes, we do the whole gamut: country, coastal, commercial, residential. People come to us for something different. We certainly don’t have a cookie-cutter approach. Designs are constantly changing depending on the client’s lifestyle which encompasses how the family wants to use the outdoor space, accommodating pets, and climatic conditions.
People are attracted to our philosophy: gardens should be understated, a relaxing space to live in. Our designs ensure that owners can be out in the garden all year round, enjoying beautiful light through the change of seasons.
We believe beauty lies in randomness, that’s why we never plant trees in straight lines. Imperfection should be celebrated.
How does your design process work?
Listening to the client is paramount. Incorporating the client’s requests, we present a schematic design that gives them a ‘look and feel’ experience of what the garden will be. This involves image boards, pots, plant samples and material palettes. It’s important that the client gets a tactile sense of the desired result. If client is happy with that stage, we move into the design development: full plant schedule, plant numbers, material specifications, etc.
Often we’ll depart from the original planting design and move plants to where they will create different layers and interesting viewpoints in relation to the site we’re landscaping. We always respond to the space as we plant and make decisions on the day to achieve the best effect.
Our landscaping style is not deeply designed or staid. We take a random approach to planting that mirrors the play of nature. We let a garden take on its own shape as it grows.
Any tips for linking a home’s interior and exterior spaces?
Good landscape design is all about outlook and orientation. It’s always good to get a nice continuation of materials and view from inside to out. For example, floor-to-ceiling windows should be complemented outside with low pots or garden beds to create an uninterrupted view from the house to the garden. Clever plant choice and location can frame and direct people’s view through the garden.
What current landscaping trends do you see emerging?
Indoor plants are a big trend, particularly for commercial and multi-residential buildings. Our office is a haven of experimentation to see what works with indoor plants. We typically use cylinder-shaped pots and always group them in a corner or offset them in some way. Symmetry is not our thing!
Do you have a stable of go-to plants?
Our gardens are made to be lived in, using plants for layers, textures and overhead protection. Two main elements in all our designs are climbers and canopy trees. These are so effective for cooling the area and creating lovely spaces you can enjoy even on hot days.
We always use a combination of natives and exotics to achieve beautiful Australian gardens. Although there aren’t many native varieties of deciduous creepers, we love to use these for their seasonal light benefit.
While we’re on favourites, do you have a favourite Martin Kellock Pots and Planters pot?
I love the Oceanic range – the handmade stone has a gorgeous lime texture. It seems to go with any style – contemporary, period, traditional, Victorian and Federation-style houses. The key is to repeat similar plants in them. Often, we mix them up with terracotta pots and tie the look together with related plants. It gives an eclectic but cohesive impression.
Which materials commonly appear in your projects?
We use simple pot shapes in understated materials. Simple cylinders, U- or egg-shaped pots work well in our gardens. We don’t incorporate focal pots unless a client specifically requests it. Water features are always simple, shallow bowls that don’t dominate the space. In all our gardens, it’s the plants that take centre stage.