Down the garden path


Jamie Durie

Stairs aren’t the only way to go up, as this ingenious design shows.

Stairs aren’t the only way to go up, as this ingenious design shows.

Tricky topography beautifully solved ... that's why I love this Hilgard Garden in Berkeley, California, so much. Architect Mary Barensfeld's design for this steeply sloping site at the back of a 1964 townhouse is stunning. She has made a difficult area, with a steep climb to reach upper areas, seem simple. Instead of conventional steps, which would eat up space, she has installed a ramped, meandering path through aromatic ground cover and sculptural Japanese maples.

The owners wanted an outdoor entertaining area close to the house, in addition to another accessible seating area at the top of the site. Barensfeld avoided using conventional steps, which the neighbours had done, as she felt this technique would ruin any sense of place or uniqueness on the site. Instead, she came up with this fun concept of an angular, experiential walk. As Barensfeld explains, "The garden swiftly metamorphoses from a Zen-like meditative state to a playful, active path."

I love the way she has combined clever detailing with textural materials to deliver a truly unique garden design.



Jamie's tip
I always ask my clients to list the things in their garden they like and want to keep. It could be a special tree or boulder or even working with the natural slope of the land.

Why not?
Mix it up. Here, bare concrete walls and rusted, laser-cut steel look amazing next to each other. These strong, hard elements are balanced by the use of warm timber decking and a planting scheme with spill-over plants which soften all the hard edges.

Light and shadow
The rope light that zig-zags its way down the middle of the terraced slope extends into a water feature, where the angular lighting is reflected on the surface. Outdoor rope lights are a great way to add definition to a space and subtle lighting effects to a garden.