Sunken Garden


The client’s brief to transform an unused swimming pool into a sunken seating area was a unique project for our design team. An existing pavilion was to be retained with a need for a larger area for seating and entertaining while having a lower levelled seating area within the existing pool. Easy access was required with connections to the existing lawn and gravel entrance with existing rose bed. The existing pump house was to be retained and is utilised for housing the lighting and electrical links to the space. Lighting was required to enable the space to be used throughout the day and evening.


A larger Millboard seating area under the existing pavilion has enabled improved space for entertaining. The tone choice of the Millboard links to the existing materials of the pavilion and the material was chosen for its longevity. Sitting within the Pavilion gives open views of the area; a decorative railing gives safety for the level change also adding to the leisurely view of the garden when leaning on. Views into the lower terrace and the surroundings have been considered through the use of railings allowing views through.
In the back ground water can be heard from the subtle stream effect water feature positioned within the terracing of walling with a cascading water fall glistening within the planting. The existing fiberglass pool was to be left in place to prevent more construction and costs to the project. Removing the fiberglass pool would create more retaining walls to control the surrounding ground and also opening up to the potential water table therefore the fiberglass was left in place. Internally to protect the pool filling back with water the base of the pool was filled drainage gravel incorporating a land drain system leading to a sump with a float switched pump to control the drainage. A reinforced concrete pad was positioned over the drain system to create the base for the landscaping work.
As a process due to the water table being potentially high the pool could not be emptied completely as the fiberglass could have lifted out of the ground. The water was emptied around halfway and we then started to fill the pool with gravel to prevent this. Within the concrete pad sections of ACO channelling were incorporated at the perimeter of the paving area linking to the drain sump. These were then camouflaged by the decorative gravel around the paving perimeter. Wheelchair access was required and access through the garden is enabled through a series of linking pathways and a sloping ramp to the pavilion terrace. This works well and adds a different journey through the space.
With the garden already being mature in its planting our planting scheme blended into the exiting garden area. The current planting surrounding the new garden was predominately shrubs with spring interest. It was important for the customer to be able to have a part of the garden where they could enjoy plants that gave more summer interest.
The planting has been designed with low maintenance in mind as the couple are retired and they already have a large garden to maintain. This new area is in full sun, originally the customer was keen to have a Mediterranean garden but we quickly realised she didn’t want an arid look and actually favoured a more traditional feel with shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Although the planting pockets surrounding the sunken garden were small, we tried to use small growing neat shrubs amongst some easy perennials and some plants leaning slightly towards the Mediterranean feel, I.e. Rosemary, Pinus Strobus Blue Shag, Echinops, Libertia Taupo Blaze, Lavender, Pervoskia, Astelia Silver Spears, Festuca Glaucas etc The addition of this type of planting we felt was important as it complemented the current established plants such as the large pine trees, Eucalyptus, Yucca, Cordyline and the potted Callistemon.


This unique garden has exceeded the clients’ expectations as the scheme offers easy access through meandering paths that create a journey for the user while linking the area to the other elements of the garden. A lighting scheme lifts the garden during the early evening and dull days with LED spot lights warmth within the space.

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