Courtyard Garden ….. a waterwise
| Water conservation in the courtyard & garden
This entertainment courtyard and swimming pool
lies within a larger site which includes a tennis court and surrounding
The client’s brief was to create a useable
space for entertaining, and to ensure that both the existing pool and
the new courtyard and gardens were as waterwise as
Hand watering of the existing garden was becoming a problem as Stephen
and Debbie are both very busy. They were also keen to ‘do the
right thing’ in terms of water conservation.
This motivation has reaped benefits on a number of levels.
They now have an outdoor environment which is relatively self
sufficient in terms of watering (pool and garden), and from a personal
viewpoint, the time and money invested in their outdoor environment is
not jeopardised by Melbourne’s current water restrictions, nor by
the possibility of harsher restrictions being implemented. Moreover, it
has been important to both Stephen and Debbie to be able to have their
new outdoor entertaining environment whilst being responsible in regard
to our climate, our water resources, and the prospect of further
drought and climate change.
Visual link between pool and home
The original space between the pool and the home was dominated by
overgrown shrubs and small trees, and three bangalow palms which were
mostly hidden from view. The pool could not be seen from the house.
By opening this space up, a visual link between the pool and the home
was achieved. The courtyard design called for a combination of paving
mediums. The pavers are sandblasted concrete (Anston), and the dark
grey colour complements the house colour scheme. To prevent the
courtyard getting too hot in summer, the grey pavers are married with
synthetic timber decking (Modwood). The decking colour complements the
grey paving, and provides heat relief to the courtyard. The artificial
decking is made from plastic fused with natural wood fibres and
requires no oiling, or painting, and will not rot or deteriorate. This
represents savings in maintenance time as well as costs.
The existing bangalow palms have been supplemented by other specimens
sourced locally. These provide height to relate to the two storey home,
as well as subtle shade during summer, without obscuring the view or
wasting space at ground level which is needed for entertaining a crowd.
They are also surprisingly hardy, once established.
The existing grey paving around the pool and spa has been retained as
it is structurally sound and we have been able to incorporate it into
the overall design by using grey pavers nearby (but not touching!).
Hardy drought tolerant plants softens a timber feature screen
The construction of the timber feature screen creates a uniform
backdrop, as well as providing a screen for the water tanks and pool
Planting in front of the screen, around the pool consists of Yucca
elephantipes, with massed plantings of Dianella. These plants are
especially hardy and their sharp foliage looks great reflected in the
water, and silhouetted against the screen.
River pebbles have been used as
the garden mulch for several important reasons. The
colour spectrum of the pebbles matches the colours of the built
elements present in this outdoor environment. The grey relates to the
pavers, the yellow relates to the house render, and the reds relate to
the decking. This creates a sense that the pebbles ‘belong’
and they in turn tie the other elements together.
The pebbles hold the soil so that birds and the
wind do not continue to tip soil into the pool as was the case prior to
introduction of the pebbles. The large size of the pebbles also enables
debris to be raked or ‘blown’ from the garden beds with
The original, metallic pool fence has been
replaced with a semi-frameless glass one, which is supported with mat
black posts. This minimises the visual intrusion of the fence.
pool has a cover fitted, which
can be rolled back and removed in twenty seconds by using a motorized
roller (Remco). This means that evaporation of water from the pool is
effectively reduced by more than 90%, whilst the disruption to
its’ use and enjoyment is minimized. The cover allows rain water
to fall through small holes into the pool, whilst preventing debris and
leaves etc from getting into the pool.
The pool and garden is serviced by several other crucial waterwise
The specimen lawn, which provides the family dog with some underfoot
comfort as well as a toilet, is actually synthetic turf.
This requires no watering or mowing and remains green and surprisingly
realistic all year round.
There are two 9000 litre rain
water tanks which are connected to the rear roof of the house
and are hidden behind the pool screen fence at one end of the pool.
These tanks are further boosted with a small, slimline tank down the
blind side of the house. This tank collects the water from almost half
the house roof space, and has a submersible sump pump in it to pump the
water to the two main holding tanks. This exercise has proven much more
cost effective than having the entire house roof and guttering
replumbed, and if the blind side of the house roof was ignored we would
be missing out on half the rainfall run off from the roof.
6 waterwise ways
to beat the drought
| ● use
pebbles as mulch
| ● use
a pool cover
| ● use
install rain water tanks
install an irrigation drip system
install a pool cartridge filter
|| The main tanks are connected to the garden irrigation
drip system via a ‘water switch’ which takes water
from the tanks and then switches automatically to the mains water
supply as the water level in the tanks gets too low. There is also a
tap which can be used to use tank water to top up the pool as needed.
|| Another crucial element in this garden’s
waterwise arsenal is a cartridge filter which is
connected on by-pass in the pool filtration system. This enables the
pool filter to be ‘backwashed’, through the cartridge, with
the clean water flowing back into the pool instead of (the
usually dirty water) down the sewer as is usually the case. This can
save a significant amount of water during the course of a year’s
Did you know that a waterwise garden need
not look harsh and uninviting?
Interestingly, this entertainment courtyard and its swimming pool and
spa do not necessarily look as though their aesthetic appeal has been
hampered by the basic requirement to ensure they are waterwise.
When thinking about drought tolerant gardens and outdoor environments,
some people tend to envisage savage, harsh and uninviting environments.
This space is quite unique. It is a welcoming and attractive outdoor
environment, which complements the family’s lifestyle. It
provides a very useful space for entertaining, dining and recreation,
as well as space for the dog. It also provides a stunning outlook from
inside the home at night as well as during the day, regardless of the
weather or the time of year.
This article is an extract/edited version written by
Scott Brown which appeared in Backyard & Garden Design Ideas
(Edition 6.6 Dec/Jan 2008/2009)
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