Message in a Bottle

Clea Cregan of Miniscape Projects has proven how creativity and brilliant design can prosper in projects of any shape and size.

When a kitchen renovation freshened up this inner city townhouse, the outlook onto the garden wasn’t coming to the party – it needed a facelift too. The owner asked Clea Cregan to design a garden that would extend the new look and make better use of the space.

Clea was a perfect choice for a small area – although her expertise was in a much smaller realm. She is the brain behind the successful business “Miniscapes” (which made beautifully curated terrariums before anyone else was doing them). Her terrarium designs were enormously popular and helped create a renewed interest in the art.

She decided she would like to reinvent herself and move on to larger-scale projects – so she went back to school. After completing her degree in garden design at Burnley College of Horticulture in Victoria, she has added Miniscape Projects to her business services to cater for gardens that don’t fit in bottles. This small courtyard shows how her experience of designing tiny spaces develops skills like attention to detail, precision and finely considered planting – after all, this space is comparatively enormous compared to what she was used to dealing with.

“Initially I was asked to redesign the deck, to extend it. I looked into just making it bigger, but then I thought: ‘Actually, let’s do something really dynamic’. Because the back wall is just so beautiful, we can carry these angles through and give the garden a lot more depth,” Clea says.

The house is in a development that backs onto an old factory with a magnificent 10-metre high red brick wall, the standout feature of the space. Clea used the warm tone of the wall as a base for the colour palette for both the planting and the materials used. Raised garden beds follow the angle of the tapering deck and allow for easy maintenance. The faces of the beds are clad in corten steel and the rusted finish perfectly complements the red tones of the brick walls at the side and back. The main garden bed has seating along one edge and creates another space closer to the house.

“The only thing I was asked to keep in position was the seat at the back of the garden, the owner likes to sunbathe there so she asked me to keep it. It’s surprising how you can create different spaces in such a small area. The seat at the back is in a lovely sunny position which looks back on the house, giving a new aspect, but then we have this large table and seating area where you can host quite a few people.”

The seating area is defined overhead by a simple pergola; Clea’s choice of Virginia creeper for the canopy perfectly matches with its russet leaves that drop in winter. Shade for summer and winter light. The garden beds are planted with a clever mix of both useful and decorative plants, feijoa and lime trees along with rosemary, sedum, euphorbia, dichondra and feather grasses are planted along with more seasonal vegetables, which can be accessed and tended easily without the need to bend down too much. Espaliered citrus along the sidewall save space and add to the mix.

Clea has shown how thinking on a tiny scale can only enhance understanding of larger designs, onwards, outwards and upwards!


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