From Boring to Enchanting – A Case For Repurposing

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There always seems to be one troublesome area in a garden, and in the case of this beautiful Georgian-style home it used to be the area behind the house. The home is set back on the property, with a long strip of garden behind it that had no immediate purpose, and which had possibly been used by the previous owners as their utility area.

It’s not uncommon for an area that is not visible to remain neglected, and yet with a bit of repurposing the space can be turned into something quite enchanting. This is exactly what happened when design team John and Tanya Keating from Tandi Projects were tasked by the owner to create a formal, low-maintenance garden in the back in keeping with the rest of their design.

Repurposing a Tired Space

The design team immediately identified the spot outside the kitchen as ideal for an al fresco dining area. It was the perfect place – convenient for the host and sheltered by the building. The area was paved and covered by a pergola that supports the charming ‘Catawba’ grape (Vitis Labrusca).

The remaining length of property is divided into three distinct areas to complement the proportions of the home. A low hedge of Magenta Lilly Pilly (Syzygium Paniculatum) defines the length and the structure for each of the divisions.

A row of violet pea (Baphia Racemosa) planted in the lawn in front of the dining area provides light shade and helps to filter the odd unruly breeze from the south. This tree-lined section of the garden leads left to the elegant swimming pool and right to a formal contemplative area, beyond which is a herb garden.

The planting areas in the contemplative garden are defined by a low hedge of common box (Buxus Sempervirens) with standard ‘Iceberg’ roses, Japanese Anemones and the low-growing pink ‘My Granny’ rose on the left, and clipped ficus standards with variegated Mondo grass (Ophiopogon Japonicus ‘Silver Mist’) on the right. Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides) covers the arch at each end of this immaculate formal garden, filling the summer evenings with their heady scent.


A direct path of pavers, intersected with a small sunken water feature, leads through the contemplative area to the herb garden beyond the second arch. Here the design team tucked an intimate seating arrangement against the perimeter wall. The café-style furniture is backed by a mirror that not only reflects the light but also lengthens the space when you view it from afar. A second mirror against one of the walls under the pergola performs a similar function.

Despite the fact that the front and back gardens are quite separate, the formal theme unites both spaces beautifully. Classic ornamentation and soft plantings of roses, Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia Leucantha) and white Gaura (Gaura Lindheimeri) were used to create uniformity throughout.


The design team commented that while the back garden had initially provided a challenge, once they had apportioned practical functions to the space by repurposing items, everything had fallen into place. The owner, of course, is delighted with the results

The Gardener