My Garden

A garden to call home

When time came for landscape designer, Hugh Main to create his own garden, his vision was clear: it had to have a sense of place…

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“I really wanted to feel the site was of that place, so choosing appropriate and endemic natives was number one priority,” says Hugh, co-founder of Sydney landscape practice Spirit Level Design.

With the chance to work to his own brief, Hugh relished the opportunity to be experimental with ‘his little gully at the back of Bondi’ for a host of reasons:

“I knew I could create a lush, private and cocooned space by using all native plants,” he says.

“Plus there was the chance to trial no irrigation and create a totally drought resistant garden,” adds Hugh.

An experiment has turned into a prized example of Australian native garden design…

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Rather than mimic a garden style, Hugh’s design approach was to recreate a space that speaks to the location of his home and its site amidst steep gullies of Bondi in Sydney.

Hugh’s skills in designing and constructing landscapes that are both sculptural and refined, grounded and natural are on show in his own small ‘courtyard’ space that brings together an evergreen selection of endemic species and his favourite native varieties – banksia integrifolia, tree ferns, birds nest ferns, native violet and pig face – down into a restful fire pit area. It’s a living space for quiet solo contemplation and cool retreat in summer months, or socialising and warmth in winter.

“It was really important to me to choose Australian natives to celebrate where you are.”

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The concept and design for Hugh’s own Bondi ‘gully garden’ was a quick process, “I always knew what I wanted”, but the execution took a total of five years to complete including adapting to conditions as various plants grew.

“You’re never really done though are you?” says Hugh.

Hugh Main is the co-founder of Spirit Level Design, a landscape design and construction practice in Sydney.  More at

Photography: Adam Jones & Chris Simms


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