The listed trees of Airlie House provided the property with its name ‘The Elms’: their relative scale and formal row heralded the property’s location from a distance for over a century. A long way from their probable former glory, these trees were assessed as not worthy of retention and the challenge of this project was to rethink how a defining grouping of trees could better serve the significant property proposed for conversion into multiple dwellings into the future, and still pay homage to the former secluded and park-like character of the site.
The landscape proposal, whose focus was satisfying council’s heritage requirements for Town Planning, was for a fresh mini-arboretum and a communal orchard and garden, simultaneously harking back to the landscape of the former property while staying relevant to the contemporary proposal for the site, promising spaces for social interaction. The heritage-listed Moreton Bay Fig was retained and augmented with a suite of large and medium-scale specimen trees, including a boutique grouping of unusual Elm species at the front of the property.
Once established, the large trees would continue to demarcate the site from a distance. The inclusion of informal, bird-attracting hedgerows and pleached trees at site boundaries help to mask the sound of passing traffic with birdsong, retaining its sense of enclosure and secret garden-like qualities.
Traditional, cottage-style plantings and domestic-scale productive species mixed with Victorian-era sculptural palms and exotic specimens to contrast with the large trees at a ground level. Repurposed bluestone stoop, boulders, benches and a fountain provide romantic touches and embed memories of the former property into a new setting.