Thinking about a mid-century garden that complements your mid-century home?
Alistair McLean
Category: Industry Interviews, Uncategorized

One of Secret Design Studio’s long term collaborators has been Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect.  Jason has embarked on an exciting new venture so I thought it would be good to hear about it, and get a better understanding of Jason’s future direction in relation to mid-century modern homes. 

Q1) Jason, I understand that you have recently left your previous employer to start a new venture.  What is it called, and what type of consulting services will you be offering? 

A1) “That’s correct, the new company is ‘Davidson Design Studio’ and as a Registered Landscape Architect, I provide design and consultancy for a range of landscape projects.  These include private residential gardens, commercial projects, community facilities, even industrial landscapes. 

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Q2) Your studio is based in Beaumaris.  How far from Beaumaris will you consult? 

A2) “I do love working locally and using my local knowledge on projects in the Bayside area, however I also love the opportunity to work further afield.  The landscapes of Victoria are so diverse, and it has been rewarding to work on projects from Maldon to Sorrento.”

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Q3) What does a Landscape Architect actually do? It is a lot more than deciding which potted plants to put into a trolley at Bunnings isn’t it? 

A3) “It definitely is!  Landscape architecture is such a broad field and it is really the treatment of all external spaces and how they relate and complement the built form. Some landscape architects work primarily in urban design and are setting out the new suburbs of our cities including housing allotments, roads, schools, community hubs and open spaces; while others are talking directly to homeowners and providing solutions to enhance the outdoor spaces of their home.  A good landscape architect will have a thorough knowledge of site engineering, planning process and localised climatic influences. We are also across relevant legislation and building practices and can take a client’s needs and make the vision a reality.”

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

 Q4) What are the benefits that a landscape architect can bring for somebody considering a renovation to their mid-century modern home? 

A4) “A thoughtfully designed garden frames and complements the home.  A renovation is often a big financial investment, however the finished look can be brought undone without a considered approach to the garden around it.  What attracts me to mid-century modern design and style is that in post-war Australia, it was a time of embracing outdoor living and spending time with your family in the backyard.  Living areas were designed to open out to garden spaces and houses were often designed around courtyards. 

The mid-century modern residential garden is truly an extension of the architecture and should be seen as part of the overall design rather than an afterthought. With access to today’s material palettes and technology, the opportunities are endless.”  

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Q5) I like to think that mid-century is such a broad term that covers many “flavours”.  What are the main “flavours” of mid-century landscape design? 

A5) “Australian landscape design really came alive during the post-war years and I find that the history of the ‘Australian’ garden goes together with our amazing mid-century architecture.  The flavours are therefore broad and reflect the experimentation and excitement of the time. 

  • An Australian bush garden with striking flowering natives and dense canopies of native trees blend perfectly with a flat roof modern home.  The bush garden movement was a dramatic move away from traditional British gardens and an embrace of the Australian landscape. 

Garden example in Beaumaris. Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

  • The minimal forms and clean lines of a Japanese style garden also works perfectly with mid-century architecture, where you can really embrace the Japanese philosophies of meaning and intent with the placement of every garden element. 

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

  • An arid or Palm Springs inspired garden is also a favourite, where geometric forms of paving and structures blend with succulents and striking architectural planting. 

The key to mid-century inspired landscapes is to reflect the materials and style of the architecture so that the house and garden are all part of the ‘home’.”

Q6) Will a mid-century style landscape design work with a contemporary home?   

A6) “Absolutely!  The design theories of modernism are timeless, and I use them with every project I work on.  Present day architecture is also beginning to revisit those same theories and clean, minimal lines, a flat roof, wide eaves and natural materials are making a welcome return to new homes. “

Modernist landscaping with a contemporary house – via Houzz

Q7) With so many knock-down and rebuild projects decimating and moonscaping our leafy suburbs what percentage of the property value should a new home owner allow for landscaping? 

A7) “I generally recommend that 5-10% of cost of the house, be invested in landscaping to allow it to fully complement the architecture. 

This doesn’t include luxury items such as a swimming pool, however.  A new concrete swimming pool can easily cost around $70,000 – $100,000. “

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Q8) What are your three favourite plants that are appropriate for a mid-century home? 

  • I do love my natives, and the Grass-tree or Xanthorrhoea is a clear favourite!

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

  • For a real mid-century flavour, you can’t go past Monstera deliciosa (Fruit Salad Plant) 

  • or the wonderfully named Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata). 

Sansevieria trifasciata (habit). Location: Maui, Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

Q9) Many people in Beaumaris may be familiar with the garden that you established for your previous mid-century modern home in Beaumaris. For those that aren’t familiar with it how would you describe it? 

A9) “My wife Amy (who is also a Landscape Architect) and I set out to create a practical and presentable garden that was complementary to our stunning 1950s home.  We began our family there (first with pet dogs, cats and chickens, and then our son, Thomas) so we also wanted it to be a family friendly space and our own private sanctuary.  

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Along with the chickens, we also had a productive vegetable garden and installed rainwater tanks to help with watering.  A native plant palette was used to the front garden and planted nature strip (which is common in Beaumaris), however we went with a very blended theme throughout.  A wonderful courtyard space could be viewed from the central rooms and had a blend of sub-tropical and Japanese styled plantings. 

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Other areas featured ornamental deciduous trees and exotic plants to provide great seasonal changes in colour and foliage.  As a family-friendly garden, we wanted open areas of lawn for our pets and kids.  These were bordered by recycled bluestone or bricks.  We relayed the existing slate paving to the front terrace as it worked so well with the stone feature wall and style of the home.  We loved this home, however we did outgrow it, and had to move on.  Sadly, it has since been demolished and will be replaced with a typical two-storey box house.  But that’s another story…. “

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio


Q10) What mid-century related projects are you currently working on? 

A10) “We now live in a 1960’s Beaumaris home, and it is an ever-evolving project! 

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

 Apart from that, we are active in the newly formed Beaumaris Modern association.  We see it as a way of celebrating our suburb’s amazing architectural character and providing insight into how residents can make the most of their mid-century homes. 



Work-wise, I am always excited to get a new project across my desk and am eagerly awaiting the next chance I have, to work on someone’s mid-century gem!”

Q11) What Landscape Architect inspires you the most? 

A11) “Historically I love the work and the philosophies of Ellis Stones.  He worked with Edna Walling and had an amazing eye for naturalistic landscapes.  I have two copies of his book Australian Garden Design (I saw the second in an op-shop and couldn’t just leave it there) and I am constantly using it as a reference. 

(Image of one of Ellis Stones’ designs from his book) 

I am also continually inspired by the work of my wife, Amy.  She is primarily in urban design and is so passionate about ensuring everyone has access to quality open space regardless of where they live. ”  

Q12) Do Australians have anything to learn from the pebble and succulent gardens that are seen in so many mid-century Palm Springs homes? 

A12) “Yes and no.  Due to the drier climate of Palm Springs, those gardens are forced to better use resources and that is a good example of drought tolerant landscaping.  The results are far reduced in terms of biodiversity, however. 

As I said before, these gardens can be replicated and are a popular style of garden in mid-century Melbourne. “

Photo by Alistair McLean, Principal, Secret Design Studio

Q13) Many people have never engaged a Landscape Architect before.  What would you hope to achieve in an initial consultation and how much would one cost? 

A13) “At our initial meeting I will be doing the following: 

  • Getting an understanding of what the client needs from a space 
  • Establishing why the client believes the current space has failed or isn’t working for them 
  • Discussing what their maintenance capabilities are.  
  • Getting an understanding of what their budget might be. 
  • Suggesting ideas and getting a feel for how enthusiastic they are  

An initial consultation generally doesn’t have any cost attached to it.  This is part of generating a brief and providing an accurate fee proposal for the design. “ 

Photo by Alistair McLean, Principal, Secret Design Studio

Q14) What are your website and contact details? 

A14) “More information about what Davidson Design Studio offers can be found at  


By email: or by phone: 9515 0159.” 


Best of luck with Davidson Design Studio, and Secret Design Studio looks forward to working again with you in the future. 

“Thanks for the opportunity to share what Davidson Design Studio is all about!”

Photo by Alistair McLean, Prncipal, Secret Design Studio