Tempest Landscapes Rising Stars of the Southern Highlands

The New South Wales Southern Highlands area is known for its spectacular natural beauty, gorgeous historical towns and the lovely, cool, crisp weather perfect for grape growing. It’s a popular rural tourist region close to Sydney with large plots of land and it is here that husband and wife team, Josh and Sara Correia, run their thriving landscaping business, Tempest Landscapes.

It may then come as somewhat of a surprise that this powerhouse couple chose to enter, and won, the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show’s inaugural Ryman Healthcare Balcony Gardens Competition this year. Their winning balcony, ‘Eco Apartment Living’, had to be contained within a tiny 2.4 by 1.8 metres, a far cry from the big, lush plots they are used to working with and certainly the smallest space they had ever created.

There is clearly more to this intriguing couple than meets the eye. I spoke with TLA Members, Sara and Josh, to learn more about their booming business, their motivations and their ground-breaking win. Josh Correia began Tempest Landscapes 25 years ago as a sole trader, driven by his passion to create exquisite outdoor spaces with the very highest standards of horticultural installation and precision hardscapes. Even now the business has grown considerably, his dedication leads him to oversee every aspect of the gardens Tempest build.

As recently as 2019, the couple took the plunge to work together, bringing Sara on board as Creative Director and Designer – and they haven’t looked back. The move has been not only natural and smooth, but it has pushed both Josh and Sara on to achieving even bigger and better things. Sara has a long list of design qualifications and experience, including teaching landscape design and sustainability at university, arts conferences and the like. Sara’s whole career reflects her greatest passions: artistic design, environmental sustainability and wellbeing/quality of life.

Josh and Sara’s decision to enter the Balcony Competition is a clear one when you consider their passions. Although used to working with larger plots, the couple are keen to promote the importance of sustainable choices in gardens of all sizes, as well as recognising the massive impact that even small gardens can have on our emotional and physical wellbeing. With rising housing densities around the world and increasing food scarcity, balconies, courtyards and other small spaces are becoming increasingly critical, and popular. Ryman Healthcare’s Balcony Competition suddenly seems like a natural addition to the Melbourne festival as well as an obvious exhibition goal for Sara and Josh. It is the perfect platform for their crucial message of environmental sustainability and improved health and wellbeing.

What’s more, it is clear to see why they won. Every aspect of the design, construction and installation has been carefully considered and selected, not only for the aesthetics, but also for its environmental credentials. Sara told me that she found the most difficult aspect of the design was employing restraint to ensure the space did not become too cluttered. Her aim was to highlight the potential to make small spaces for relaxation and wellbeing, that fit into their landscape and add beauty to a home. And they have certainly succeeded.

With a natural bush palette and using sustainable materials in a contemporary raw state, the space has a distinctive Australian feel with a hint of modern coastal. Functional as well as beautiful, the environmentally responsible materials are similarly priced to other less sustainable options, demonstrating that environmentally conscious selections don’t have to lead to a compromise on quality or cost the earth.

The balcony features a curved screen made from specially engineered bamboo. When open, it provides an attractive natural backdrop with a soft line curve, but it also delightfully slides closed to provide a private balcony space or shade space when required. The screen is a graceful and thoughtful unification of form and function ideal for modern apartments or shared-space living. The floor has been constructed from reclaimed bricks (with the reds removed), lime washed and white grouted to provide an earthy colour scheme. Solar copper lighting contrasts deliciously with dark matte black coloured walls and off-white coloured ceiling, both painted with lime-based paint containing no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The copper is a rich, elegant choice that provides a touch of glamour. The lime paint leaves the walls looking textured with an almost sandy/velvety nap. It’s a delicate addition to the tactile aspects of the space and adds depth to the tight dimensions. The plants are low-maintenance varieties, chosen for their architectural forms and simple lines. Again, the foliage contrasts beautifully against the background without appearing stark or out of place, and the range of different sized pots are balanced with a clean, white, matte finish throughout. The whole area has been topped off with colorbond roofing, giving a sleek, modern effect, and the addition of a clean simple chair and table with soft furnishings make the place exceedingly inviting. Throughout the space, a use of vertical lines gives the space an air of harmony, allowing the eye to rest. The screen, the roofing, and the lines on the front pot all mirror one another but stop short of matching, providing plenty of visual interest without being overwhelming in the small space.

Sara and Josh were keen to dip their toes into the waters of small garden creations, and have certainly achieved a beautiful result. Even in the rural southern highlands they are beginning to see the growth of small space gardening and recognise that it plays a very large part in the future of the industry. There is a steady growth in requests for verandas and courtyards, as well as private spaces within retirement, aged care facilities and the like. Greenwalls and rooftop gardens continue to be sought after, especially in larger commercial facilities. Thoughtful design and construction in these smaller spaces can bring a myriad of wellbeing benefits to the growing numbers of people who don’t have access to large gardens. Sara always begins her designs by closely considering the needs and preferences of her clients for their space, she can then choose to employ a range of features ideal for small spaces to create the kind of space her clients find best for their wellbeing. Anything from edible gardens, through to hanging plants, drought-resistance natives, low maintenance varieties and irrigation systems are all popular choices for smaller spaces.

Self-declared competitive and passionate people, Sara and Josh, together with their excellent team, are always looking to challenge themselves. Earlier this year they opened their own designer outdoor living store attached to their studio in Bowral. Entering the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, the largest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere, also pushed them creatively and took them out of their comfort zone. In December last year, their entrepreneurship and excellent quality work and service won them a local business award, Outstanding Specialised Business, Southern Highlands. They are also experimenting with aquaponics systemsthey say will ultimately be suitable for use in even small spaces, such as balconies. It seems the world is their oyster, but they are not content to sit on their laurels. Despite a full workload they are keen to enter this year’s TLA Landscape Excellence Awards to further showcase their talents and push the envelope of quality landscape design and construction.

Congratulations again to Sara, Josh and the whole team at Tempest Landscapes and we wish you all the best for the Excellence Awards.

Entries for the TLA Landscape the Excellence Awards close Friday, 29 July 2022 and is open to all TLA members with categories for every aspect of the modern landscaping sector.

To learn more about membership or the awards visit our website at www.landscapeassociation.com.au.

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