An Aussie Aesthetic

By Lisa Truesdale
photos by Julia Truesdale

When she founded noosa yoghurt in Boulder in 2010, Koel Thomae was satisfied that she had successfully bridged her homeland, Australia, with her home since 1999, Colorado. She had introduced American palates to creamy, velvety, Australian-style yoghurt, which is manufactured here in Colorado.

So when she and her husband, Tait, wanted to redo the landscape at their newly remodeled 1965 home in central Boulder, it’s no surprise Thomae realized her preferred landscaping style was also Australian.

“I wanted a xeric aesthetic, like in Australia, with just a limited amount of grass where our daughter [Matilda, now 5] can play,” she says. “I definitely didn’t want to have to do a lot of watering, because that just isn’t being environmentally conscious.”

For design help, Thomae turned to Lisa Sangelo, who was working with Boulder’s L.I.D. Landscapes at the time and has now moved to Ecoscape Environmental Design. Besides being a talented landscape architect, Thomae says, Sangelo just happened to have another qualification that came in handy—she’s from Australia, too.

“With Lisa, I didn’t really have to explain everything I wanted,” Thomae says. “She just got it.”

In the front and back yards, Sangelo’s design nods to their native country. “The red rocks are reminiscent of the red desert in Australia and also connect with the Utah desert, where Tait grew up,” Sangelo explains. “The xeriscape was driven by understanding the preciousness of water, and the crusher fines remind us of the rammed earth and limestone trails frequently seen in Australia’s bushland.”

Sangelo chose hardy, drought-resistant trees and shrubs like gro-low sumac, panchito manzanita, moonlight broom and fernbush, and grasses like cabaret variegated maiden, zebra grass, undaunted muhly and avena oat grass. For perennials and ground covers, she planted ice plant, October daphne stonecrop, peonies, hostas and coral bells.
Thomae especially appreciates how Sangelo carefully considered the seasonality of each plant so there would be spring and summer flowers, as well as fall color.

“Lisa made sure that there’s always some level of color or interest through all seasons,” Thomae says. One of her favorite examples is the creeping veronica in the sidewalk cracks leading from the street to the front door. “They’re a gorgeous blue-purple in spring, and then a lush green later in summer.”

There’s nothing too showy, though, because that’s not the Aussie way.

“When we first started this project, we talked about the understated casualness of the remodel and how the landscape can respond to that,” Sangelo says. “And it worked out, because it’s an Australian trait not to overstate things.”