‘I love the effect well-designed spaces can have on how we feel – gardens stimulate the senses and enhance the way we live,’ says Clea Cregan of Miniscape Projects. ‘I love how gardens are always ‘in progress’, constantly evolving and changing with time, and the needs of the owners. I love the creative process in helping people connect with their gardens and become better gardeners.’
This philosophy underpins Clea’s work at Miniscape Projects, which has evolved from a terrarium business she started over a decade ago, to a full landscape design service. Clea is passionate about making great garden design accessible, underpinned by her firm belief that green spaces ‘make people happy, bring calm into their lives, and offer a remedy to the stresses of modern life’.
Hi Clea! What has been your journey to working in this industry, and how long have you been designing gardens?
My career path weaved its way through various design fields, before arriving at landscape design. Originally I studied graphic design and worked in several web design studios before moving into film production. I was making terrariums as a side hobby when their popularity, soared and Miniscapes was born.
I spent a lot of my childhood exploring the landscapes around Canberra where I grew up: summers at Jervis Bay and south-coast NSW, winters up at the snowfields. We did lots of hiking and skiing. I used to propagate my owns plants from cuttings. Even early on, I had a deep love of plants. In hindsight, it seems pretty inevitable that I would end up as a landscape designer.
The last time we checked in with you, you were creating terrariums. Do you have any particular moments/recollections about how you first became interested in taking this interest in green spaces to a larger scale?
Making terrariums was a great stepping stone to a career in landscape design. Creating these mini landscapes was an excellent introduction to horticulture, but the limited space in the terrarium was frustrating! Having no formal training in horticulture, I enrolled in a landscape design course at Burnley, Melbourne.
I was very fortunate to be taught by Landscape Architect Andrew Laidlaw (Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne) and that was where my passion for landscape design was really ignited. One of the first gardens I completed after the course was my ‘Courtney Courtyard’ project, which was nominated in the Houses Awards and led to further design commissions.
‘Miniscape Projects’ launched around this time with a focus on larger landscapes. I’ve been fortunate to work on some really creative projects with excellent clients since then.
What is your gardens philosophy – what makes a Miniscapes garden, and how do you hope to impact people’s green spaces?
Miniscape Projects really embraces the belief that gardens can make people happy, bring calm into their lives, and offer a powerful remedy to the stresses of modern life. Beautiful green spaces start with thoughtful design, clever combinations of materials, and a rich tapestry of plants for all users, including local flora and fauna. We believe in creating gardens that can embody all these things – ecologically rich, low-impact environments that also function as a lush, peaceful sanctuary.
Does ‘Miniscapes’ mean that you specialise in smaller spaces? Is this something you’re passionate about?
I enjoy the challenge of smaller spaces, where constraints of size, privacy and light require creative solutions. Smaller spaces often have to work harder than larger ones as many of the elements need to be multifunctional. Every plant must be performing at its best to make it a success.
Originally I was focused on smaller spaces like indoor gardens, balconies and rooftops but recently I have started working on larger landscapes.
What do you consider to be your ‘voice’ in landscape projects?
I think our gardens have a playful, relaxed and tactile feel. Graphic shapes, softened by contemporary plant combinations and simple materials.
I don’t follow any rules with planting, as long as the plants’ horticultural needs are similar and they complement each other. I like mixing fruit trees, natives, ornamentals, succulents and lots of edibles in our gardens.
Every Miniscape Projects garden has a very unique look, as every site and client is different. But connecting every different project is the important goal of ensuring that the house and garden come together as one and create a strong sense of place.
What do you love about your work?
I’m passionate about including nature-play spaces for children in my designs. Nature play is when children are provided with the opportunity to engage in unstructured play activities with logs, rocks, water and plants rather than traditional play equipment. I’ve been heavily involved in redeveloping the playgrounds at my children’s primary school into nature-based play spaces.
I’m also involved with the charity Global Gardens of Peace – an Australian initiative where living landscapes will be created for children and their families suffering from trauma and devastation. The project we’re currently working on is the Garden of Hope, Khan Younis, in Gaza Strip.
Are there any little tips or ideas you would give someone with a small green space who wants maximum impact?
Use every inch of your space, both horizontal and vertical. Go crazy with climbers, choose big bold foliage and contrasting textures, add raised wicking beds to create layers and visual interest. Paint all boundary fences dark grey to make garden appear bigger. Then add plants, plants and more plants – edibles, herbs, perennials, espaliered fruit, evergreen shrubs, climbers, and small trees suitable for small spaces.
Learn more about Miniscape Projects here.
The garden of landscape designer Clea Cregan of Miniscapes. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Clea Cregan has seen many different creative careers, including graphic designer, working in film production, and making terrariums! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Clea working on drawings for a client’s garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Selecting material and plant palettes. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
‘Miniscape Projects really embraces the belief that gardens can make people happy, bring calm into their lives, and offer a powerful remedy to the stresses of modern life’, says Clea. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A very helpful bookshelf in Clea’s home office. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A lush corner of Clea’s beautiful home and garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
‘I think our gardens have a playful, relaxed and tactile feel’, says Clea. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A dense wall of creepers. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A Miniscapes garden is characterised by graphic shapes, softened by contemporary plant combinations and simple materials. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
A dewy morning in Clea’s garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Clea worked on the beautiful native garden for Sean Fennessy and Jess Lillico’s iconic Alistair Knox home, The Fisher House. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
The ‘Courtney’ courtyard was one of the first gardens Clea designed, and was nominated that year in the Houses Awards. Photo – Virginia Cummins for Miniscapes.