Established in 1999 Sam Cox Landscape is a design and construction practice based in Melbourne, Australia.
Sam Cox Landscape designs and builds native gardens in the Australian natural style pioneered by Melbourne designers Edna Walling, Ellis ‘Rocky’ Stones and Gordon Ford. Located in Melbourne’s northeast, we maintain a small, specialised team that pulls together all aspects of our projects. Our design approach is suitable for contemporary and traditional contexts, and we welcome enquiries for projects in urban and rural settings.
There is an enduring, understated beauty in a naturalistic bush garden. All our landscapes are based on carefully honed techniques of rock placement, earth shaping and layered native plantings. We seek to reinstate a sense of place that connects to the wider environment through restrained design, while bringing Australian nature’s sensory elements into proximity with daily routines.
We work in the natural style utilising native plants and local materials to bring the essence of the Australian bush into the everyday lives of our clients.
Our team’s passion for naturalistic design is inspired by the legacy of Gordon Ford, Sam’s mentor from 1996-1999. Ford was in the final years of his practice and the pre-eminent figure in developing the ‘Australian natural style’ over five decades.
While the principles and techniques originated from his friend and colleague Ellis Stones in the early 1950s, Ford’s practice was informed by his deep exploration of naturalistic design’s philosophical and historical roots. The 18th Century landscape school, the cottage garden movement and traditional Japanese garden culture emphasised asymmetry as a principle reflected in nature. Ford instinctively drew from these traditions, reinterpreting them for the Australian context when broad cultural shifts began to embrace the once-maligned bush.
Ford refined his practice around concepts such as mass and void and non-defined boundaries while eliminating the perception of man-made elements, creating timeless bush gardens with a sense of place.
Our practice is committed to continuing Gordon Ford’s design legacy while improving the resilience of our landscapes in response to changing environmental conditions and the effects of global warming. Our hands-on practice of design and construction provides us with the direct feedback necessary for such adaptation. This extends to improving our literacy and knowledge of indigenous plant species and their place in the landscape for future generations to cherish.
Our work in the natural style is based on the integration of design and construction. Since Sam’s beginnings with Gordon Ford, the expectation of designing with drawn plans has become the norm. While concept designs are an important, if not necessary, part of our process, we maintain that two-dimensional documents are no substitute for our team’s sympathetically applied techniques throughout the construction process. We work with our clients on the proviso that we design and build all our landscapes.
- We assess your project in reference to design considerations, location, and timeframe expectations.
- Onsite consultation with Sam to walk through, discuss design and consider budget limitations.
- An indicative budget is prepared based on the consultation. If accepted, we develop a concept plan.
- Upon delivery of the concept plan, a 5% deposit is due, and we schedule an approximate start date for landscape construction.
- A further 25% deposit is due seven days before works commence.
- Progress payments and final invoicing are detailed depending on the scale of the project.
Design fees are incorporated into the overall project budget. Our agreement with you is that all design documentation remains the property of Sam Cox Landscape until the completion of the project.
We do not prepare design concepts or plans for others to build.
We maintain a small but highly skilled team with decades of experience in naturalistic landscape construction.
Sam grew up in central Victoria with a deep affiliation for the natural environment. Leaving school, he travelled overseas, dabbling in eco-tourism, farm work and national park maintenance. Upon his return, he had an opportunity to meet Gordon Ford at his Eltham garden, where they discussed his style of landscaping at length. Gordon offered Sam a few weeks of work experience while he waited to begin studying at Burnley Horticultural College. Work experience soon became full-time work, which continued until Gordon passed away in 1999.
In developing his practice, Sam has endeavoured to maintain the integrity and approach of his mentor. He takes every opportunity to increase awareness of the naturalistic landscape school, bringing a wealth of creative purpose to his life. Sam was a keynote speaker at the Australian Landscape Conference in 2018 and contributed to the 2023 conference with the opening of the Wildcoast Garden in Portsea. Sam works on numerous projects in collaboration with leading Australian architects, and his work features regularly in both national and international publications. A renewed enthusiasm for native gardens heartens him, and he encourages landscape design students to study the local design tradition Ellis Stones and Gordon Ford pioneered.
To achieve a happy work-life balance Sam takes time off for family, fly fishing, hiking and spending time at his shack in Northeast Tasmania.
As with my beginnings with Ellis Stones, Sam has also found his life’s work.
Gordon Ford — ‘The Natural Australian Garden’
The SCL team in 2023
Jim grew up in Eltham, surrounded by native gardens. He was the last to undertake work experience with Gordon Ford (in 1996), and he maintained ‘Fülling’, Gordon Ford’s Eltham garden, with Gwen Ford until she passed away in 2012. Jim studied horticulture at Burnley while still working in the industry and rejoined our team in 2005. An experienced machinery operator and with a natural eye for detail, Jim is highly proficient in the techniques we practice. Jim spends his weekends renovating and landscaping his splendid bush property with his partner and daughter.
Dean contributed to our projects as a subcontractor for many years before he joined us as a full-time crew member in 2015. His background speciality is paving and stonemasonry and he has 25 years experience in the landscape industry. His use of stone and natural slate materials is to the highest levels of artistry. Dean enjoys time with his partner and kids when he’s not working, touring on his Harley Davidson and creating fine home brews.
Callum introduced himself to us in 2018 when he shifted from Architecture to Landscape Architecture at Melbourne University. While completing his studies, Callum worked part-time as a design assistant and on our construction team. This range of experience has given him an invaluable skill set and understanding of the natural style we work in. After graduating with a degree in Landscape Architecture, Cal took a year off remote touring in the Australian outback with his partner. We welcomed him back in 2023 to the new role of operations manager.
Hudson was studying at RMIT when he joined us for a stint of work experience in 2022. Originating from East Gippsland, with a love for surfing and nature, Hudson was drawn toward a more hands-on career, and it was an easy transition for him to work outdoors in the environment. Taking on an apprenticeship in 2023, he is focused on developing skills in all aspects of hard landscaping and enjoys learning about using indigenous and native plants. During weekends, you’ll find him riding the waves and enjoying quality moments with mates and family.
Harrison is the newest member of our construction team and signed on as an apprentice in 2023. He grew up on a farm in regional Victoria and moved to Melbourne to undertake University studies. His aptitude for being active and working outdoors has led him to pursue a career in landscaping where he finds enjoyment and job satisfaction.