The Millenium Drought in Australia from 1995 to 2009 had a massive impact on Australian gardens, resulting in the adoption of a more appropriate style of garden design for our dry climate, especially given the future effects of climate change. These gardens are predominantly made up of low water use plants, which are adapted to drought, many of which are sold by Lambleys Nursery. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/03/08/favourite-gardens-regularly-open-to-the-public-nursery-gardens-in-victoria and http://lambley.com.au/. I have already discussed a perfect example of a Mediterranean Garden, Lixouri, in October’s post. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/09/20/favourite-private-country-gardens-part-2/.
Dry Climate and Mediterranean Gardens
141 Karoonda Highway (on Bookpurnong Tce), Loxton, South Australia 2.5 acres Ph: 0427213322 Once a quarry and the old drive-in site, Bedrock is situated in Loxton, 250 km east of Adelaide. Loxton is known as the ‘Garden Town of the Riverland’, due to its position on the Murray River, and has many low water usage, sustainable landscapes. We visited it in late October 2014 as part of the Renmark Rose Festival.
Bedrock is a magnificent grand scale garden with a tropical lush feel. Chris and Raelene Schultz developed the garden from scratch, when they bought the old drive-in site back in 2000. Hundreds of tonnes of rock and stone were used to build retaining walls and edgings, as well as a rustic stone cottage (2014) for accommodation and small functions. Recycled materials from the 1850s were used in the latter, which complements the 1923 weeping mulberry and their grandmother’s 40 year old roses. There is a pond with a cascading waterfall and waterlilies; a beautiful wisteria-covered arbour; and a sunken iris garden with an urn water feature.Everything about this garden is dramatic and bold from the entrance sign to colourful pansy and ranunculus beds and the dry creek bed and stone wall feature. There are native plantings, a fruit orchard, trees and annuals and lots of quirky locally-made animal sculptures. It will be interesting to see this relatively new garden in a few years’ time.Hill House
26-30 City View Drive, Wandana Heights, Geelong, VIC 0.4 ha (1 acre)
This is a much older garden (25 years old) on the top of the hill in Geelong, with panoramic views over the city and Port Philip Bay to the You Yangs and Melbourne. Originally a 90 year old windbreak plantation, the garden is built on a series of terraces, linked by curved hedges and stone walls. Entry is via a gatehouse structure with a shingle roof, which came from the rotunda building of the original Ceres Lookout. Recycled materials have been used extensively throughout the garden from the walls made of railway sleepers, salvaged from the South Geelong Railway renovations, and the petrified timber slab, excavated from a local quarry, under a metal tree in the south-west corner to the use of Japanese bath tubs and North Indian well buckets as plant containers and the retired band instruments hanging in the trees. This eclectic and whimsical garden has so many wonderful design ideas, which can be adapted to small gardens, courtyards and dry, shady areas. The use of Tuscan toppings, instead of lawn, saves water. Steel baskets of orchids are supported on the original pylons of the Portarlington Pier beneath the photinia hedge, while a storm-damaged cypress is used as a base for a metal flame sculpture. Other trees include: salvaged Red Gums (350 years old) on the eastern and western boundaries; Conifers; Gleditsia ‘Ruby Lace’ trees; Bottle Trees; pollarded, standardized Catalpa trees (ball-like canopy), Crepe Myrtles, Maple collections, Fiddlewoods and many palms. Bromeliads grow in the shady sheltered southern part of the garden, along with azaleas, while roses prefer the sunnier sites. There are many many pots, as well as original sculptures, and lots of unusual succulents including this strange Elephant’s Foot, Dioscorea elephantipes, which can live to 70 years old, shown in the bottom photo below.
62 Kennedy St, Castlemaine, VIC Ph (03) 5472 4202 0.25 acres
A much smaller garden in Castlemaine, Central Victoria, an area renowned for its tough climate with extreme temperatures, heavy frost and low rainfall, as well as depleted soil from goldmining days. The garden was created by Barbara Maund in 1991 and was inspired by the English Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as medieval monastery gardens. The only plants from the pre-1991 garden were a 100 year old box hedge, a large mauve lilac, a nandina thicket and belladonna lilies. The garden was started around the 1895 Victorian stucco house and is semi-formal in nature. The design displays strong structural elements from the geometric garden rooms to the hedges and topiaried plant forms (circles, arcs, balls, domes, squares and rectangles), but is softened by a patchwork of self-sown annuals, perennials and blowsy old-fashioned roses, as well as the creeping thyme along the brick paths. Local landscaping materials were used : gravel in the paths between different garden sections; old bricks contain garden compartments and create a series of circles, a shallow round pool (to reflect the moon) and the well; stone is used for stepping stones and paving; and slate for mulch , as well as iron and other recycled materials. Plants were chosen for their toughness and include perennials, succulents, iris, seasonal bulbs, roses and self-seeding plants. Many of the aromatic plants are Mediterranean in origin : lavenders, thymes and rosemary, as well as silvery artemesia, santolina and lambs’ ear, Stachys byzantinia. Very much a collector’s garden, there are 37 fragrant Heritage roses, fruit trees and over 70 self-seeding plants, all in one quarter of an acre! There are many different colour themes from the purple driveway tunnel and northern yellow borders to the central blue walk and circle and the white southern beds.I loved the bright red berries of the pyracantha, trained along wires the length of the verandah and complimented by red begonias and white wooden stars. The topiary of the Australian map outside the old shed and the square box were very impressive. There were also lots of seats in the sun, shade and shelter, from which to admire the many vistas. In late Spring, the plants are treated to home-made compost and leaf mould, while blood and bone is applied in March and August. The plants are self-mulched with clippings year round. Watering is done by hand, using water from rainwater tanks and a grey water system.When we visited Meanderings through the Australian Open Garden scheme back in April 2010, it was owned by Larraine and Jim Kollmorgen, but it has since been sold in 2014.
Coastal environments are also tough for gardeners with the salt-laden winds and sandy soils. I have already described Villa Lettisier, which protects its garden from the coastal winds coming straight off Bass Strait with huge hedges. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/09/20/favourite-private-country-gardens-part-2/. Corio Bay is much more sheltered, but still presents challenges to gardeners with strong winds, low rainfall and alkaline soil. We visited the next two gardens on the Bellarine Peninsula on the shores of Corio Bay near Geelong on the Cottage By the Sea Inc Open Day in March 2014. For the 2016 program, see: http://cottagebythesea.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/GARDENDAY2016.pdf
965 Portarlington Rd., Curlewis, VIC A beautiful coastal country garden developed from an empty paddock back in 2000 around a newly built house. Right on the shores of Corio Bay, the property has superb views of the You Yangs. While the house was being built, native trees were planted on the south-west corner of the garden to protect it from the prevailing winds. In 2001, a lawn of Santa Ana couch was laid down- a perfect choice, as it does not require watering. The large east-west garden bed was the first to be planted. I loved the vegetable garden. An original dam was converted to a small lake with rocks and plantings. A 35m deep bore was sunk in January 2007, its water feeding into the dam. Drought-tolerant plants, suited to coastal environments, were chosen and include : a rosemary hedge; a white cedar underplanted with flaxes and grasses; a Chinese elm to provide shade near the dam; an oleaster hedge on the southern fence, planted 2003 ; And a succulent garden, planted mainly from cuttings in 2010. There were also lots of interesting sculptures and wire work on display and for sale. Brambledale Farm
2115 Portarlington Rd., Drysdale, VIC
Bought by Elizabeth Vorrath in 1972, Brambledale Farm is a working farm, named after the original late 1800s cottage, which fell into disrepair and was demolished in 2009. Originally running sheep and growing crops and potatoes, the owners now agist horses and fatten cattle. A new house was built in 1974, with extensions in 1998. A stand of Tuart Gums protects the house from the harsh south-westerly winds. John Patrick designed a circular driveway with a pond, now a dry river bed. A haha wall at the front allows for uninterrupted superb views of Corio Bay and the You Yangs. A tennis court area was built in 1998, incorporating a stand of Lemon-scented Gums and two oaks, planted in 1975, including a Golden Rain Tree. A retaining wall and wide steps leading up to the house were built in 2006. This is a large well-established garden with formal and informal areas and superb plantings and combinations of colour and texture. Since the Millenium Drought of the early 2000s, the garden was replanted with hardy plants with low water requirements including : grasses and succulents; echiums and sedums; euphorbias and heleniums; kniphofias; a variety of salvias, lavenders and other sun-loving perennials; and a ground cover of Chinese Star Jasmine. Gravel replaced lawns and a new gravel garden, inspired by Michael McCoy, was built in 2008. I loved the bright sunny colours of these heleniums. I also loved the abundance, colour and variety in this garden, discovering new plants like the Castor Oil plant, Ricinus communis (photos 1 and 2); Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ (photo 4) and Jack-in-the-Pulpit or Cobra Lily, Arisaema (photo 3).Attila Kapitany
1 Lough Court Rd, Narre Warren North, VIC 0.4 ha (1 acre)
The ultimate dry climate garden, this dramatic succulent/cacti garden fully warrants its video footage, seen here at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jyfWFVHHVw and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T27q1Z6D4ko. Attila Kapitany bought this residential house block, overlooking an ornamental public lake, formerly a large farm dam, with his wife Michele back in late 2002. Attila has vast experience (over 30 years worth) growing and marketing succulents and cacti. Once director of a family business of garden centres, including Paradisia, Australia’s largest succulent and cacti nursery (http://www.paradisia.com.au/), he was a President of the Cactus and Succulent Society of Australia for 10 years (http://www.australiansucculents.com/). He has written 15 books on succulents and cacti, including seven books, co-authored with Rudolf Schulz. His book, Australian Succulent Plants, describes 100 of the 400 Australian succulent species, including 60 new species. Below is his hand-drawn mud map from our visit in March 2010.This is a very impressive, steep garden, built on terraces with garden rooms linked by paths of granitic gravel and sand. The design developed organically, rather than having a master plan, and gives the illusion of rivers of plants flowing down to the lake.The block is screened on three boundaries (top and sides) by a 3m cypress hedge of Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Castlewellan Gold’, planted from 2002 to 2003, with the front of the block left clear for the lake view. There are two holes cut in the hedge for peepholes over the garden to the lake.Water had to be carted by bucket in the first 12 months, then mains water was installed with five garden taps positioned around the perimeter. The hard, dry, impermeable, nutrient-deficient soil has been improved with loads of mulch and humus and semicircular banks of compost and soil have been created on the downside of each plant to collect water runoff from higher up the hill and prevent it from disappearing down to the dam. There are over 10 000 plants of 1000 species, all raised by Attila and Michele from seeds and cuttings, collected on their travels, except for the central Bottle Tree, Brachychiton rupestris.
There are 30 species of bottle trees, raised from seed collected from their natural Queensland habitat; blue-grey yuccas and Dasylirion wheeleri, grown from seed collected from their habitat in the desert regions of the USA; architectural agaves, gymeas (spear lilies) and aloes; a saltbush collection ; colourful ground cover succulents like aeoniums and crassulas; and plants with foliage colour and nectar -producing flowers (for birds, bees and butterflies). Seventy percent of the plants are succulents, while the rest are natives. One fifth of the plants are native to Australia. There is such an eclectic mix of shapes, patterns, textures and colours.
Height is provided by the bottle trees, the spear lilies and the White Silk Floss tree, Ceiba insignis, as well as the vertical stone installations of the Ruins. These angular basalt rock pinnacles mimic the Lost City of Northern Territory, while a patch of rusty red sand in the centre of the garden represents the Red Centre of Australia. It is well worth visiting this amazing garden, which is at its peak in late Winter/ Spring! Be advised to stay on the path though, to avoid being stung, poisoned or falling down the slope into the dam!
More information can be seen in a Garden Drum article ‘A Sucker for Succulents’ by Tim Entwhistle in 2013: http://gardendrum.com/2013/09/17/a-sucker-for-succulents/.
29-31 Bridge St., Barwon Heads, VIC 1128 m2
A much safer, much smaller garden, but equally fascinating in a totally different way ! Showcased during the Geelong Sustainable House Day in September 2014 for its retrofitting of a 1900s weatherboard beach house (including under deck water tanks between the house and the garage), it was the predominantly native garden around the old house, which really impressed us, especially as it had only been created in the last four years! I loved the recycled brick edgings; the winding gravel paths; the skillful planting for colour and texture at all times of the year in such a small space; the use of old stumps, logs and branches and rock in the landscape, as well as lots of pots and wooden half-barrels; the beautiful grasses; the blue mosaic dish and rock bird bath and the espaliered japonica on the front fence.Sustainable Gardens
21 Barnett St Hampton, Melbourne, VIC 16m x 45m
The last two gardens have focused on particular groups of plants (succulents/ cacti and Australian natives). This small suburban garden is no different, only this time it’s Mediterranean food plants! Its owner, Mark Dymiotis, hailed from Cyprus 55 years ago and bought this house with a bare garden in 1985. He has a passion for both Mediterranean food and the philosophy of Simple Living and has incorporated them both into his lifestyle and career , teaching adult education courses on vegetable growing, the Mediterranean diet, making sourdough bread and pizzas, oven building, wine making and olive preserving. It is amazing how much he can grow and produce in his tiny garden! The front garden on the street is Mediterranean cottage style and contains 3 cherry trees, 2 pomegranates, a persimmon, a grapevine pergola and a significant salvia collection, maintained by the Salvia Study Group. Mark grows salvias for their flowers, perfume, medicinal properties, drought and disease resistance and frost tolerance.
The back garden has a small lawn with two olive trees; an orchard of four varieties of plums, three varieties of apricots, two types of pears, many varieties of figs, mandarins (two varieties on the one tree), a lemon tree, a Kiwi fruit vine and another grapevine pergola; raised vegetable beds with frames; a compost heap; three large rainwater tanks; a shed (for wine making, olive preserving and making tomato sauce) and two brick wood-fired ovens for bread and pizzas. There are also two climbing roses (Lady Hillingdon and Iceberg), a mock orange, a jasmine and a honeysuckle. The raised vegetable beds are constructed with concrete and brick walls, to reduce water loss and insect nests, and are totally organic. Mark maintains high productivity with the use of compost, manure and green manure to improve the naturally sandy soil; crop rotation and companion planting: nasturtiums under the fruit trees; basil and stinging nettle in the vegetable patch; marigolds with tomatoes and zinnias with cucumbers and beans. In Summer, he grows tomatoes, capsicums and chillies; cucumbers, zucchinis and eggplants; marrows, corn and beans; and onions, purslane and amaranth. The Winter garden produces broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower; broad beans; rocket and coriander; and garlic, fennel and globe artichokes. Parsley, silver beet, celery, cos lettuce, spring onions and a huge variety of herbs are grown year round. I would highly recommend a visit to this garden, especially if you love home-grown food!
9 Camden Rd Hughesdale, Melbourne, VIC 14km SE from Melbourne CBD 0.4 ha 15m x 48m
Another very impressive, productive small garden, created by professional horticulturalist and landscape gardener, Hendrik Van Leeuwen, who bought place with his partner Nicole in 2005. Hendrik started his landscaping business, Van Leeuwen Green (http://www.vanleeuwengreen.com/) with Jake Green in 1995. They design and construct, renovate and maintain gardens, so he had plenty of experience and design knowledge to put into practice. After renovating the Californian bungalow house, Hendrik and Nicole turned their attention to the bare front and back gardens, which afforded them a blank canvas with which to work. Design features include: foliage texture, colour and form; traditional seasonal flowering events; plant zoning for similar requirements; the planting of low water use, low maintenance species, which thrive in hot, dry conditions, and aesthetic food plants (vegetables, fruit and herbs). Sustainable features include: the use of sustainable hard landscaping; rainwater harvest drip irrigation and recycled grey water; recycled red gum sleepers around the garden beds and chooks to recycle food scraps and produce poultry manure.
The formal front garden matches the design of the house and contains a front hedge of Lilly Pilly ‘Bush Christmas’ and two rectangular beds, edged with English box, containing central crab apples; Chinese Plumbago, Ceratostigma wilmottianum, echeverias and purple succulent, Aeonium arboretum ‘Schwarzkopf’; grasses and heliotrope. It has a restricted but effective colour palette, with bold massed plantings for visual effect and weed suppression and foliage contrast in colour and form.The south side of the house is cool and protected, and has the appearance of a lush tropical rainforest, with two types of Strelitzia, S. nicolai and S. reginae; clivias; native frangipani and giant liriope. All the plants were chosen for their low water requirements, longevity, toughness and ability to withstand heat waves. Away from the house as you approach the back garden are large bottlebrush trees; grasses (Poa and Pennisetum) and sedges (Lomandra); herbaceous perennials, both native (kangaroo paw) and exotic (salvias and red hot pokers). Citrus, stone fruit and a Natal plum, Carissa grandiflora, grow along the southern fence.The back garden is highly organized and productive with an organic vegetable garden, edged with railway sleepers; a chook pen; fruit trees and shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Bifold doors open out onto sustainably grown speargum decking, penetrated by a single olive tree, forming an outdoor living space. Salad greens are grown in boxes under the kitchen window for easy access and the deck is shaded by a pergola, clad with grape and kiwi fruit vines. A small bed in front of the decking contains cool climate bananas (Abyssinian banana, Ensete ventricosum), strelitzia and a bangalow palm. A low clipped rosemary hedge follows the decking near the outdoor toilet and a clipped lillypilly hedge screens the workshop and borders a small lawn, turfed with heat- and drought-tolerant Kikuya grass, which is watered with grey water. Key accent plants include a giant ornamental banana in the middle of the backyard and a lemon-scented gum at the very back.The northern boundary is planted with apple/ peach and citrus trees; mixed vegies and herbs (globe artichokes) and shrubs and perennials. The formal vegetable garden, near the chook pen, is heavily mulched with pea straw and chook manure to enrich the naturally sandy loam soil and is watered using drip irrigation and rainwater. I loved the red stems of the rainbow chard, the Russell lupins, planted for their flowers and soil nutrition, and the bamboo trellis of peas. There is also a round paved area with a fire pit (Castlemaine slate) for entertaining. There were so many inspiring ideas in this small garden! I loved its illusion of the tropics, despite the fact that it is situated in the far south of Australia. The neighbours also had a great sense of colour!Small Gardens
Marg’s Tropical Cornucopia
66 Prospect Hill Rd, Camberwell, Melbourne, VIC 45m x 20m
This garden is another wonderful, inspiring, highly productive ‘tropical’ garden in a small space, containing many semitropical plants rarely grown in Melbourne! Ian and Marg bought their 1883 house in 1984, then the neighbouring property in 2003. There are no lawns, just brickwork and paving, and the relaxation spaces have a distinctly Moroccan feel, from the outdoor dining area surrounded by bamboo to the rooftop garden and plant selection, especially the orange and pink bougainvillea ‘Tango’. In 1990, they planted casuarinas, a big figtree in the backyard, persimmons leading to the front verandah and Lamarque roses by the seat in the front fence, but the rest of the garden was planted from 2004 on, after the installation of two rainwater tanks (10 000 litres). A hydroponic vertical garden was inspired by Patrick Blanc. They even have their own beehives, which produce 30 kg honey annually, right in the heart of Melbourne!
It is hard to comprehend the amazing variety and number of plants in this tiny garden : over seventy food-producing plants, forty different fruit trees and hundreds of medicinal herbs and perfumed plants, reflecting Marg’s background as a cosmetic chemist. Food plants include: three different types of avocado, seven types of banana, three fig varieties and three different grapes, apricots and other pome trees, limes, guavas, a persimmon, a pomegranate, and a huge variety of tropical fruit trees like black/green sapotes, custard apples, mango, mountain pawpaw, jabotica and the delicious-sounding icecream bean! There are bottle trees, candlenuts, plants with red/black and variegated foliage, cannas and bougainvilleas for colour, giant bamboo for sound and many many succulents for their hardiness, architectural structure and Winter colour.
Marg has achieved her incredible success by incorporating organic matter and weathered granitic sand, rich in volcanic nutrients and sourced from Dromana, into the sandy topsoil, as well as using her own foliar spray, Marg’s Magic Mix, a concentrate made from plant, fish and mineral sources, which is diluted and then sprayed on the plants.
5 Tavistock Rd, Monbulk, VIC 0.2 ha (0.5 acres)
Another garden packed with interesting plants and valuable ideas for small gardens, The Nook is situated at Monbulk, the centre for the horticultural industry in Victoria, especially flowers, which are exported all over the world and berries for jam making, and the 1920s cottage is part of that legacy, having once been owned by fruit pickers. Val and Don Jackson extended and refurbished the house after they bought the block in 1999. Don was a contemporary fellow horticulturalist of Edna Walling, the association marked by the planting of three silver birches, Edna’s signature plants, at the entrance. The design of the romantic English cottage style garden owes much to Don’s efforts, but sadly he passed away in 2007 and the garden became Val’s therapy. Design elements include: arches, trellises and arbours, covered with roses and clematis; meandering brick paths, steps and paving; a small bridge to a rose garden; a secret garden; an alpine rock garden; a borrowed landscape of the neighbour’s chestnut trees; distinct microclimates; and separate areas to suit plants with different growing conditions. Azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas, cyclamens, cliveas and hellebores are grouped in the shade of mature walnut trees and a hazelnuts, while roses, succulents and vegetables are in the sunnier parts of the garden. I loved the herbaceous borders, filled with so many lovely cottage plants like foxgloves, delphiniums and salvias. Roses include: Mutabilis; Pink Perpetué; Clair Matin; Lavender Lassie; Paul Transom; and Graham Thomas , while Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’ and C. montana ‘Tetrarose’ cover the walkway. There are fuchsias and pieris; cordylines and ferns; many succulents; unusual evergreen plants like the aromatic Adenandra from South Africa and the burgundy Chinese Fringe Flower, Loropetalum chinense ‘Roseum’; and interesting bulbs like Hoop Petticoat daffodils and tuberous plants like Rhodohypoxis, which were new to me.