Design Garden

by | Apr 7, 2016 | Design, In the Garden

I have been thinking about our garden design for months. I studied Horticulture at Burnley and completed three wonderful subjects which opened my mind to a broader variety of plants.

For a long time Indigenous plants had been my biggest focus and now it is a focus I am trying to hold onto while simultaneously opening myself up to new plants. Our new garden is effectively 15 acres giving me the opportunity to do almost everything I have ever dreamed of.

At present the planting strategy has three distinct garden themes:

Theme 1: productive fruit , vegetables and herbs;

Theme 2: ornamentals, cut flowers and flowers for bees;

Theme 3: habitat plantings, shelter belts and grassland revegetation.

I have so far planted about 150 indigenous trees, shrubs and sedges along the perimeter of our wetland. All of them have survived the summer, due to heavy mulch and watering.

We have planted a few oaks to the north as wind breaks, and three figs that we transplanted from our city home. I took cuttings of Parthenocissus quinquefolia and planted it along the shed facade and Ficus pumila against the rendered walls of the guest house. I want vegetation on all our walls.

Apart from these plantings little else has been done and this is because:

  1. There are still many top soil mounds to be moved into the areas that are to be planted and these mounds are massive and difficult to manage without many hands or a small tractor. Many hands would be great and more greenhouse friendly but we are not as yet ready to offer accommodation and meals in exchange for work needed.
  2. I want to explore a range of ideas before I begin committing to buying plants and planting;
  3. I am wanting to access tube stock as much as possible as it is so much cheaper ($1.50 per plant instead of $20 -$50), but to do so I need to prep a minimum order of between 250 -400 plants as wholesale nurseries don’t accept orders smaller than that and each plant needs a minimum order of between 20-26 plants (1/2 tray) and while this sounds simple enough every nursery specialises in different plants, so I might want 20 Quinces and add that to my order but if they don’t stock fruit trees then I have to approach a different nursery and as the next nursery also wants a minimum order of hundreds of plants then it all becomes a bit tricky.
  4. I want the garden to be really wonderful but at a low cost and with minimum landscaping;
  5. I enjoy so many different styles of gardens: from wild flower meadows, to native shrubs and trees, to grassland gardens, formal and with a dash of topiary added kind of gardens, that I am struggling to find my own voice. I am also afraid of doing something really boring, or lacking in imagination and hence at times I am paralysed by these thoughts.

I have done a simple sketch of the piazza garden paths. I am strangely stuck on which hedge to use. And whether to enliven the hedge with Dwarf Snow Gums with their twisted trunks, or to colour it with Leptospermum scoparium and it’s Manuka honey producing flowers.

And what of the playful elements? I have always loved the Ian Potter Children’s garden and its magical realism. The Brachychiton rupestris entrance immediately invites you to have fun, to bend and twist, climb and hide.

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Brachychiton rupestris at the Ian Potter Children’s garden.

A face inviting and cheeky on the Brachyscome.

A face inviting and cheeky on the Brachychiton bark.

Climbing holds on Brachychiton branches.

Climbing holds on Brachychiton branches.

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Brachychiton flowers.

The Muehlenbeckia complexa figures at the gate promptly bring a smile and the Banksia pods send me straight into the world of May Gibb’s Banksia Men.


Muehlenbeckia complexa.

Muehlenbeckia complexa.

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Banksia pods.

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Melaleuca quinquenervia tunnel in the Ian Potter Children’s garden.

Last year Artemisia and I rode our bike through the streets of Daylesford and captured photos of hedges, vines and topiary balls.



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Ivy wall.

Topiary balls.

Topiary balls: Teucrium fruticans

And what of the vegetable garden. A recent visit to the Lambley Nursery in Ascot Victoria only a 20 min drive from our home revealed perfect raised garden beds for growing vegetables with crumbly chocolate soil, and Clematis towers to add texture, colour and height.

Lambley kitchen garden.

Lambley kitchen garden.

Plant naming tags on soil with perfect tilth!

Lambley. Plant naming tags on soil with perfect tilth!

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Lambley. Bay Tree.

Clematis towers.

Lambley. Clematis towers.

Bubbling frothy colours, like champagne spills.

Lambley. Bubbling frothy colours, like champagne spills.

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Lambley. Texture, colour, architectural form.

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Lambley. Kitchen garden entrance with two stately laurel trees marking the threshold.

The vegetable garden entrance was landmarked by Laurus nobilis (Bay Tree) and the central path was showered with Salvia azurea ‘Grandiflora’. There was beauty and colour everywhere. I walked away from this garden thinking’ I need more colour’, I walked into my neighbours garden and thought ‘I need less colour’ At some point I’m just going to have to stop visiting gardens, stop being so blooming inspired by other peoples work and piece together something of my own, because I also know that whatever I end up doing will be inevitably beautiful! (I hope so).

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My neighbour’s garden beautifully planted with Miscanthus sinensis. One colour creating a luxurious silky landscape.

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Miscanthus seed head detail.

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Weeps in the wind.

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A grassland garden…












  1. Mim

    Inspiring, as always Mara. Thankyou and I hope to visit soon mim xxx

    • Mara

      thank you Mim, nice to see your beautiful work on Instagram! Love visits. mara

  2. Ruth

    I can relate to your dilemma and I only have a quarter acre suburban block – 15 acres provides so many more options and therefore decisions of what to plant! Over the fifteen years we have been living here our garden has morphed from a typical northern suburbs garden with roses, camillias and fuchsias to a more eclectic mix of the original, a wattle and eucalyptus trees out front offering their shade and protection to geranium cuttings collected by my mother and assorted native understory plants. And a few succulents to add some brightness on sunny days. Sometimes I feel like I should have created a much more interesting garden after all of these years as it looks a bit disheveled however I know each and every plant and love them all equally. And every so often a passerby stops and tells me they love our garden so I should probably just accept that it is lovable just as it is.

    • Mara

      I really like your words ‘I should probably just accept that it is lovable just as it is’ it really made me smile. Can you tell me more about the morphing…what has prompted the changes that have happened in your garden?From Camellias and fuchsias to the more eclectic?


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