This is a thirty-acre equestrian property situated on the flat, exposed country of West Gippsland. The residence is located near the front entrance, with extensive paddocks to the rear and sheds and riding arena to the north. Apart from the occasional tree in the paddocks there is no significant vegetation of any note; the house is the tallest feature.
The residence is a classic single storey Harkaway home comprising weatherboard and iron construction, verandas all around and large windows and French doors. There is an existing pool, rough driveway and parking area. Neighbouring properties are in full view to either side and, while not close by, the client would like these screened off. There are long views to low hills to the west, which she would like to preserve. The property is buffeted by strong winds in all seasons; hot north westerlies in summer and cold south westerlies in winter. Windbreaks are going to be an important aspect of this garden’s success. The soils comprise rich clay loams over reactive clay with good water holding capacity. In places the ground is subject to minor inundation in winter. Drainage channels throughout the property direct localised floodwaters into Western Port Bay.
The client’s brief is for a lush, voluptuous garden that will provide copious cutting material for indoors, both flowers and foliage. Her upbringing in the high country has fostered her love of plants such as Maples, Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas, Roses, Peonies, bulbs and wildflowers. She wants structural hedging, formality mingling with riotous overgrowth, and a productive yet beautiful vegetable garden. She has a stockpile of rustic garden ephemera to incorporate into her new garden.
The process began with establishing windbreaks. Layered plantings of both deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs have been established to screen neighbours and provide shelter for the gardens to follow. These were planted in the first year and are growing well.
The design process itself began with identifying the axes for paths so that views were maximised and garden “rooms” created. Major axes are supported by minor ones, and the resultant traffic flow is logical and practical, enabling the entire garden to be accessed. The garden will reveal itself gradually; a drawback of very flat sites is that, unless visual barriers are introduced, the garden is in full view all at once. Permeable surfaces will be used for water absorption into the subsoil while maintaining dry footing. The auditory aspect of “crunching” through gravel is an added bonus.
There are several outbuildings on the client’s wish list, namely a pool house, alfresco area, loggia, and a garage. These will be sited with regard given to house and pool access, street entry and prevailing weather. They will be built in the same style as the house, which is receiving a paint makeover later this year to incorporate neutral greys with white trim.
A 15m long rustic timber arbour is the centrepiece of the garden and will be clothed in perfumed Wisteria, roses and seasonal climbers such as sweet peas. It will created shade and protected spaces for tender perennials, seating and is orientated to direct the view out to the paddocks and grazing horses.
A large area is given over to multiple raised vegetable beds and will be sheltered to the north by a row of Columnar Crabapples and berry trellis. A small orchard to the west takes full advantage of the sunny aspect and will contribute to the windbreaks when established. On the other side of the vegetable beds, a chook yard and compost bins complete the productive areas.
The gardens immediately around the house are to be devoted to informal hedges, expanses of the deliciously scented Rosa “Red Intuition” and R. “Pink Intuition” and dense plantings of hardy, insect-attracting perennials and grasses. Select deciduous trees will help “anchor” the house into its site. A low stone wall running along the front of the house similarly beds the house into its surrounds.
This project is a long-term prospect and will unfold in stages. To have a client who is so passionate about her garden and who understands how practicality can dovetail with beauty is a gift to me.