This large garden on a hilly rural horse property was rejuvenated over a period of ten years. The hard landscaping had been completed some years beforehand, but the planting lacked cohesion and many plants weren’t suited to their site. Overall the garden space lacked structure and peaked in spring, only to be underwhelming for much of the rest of the year. Some of the lawn areas proved life threatening to mow, and were turned over to planted beds. A full year was taken to observe the differing seasonal conditions, namely wet areas, frost-prone areas, dry ground and areas requiring wind protection.

As this property is located in a high-risk bushfire zone, large trees and shrubs adjacent to the house were removed and replaced with smaller, more fire-retardant options planted further away. Numerous standard roses obstructed the verandas; these were removed and lawn allowed to come right up to the edge, which opened up the views and allowed light into the house. Existing plants that had outgrown their location, or were unsuited to it, were removed. Plants of similar growth and maintenance requirements were grouped together.

To create structure to “hold” the garden during the long winter months, sinuous hedges of Buxus sempervirens (English Box) were created around garden beds. Looser communities of old-fashioned roses, bulbs, herbaceous perennials and grasses better suited to the cold winters and hot, dry summers were densely planted to provide seasonal flower and foliage interest. Many and varied deciduous feature trees were installed and the result is vibrant autumn colour from March through to June. Additionally, their summer foliage is a feature, the shade they cast is beneficial and many have decorative bark that is a feature particularly during the winter months.

The remainder of the property was landscaped following reconfiguration of the horse facilities. A netted orchard, raised vegetable beds, large chook yard, compost bins to utilise the copious horse manure and rainwater tanks constituted the “working” areas. An avenue of stately Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ underplanted with Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ completed the first impression on entering the property. The embankment surrounding the large spring-fed dam was planted with indigenous and other native species to provide habitat for birds and wildlife, as well as being low or no maintenance.

Frost tender plants were located on the upper slopes of the block – a citrus orchard, vegetable beds, Mediterranean species and others requiring good drainage. Long views were maximised while still screening sheds and utility areas. While the hill faces east in this area, the hot northerly summer winds hit with full force so windbreaks were also created. Seating was created right at the summit to look out over the valley to the east.

Wherever possible paths were curved, informal and orientated to maximise views and focal points. Numerous birdbaths, nest boxes and feeders were included to encourage local fauna. Species identified in the garden included Echidnas, Blue Tongue Lizards, Kangaroos and dozens of birds. Frogs bred annually on the large dam and turtles appeared every few years.

In spite of its scale two people maintained this garden for a decade. It was deliberately designed to be fully integrated and interconnected, with a closed system for organic household waste management. It is a garden that adults and children alike love to be in and gives enormous enjoyment.