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Great ideas from Country Victoria

We found plenty of inspiration on our Ross Garden Tour of country Victoria last spring.

Here are a few of our favourite ideas – all worth including in your own garden.

Words and pictures by Robin Powell


Cruden farm cutting garden.


Flowers to pick

One of the many rewards of gardening is being able to fill the house with fresh foliage and flowers. For some gardeners this is not just a treat, but an essential part of the garden. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch certainly thought flowers for the house were indispensable so turned the kitchen garden at Cruden Farm into a mass of roses, foxgloves, dahlias and other perennials, set into the disciplined order of beds divided by straight paths. Lollipop honeysuckles stand sentinel at the corners of these beds. These plants were developed from cuttings taken from an old honeysuckle found on the farm. They have been grown on supports with the lower branches removed to reveal tough twisted trunks topped with a fragrant burst of bloom.


Chris and John Collingwood’s garden on the Mornington Peninsula


The bunches picked for the house from Cruden Farm would be a romantic mix of colours and scent with a cottage feel. A much more modern bunch would be picked from the picking garden of Chris and John Collingwood’s garden on the Mornington Peninsula, where bold colours and forms, such as bird of paradise, leucadendrons and purple smoke bush suit the modern interiors of the house.


Lambley Nursery in Central Victoria


The wonderful blooms at Lambley Nursery in Central Victoria are picked for a different purpose. Plantsman extraordinaire David Glenn grows blooms that his artist wife Cris Canning captures in her artworks. Shown here is Gladiolus communis, the Byzantine gladdie, which David has planted in drifts near cultivars of Salvia nemorosa, whose blue flowers pick up the blue tonings in the vivid gladiolus, in a way that shows that both partners in this marriage are artists, working in different mediums.


Paul Bangay’s country garden Stonefields has some facinating scultural elements


Trash and treasure

Paul Bangay’s country garden Stonefields is astonishing in its scale, attention to detail and phenomenal finish. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t great ideas for the much more humble suburban gardener. One is the way Paul has unified the colour used for all of the woodwork in the garden. Everything is painted a blue developed by Paul, ‘to bring the sky into the garden’. When the garden was first planted out, Paul told us that he had the sense that the garden was earthbound and unconnected to the sky. To bring the two spheres together he painted the features blue. Now, with the trees grown and the plantings matured, the blue still echoes the sky, as well as the blue tones used in plantings through the garden.


Clematis amid the wisteria at Stonefields


Another take-home idea from Stonefields is the clever repurposing of this wonderful sculpture. Paul says that as a teenager he hankered after an antiquity to call his own. Without the wherewithal to fund that kind of investment, he instead took the opportunity offered when the local church replaced its concrete sculpture of Jesus with something a bit more upmarket. Paul nabbed the discard, removed its head and arms, and had himself an instant antiquity, which has only gained in dignity as it has aged outdoors.


Ballarat garden designer, Kylie Rose takes a different approach to trash and treasure.


Kylie Rose, a garden designer around Ballarat, takes a different approach to trash and treasure. In her eyes everything can be put to good use and her garden is a trove of witty repurposing. Shown here is the simple arc mesh fence given a decorative turn with the use of rusted and partly-rusted cake racks. Elsewhere, Kylie has cactus in abandoned bathrooms sinks, cordylines in tin garbage cans, and a uniquely Australian version of a walled rose garden, where rusted corrugated iron forms the warmly coloured walls that backdrop Australian rose breeder Alister Clark’s best blooms.


Broughton Hall in Gippsland


Welcome pots

David Musker, the man behind the extraordinary Broughton Hall in Gippsland, is a big fan of the tradition of Welcome Pots, a stylish grouping of plants by the front door. The arrangement allows for showing off some treasures, for introducing visitors to what they might expect from the rest of the garden, and for playing with texture and colour and form in a limited area. David uses a mix of textures in the pots but keeps the colours of the plants controlled within a spectrum of white and red flowers and green foliage, highlighted with silver and purple. He changes up the display seasonally, or as the mood takes him.


David Glenn's pots at Lambley


At Lambley, David Glenn has a collection of pots dominated by the easy-care variety of succulents, with the explosive volume of euphorbias zooming into view in the spring. The colours are a lovely match with the rough-hewn bluestone and old red brick of the house.


Pots at Picardy


At Picardy, Marian Somes reminds us that a pot can be anything at all, even an old bathtub, which makes a home for a tumble of white petunia and seaside daisy by the door into the dairy.


Come with us

Robin Powell will lead a tour around regional Victoria in November, exploring some great gardens. To join her, call Ross or Royce on 1300 233 200.

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Author: Robin Powell