Have you ever walked past a beautifully manicured garden and wanted to look a little deeper to see what secrets it might reveal? Well, that’s exactly what I did this weekend at Garden DesignFest 2010.
With the gods (and every weather man) set to spoil the entire weekend, I set out with a brolly in hand to see a selection of 27 residential, rural and public garden spaces that had been designed by local garden designers and opened to the public by their gracious owners.
The Garden DesignFest, whose beginnings were fairly sombre in November 2004, has grown to become a must for those interested in garden design. At its core the festival aims to celebrate the vast range of creative abilities of landscape designers across Victoria and also provides a venue for landscape designers to showcase talent, build their industry profile and ultimately bring the gardening community together.
John Patrick, whose patronage of Garden DesignFest began in 2004, brings more than 30 years of experience to the festival, along with an exceptional enthusiasm that motivates and excites the many who attend this event every spring.
From the word go the rain dampened my clothes but not my spirits with garden No.1 setting the tone for those that followed. When I arrived designer Lachie Anderson was huddled on the front porch of his beautifully designed and perfectly maintained garden in East Melbourne. The brief for Anderson’s garden was to use existing plants; anything that was new was to be drought tolerant and comply with the heritage elements of the house.
Given the vastness of concrete that was in the rear courtyard and the relative low use, Anderson said he wanted to make something of a feature of this space with the addition of a pond, which can be seen from the large glass sitting room that surrounds it.
Every garden I visited thereafter was of an immensely high calibre, but as ever, there a few standouts and a lot to take from each garden. If we’re naming names then Mark Browning and Steve Taylor, who both designed stylish modern spaces that worked, definitely stood out.
Browning’s garden incorporated a pool and deck concept that generously captured the beautiful vista over the lush Kew hills. Interestingly, he also employs a philosophy of eco design to his gardens and encourages his clients to use a mix of hard and soft landscape treatments, which works well in this Kew residence.
Taylor’s Balwyn garden draws on his idea not to "over design" an outdoor space, and his blend of highly functional, visually stunning garden and outdoor concepts are alive and well in this showing.
Both Andrew Laidlaw for his Kinkora Road garden and Phil Straw for his garden in Alphington had plantings that blew my mind with their combination of exotics, succulents and the many drought-tolerant varieties of plants on show. It was wonderful to see them all working so well together to create such vibrancy.
Paul Bangay’s garden in Boneo Road, Flinders, was out of this world; traditional, yet perfectly accented by its spectacular cliff setting. It was a true testament to the skilful execution of blending the architecture of a house with a garden that stands alone but does not compete.
If a traditional English garden is what you consider the epitome of garden design then some of the best English-style plantings at the festival came from Robert Boyle and Jim Fogarty.
My weekend had disappeared through a blur of green and although I fell short of seeing six gardens, I had been lucky enough to see some of Melbourne's finest in the only way that a garden should be seen ... in person, breathing in all the wonderfully personal elements that a garden designer has incorporated into it.
Although Garden DesignFest has only been running for a short time I think it is by far the most relevant and enjoyable garden scheme around. With something for every age (not just the blue rinse brigade), this event is set to go from strength to strength. A must see for 2011.