Planting Dreams: Grand Garden Designs

Planting Dreams: Grand Garden Designs


CLAYTON HOLMES: It’s hard to say
what comes first. Is it just for the beauty or is it
for the botanical collection? CAROLYN ROBINSON: A garden is, to
me, the expression of my aesthetic self using plants as the medium. ROBYN GODLEE: So gardens are part
of what makes us human, really. You know, there’s a restorative
element to a garden. CHRISTINA KENNEDY:
I never thought of myself as being particularly obsessive, but I think it takes
an obsessive personality to do something like this. CRAIG BURTON: Gardens, for me,
are a place of intense cultivation. Some gardens are cultivated
for productivity. This place comes under the aesthetic. MICHAEL COOKE: I think that
a garden sort of gives us just in a primal sort of way… ..just sort of connects us
to our roots, I guess. CAROLYN ROBINSON:
Here at Eagles Bluff, because we’re slightly lower
than Tenterfield itself, 150m lower, it is warmer in the winter,
hotter in the summer. And we live
on a really dry continent. The weather at best is unpredictable, and I think it’s very important that the plants that we choose
for our gardens have a huge degree of
drought hardiness. One of the reasons
I love Eagles Bluff so much is because it is less frosty
in the winter, so I have been able to grow
many more drought-hardy plants like Australian natives. We were definitely wanting
a block of land with a river that was perhaps a little bit more wild, more quintessentially Australian. And I can still feel the excitement I felt. I was looking back down the river and I just couldn’t imagine getting
bored with looking at that view. There are two things I look at
when I’m designing a garden. The first is connecting
the garden to the house. The next really important thing is to
connect the garden to the landscape. I try and enhance views, I try and
work with the contours of the land. And shelter and shade are paramount
in our hot summers. Pete and I bought Glenrock in 1989. There was very little really
Australian home-grown at the time, so the garden at Glenrock
is very much more traditional. Glenrock was my experimental garden. I had to learn about the climate, I had to learn about the soils, I had to learn about design and I had to learn about plants. Whereas here at Eagles Bluff, the landscape is much more dominant. And with the backdrop
that I have here at Eagles Bluff, the landscape is so dramatic, it didn’t take long
to furnish a foreground for it. Probably one of the most important
aspects that I look at is the foliage – the shape, the texture, the size
and the colour particularly. Looking at our winter garden
landscape now, I realise how important
foliage colour is. And an important design premise for me is to incorporate elements
of the natural environment. Living here in Tenterfield, we have
an abundance of natural rock. And I started to feel
the need or the desire to pick up stones
and start building walls. CHRISTINA KENNEDY:
Well, we’re sitting in the garden here today
at Horse Island, which is a place on the South Coast
of New South Wales tucked in the estuary
of a big lake system, the Tuross lakes. The garden covers quite a large area – like 10 hectares. My great-great-grandfather
had a big garden nearby here, so I have that family connection. The island itself, it has
a diverse range of vistas because it’s hills and flats. There are many, many trees ranging
from the mangroves on the foreshore and the casuarinas to all the eucalypts and lots of spotty gums. Some more densely forested areas and some open areas. So anything that I did
was just an additional bonus. And I don’t claim any credit, really, for the beauty of this place, because it was beautiful
when we came here. But as we did a few things
like putting in some powerlines, it opened up vistas. I saw possibilities. I do like to do things
so that wherever you are, you can look all around you
and you can see a beautiful picture. Well, I started to use
Australian plants at the beginning, because I knew
that it was going to be easy to learn about one sort of planting. And then, when I realised what these
Australian plants were all about, I was happy to go with it. Well, we do have plant collections. The most interesting was put together
by Peter Olde, Australia’s resident
grevillea expert. I love the fact that a lot of
our beautiful plants here originated from Western Australia. MICHAEL COOKE:
So this is Wirra Willa and this is not far from home. It’s also a garden
that’s almost as old as my own, so one probably started on
25 years ago. We originally designed
a circular driveway that was very traditional. Works in with the old camellias,
the port wine magnolia and the trees that
were already there. And then from there,
there’s this amazing lake that really is the jewel
in the crown. The lake is what supports
the orchard. It’s all the irrigation
for the place. It comes down and gives us this
beautiful backdrop to everything. From the house, we’re actually able
to walk on the bank of the dam to come up into a new area
that we designed that’s got almost like a little maze
in through the front of it. From there,
there’s an area that may be sort of like a sculpture lawn. Then we can push further in
through the orchard and there’s sort of, like, this little sneaky area
in the back of the dam where the water first comes in
from the property up above. We thought this might be
a good spot to put in a boardwalk. We’ve also been sort of creating this new garden that works in
quite close to the house. So the house is connected
to a new garage bunker. It’s a more contemporary element. It feels partly submerged
because we’ve also created a garden on the roof of the garage. So we can see the dam, we can see
lots of elements of the garden just from that vantage point. The natural landscape
is so amazing here, just with the gymea lilies,
the angophoras, all the natural trees. It’s quite untouched,
the landscape itself, so the boardwalk sort of gives us
an opportunity, I guess, to see the garden from
a whole new perspective, I guess. And we don’t need to do too much. So certainly, most of my designs, compared to other designers,
are plant-based, but they’re plant-based because I’ve spent so much time
with plants themselves. I used to have a nursery in Sydney. So I used to go to people’s homes,
give them advice. And from then I sort of became
more interested in design itself. I’ve been at my own place now
for 28 years. So I used to take home
those truckloads of plants every day and wonder what I was
going to do with them. So then those lessons
that I’ve learned at home have then taught me
what to do for other people. But I think from then
I sort of developed this interest in how to make a place
work better for people. I like creating a mood, I like to create a space
that feels comfortable to be in. You know, the same as
an architect would with a home, you know, we can do
the same thing in a garden. CRAIG BURTON: This particular place, I’ve had a long association
with personally. It’s Bradleys Head,
within Sydney Harbour. It’s an important place because
there’s different layers here. The Aboriginal layers
are present everywhere. There’s layers of defence, layers of public park, layers of national park. Bradleys Head is named after
Lieutenant William Bradley from the ‘Sirius’ in the First Fleet. Its Aboriginal name is Booraghee
or Talangai – ‘watch out’ or ‘tongue’,
a tongue of land. And so it’s natural that it was
sought after as gun emplacements. On the headland,
there’s a definite contrast between the natural
and the human-made elements. That contributes
to its sense of garden, particularly within
what I call Sydney’s best open space, which is the harbour. I think people do enjoy the comfort
of seeing the city from the bush. From the design team,
as an urban garden for Sydney, being a fragment of
Sydney Harbour National Park, one can look at Bradleys Head as being a remnant piece
of indigenous flora, but parts of it are
more natural than others. And so it has the illusion
of being completely natural, but once you look at it very closely, you find that it’s
more of a construction. Well, the real impetus
for the projects came from the need to increase visitation
facilities within the national park to create a gathering place for people to watch the yachting
during the Olympics and things like that, and the first project
that was realised was the wharf area amphitheatre. And the other aspect of it
was to try and use sandstone as being harmonious with
the sandstone that’s on the site and harmonious with
the sandstone fortifications. Sea Peace is a fairly substantial property for this area, which was previously a rural
farming, grazing property. And it’s just about five minutes
drive out of Byron Bay. It’s not just
a straightforward property with regeneration of native species
or endemic species. So it’s become a bit of
a collector’s garden. It’s subtropical for the most part, but the array of species
that are here come from all over the world. So there are Madagascan plants,
African plants. When we came across Sea Peace,
it was ostensibly cleared with some gullies
that were planted with… Oh, it had some original rainforest and had been replanted
to some degree. And it’s just been quite an adventure
and a labour of love and a passion for Tony and I. The first thing is that
we’ve both been very interested in natural history and conservation. But we didn’t set out with the aim
of creating a biological ark, but that seems to be
the direction we’ve headed. And in the process, of course,
we’ve met some wonderful characters. HARRY MOULT:
We’re collecting mainly, you know,
starting with local species, but going right through
the spectrum of all the rare and endangered species
of the subtropics and tropics and then collecting trees
from overseas which in some places have actually disappeared
in their native environment. CLAYTON HOLMES: So everything’s
going to be catalogued in digital and hard copy so that in the event
that we’re all dead, someone can come and work out
what everything is. You know, to do justice to the plants and the amount of plants
that are here and the rare species. Otherwise, if no-one
knows what they are, then essentially
it’s sort of all been for nought. I started off in reafforestation. We used to just go into bits of bush that were starting to regenerate
species and take the weeds out. But now we spend a lot of our time
planting trees, maintaining the weedscape. And we’ve been doing that now
for 10 years in this session and some of the older forests
are already self-managing, so we don’t have to
go back there again. ROBYN GODLEE: I think originally,
when we acquired Sea Peace, we really weren’t thinking of
a garden per se at all. But fairly early on in the piece, we were introduced
to Lisa Hochhauser, who’s a local
landscape architect, and she was able to put together
a master plan for us which created a revision of the way
that you access the property. So we have the driveway
that you come up now which is lined by the fig trees. The positioning of the lakes
and the dams and those things that provide beautiful backdrops but also provide irrigation
for the gardens, the plantation that we have and the organic gardens –
the orchards and things like that. SUE BARNSLEY: Prince Alfred Park, for us,
was such an amazing commission. We were so lucky. It was such a joy
to work on that project. We obviously inherited
a landscape there that had been ironbark forest, and then cleared,
made to Cleveland Paddocks, and then Benjamin Backhouse
did a design in 1860 for this Intercolonial Exhibition where we had the incredible wedding
cake of the exhibition building, avenues of trees. So in some cases,
we were revisiting that work. For example,
bringing back the meadows, completing lost lines of planting. And in other cases,
we were really looking at the sustainability of this place. For example, the line of fig trees
along Cleveland Street. That whole stretch
suddenly became transformed with these lush grasses
that cut out the traffic and really contained
that edge of the park. So it’s an incredibly
eclectic landscape because, obviously,
we’ve got more playful elements and it is very much a local park,
as well as a regional park. And people come there for picnics, there’s always people
playing basketball there, people are in the pool
at the crack of dawn, there’s dog walkers and the joggers. And it’s got an incredible life
across the whole spectrum of the day. Clearly, Prince Alfred Park
demonstrates that it’s a greener city in the sense that the quality of the open space
has just improved. But I think it is
a neck-and-neck race. We need to find more open space
and we need to green it as well. So obviously a roof garden
is a direct translation of that. So this little roof garden
is a great space that generally our office is
privileged to be able to use. So it is a little oasis of green in the densest suburb
in Australia, really. So if you just need to sort of
calm down, collect yourself, there’s nothing like green
to help you do that. And Paddington Reservoir is the
most beautiful secret little spot. Not so secret, but it’s
an amazing opportunity to actually go down again into somewhere
that’s taken away from the street. It has the incredible architecture
of that reservoir, those beautiful arches, and the sense of holding
a very tranquil space where nature has actually
colonised the city. And obviously Central Park
is a new iteration of that. I guess we’re really testing
how effective green walls can be in managing climate change, in a way. The heat generation off built form. And all of these are real test cases of how urban life can actually
evolve over the next decade. TONY MAXWELL: I think it’s personal, but I love getting out in the
morning or any time of the day. And somehow this thing always
strikes you with some sort of wonder. You know, there’s a red-bellied
black snake that lives in there and I want to see that every morning. And I go out to see it every morning and I just get a great sense
of pleasure from it. SUE BARNSLEY: For me,
gardens are a link between the wild and the civilised, and it’s a way of, um… I think there’s a freedom
that comes with a garden. CHRISTINA KENNEDY:
It’s this feeling of peacefulness that you can get in a garden that is what, ultimately,
I think we’re looking for. TONY MAXWELL: It’s a very powerful
connection and it feels alive.

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