This charming garden complements both the home and the owners’ lifestyle
Story: Staff writer
Photos: Patrick Redmond
After many months working on the restoration of their Victorian weatherboard home, Tom and Kirsty McCarthy approached Ian Barker of Ian Barker & Associates to design their garden. The result is an extremely tranquil, loosely formal garden that superbly sets off their house but, most importantly, perfectly complements their lifestyle.
As busy professionals, Tom and Kirsty’s brief to Ian was simple: they wanted a garden where they could unwind and retreat from the busy world in which they live. They also hoped for an area full of “flavour” so they could indulge their culinary pursuits by using produce from their own backyard.
In designing the garden, Ian considered three fundamental points: the individual likes and dislikes of the owners, the style of the residence and the ambience of the surrounding area.
Kirsty expressed a special liking for the early styles of Edna Walling and Gertrude Jekyll, who produced free-flowing yet manicured gardens that subtly moved away from the English cottage garden. After gathering all relevant information, Ian set about creating what he describes as an “outdoor house”. The “house” comprises an entrance, an entertaining/dining area, a formal lawn/sitting room, an orchard/pantry and the obligatory utilities area.
The use of secondhand red bricks provided the paved areas with a soft, weathered appearance as well as a warm contrast to the white of the house. The gentle curve of the paving softens the straight angles of the McCarthy’s extension. A hedge of orange jessamine (Murraya paniculata) frames the area, allowing the loose planting of trees behind. The dimensions of the paving were kept to a minimum to ensure a private, cosy feel. In time, a white Lamarque rose (Rosa X noisettiana cv. Lamarque) will cover the verandah’s pergola, further enhancing the intimate feel of the outdoor dining room.
Leading from the entertaining area is the formal lawn and orchard. The orchard is tightly planted with a variety of fruit, citrus and nut trees. This area is underplanted with chocolate lily (Arthropodium strictum), hellebores (Helleborus sp.), irises and Austral bugle (Ajuga australis), just to name a few.
The pergola is prominently positioned in the formal lawn. The savings achieved using the secondhand bricks enabled Ian to upgrade the dimensions of the pergola. The structure provides a focal point from all aspects of the garden but is particularly spectacular when viewed from inside the house. The formality of the pergola has been softened using a white wisteria (Wisteria brachybotrys ‘Alba’) and has been underplanted with a mass of hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla).
Ian’s signature piece, the weeping maple (Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Atropurpureum’), is positioned at the corner of the entertaining area; its beauty can be enjoyed as much inside the house as outside and is seen as soon as one enters the house through the front door. Tom and Kirsty have also made their mark by placing some fanciful pieces around the garden. All this serves to make the garden their own.
The garden was opened to the public last year as part of Melbourne’s Garden DesignFest and the response was overwhelming, says Ian. Visitors were immediately impressed by its beauty, its tranquility and by its practical nature. The most interesting overall comment from those who viewed the garden was how refreshing it was to walk in a “real garden” and not an area dominated by rows of trees and hedges.
It’s important to note that, although the garden has the soft, lush appearance of the gardens of yesteryear, it is flourishing in this time of drought. Once established, the use of wetting agents and mulch meant this garden needs to be watered only once a week. The plants have been “trained” to adapt to this watering regime, sending their roots deep into the soil to extract the water they require to flower, fruit and develop.
Needless to say, the McCarthys are overjoyed with their wonderful space. Having others enjoy their sanctuary only sweetens the experience.