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10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Australia

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10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Australia

April 3, 2019

Autumn in April is business as usual in Australia. Why have it any other way? As these gardens show, there is a liberation from being closer to the east than the north. Here are 10 modern ideas to steal from a continent unhindered by centuries-old garden traditions.

Water Conservation

A remarkably green, drought-tolerant wall of privet at Lambley Nursery serves as a serene backdrop, making the shapes and colors of individual plants become more remarkable. Shown here: Aloe ferox, with roots that don’t mind competing with those of the hedge. Photograph by Claire Takacs from Can This Garden Be Saved? &#8
Above: A remarkably green, drought-tolerant wall of privet at Lambley Nursery serves as a serene backdrop, making the shapes and colors of individual plants become more remarkable. Shown here: Aloe ferox, with roots that don’t mind competing with those of the hedge. Photograph by Claire Takacs from Can This Garden Be Saved? “It Barely Rains; I Live in a Desert.

Billabongs

Known outside of Australia as an oxbow lake, a billabong is an area of water cut off from the river flow. Filling up every year, they also dry up rather quickly, and a garden billabong can be an improved version. Surrounded by three stories of planting, a sense of enclosure is created. Incorporating billabongs into a design approach is a useful way to capture water while creating a happy ecosystem. Frogs, insects, birds, and mammals will be instantly attracted.

Sustainable Design

 A gray-water irrigation system collects water from the washing machine and showers for use in a new garden in the Melbourne suburb Toorak, designed by Grounded Gardens. For more, see Designer Visit: A Courtyard to Covet in a Modern Melbourne Garden.
Above: A gray-water irrigation system collects water from the washing machine and showers for use in a new garden in the Melbourne suburb Toorak, designed by Grounded Gardens. For more, see Designer Visit: A Courtyard to Covet in a Modern Melbourne Garden.

Sustainability is about more than recycling and zero waste; water conservation and homemade energy are incorporated into the best designs across the continent. Offset by tall trees and water, solar panels have never looked so good.

Uninhibited Floristry

Australian designer Kara Rosenlund hung a bunch of rosemary from the pendant light over her dining table and dressed the table with clippings of olive. For more, see House Call: In the Kitchen and Beyond with Kara Rosenlund.
Above: Australian designer Kara Rosenlund hung a bunch of rosemary from the pendant light over her dining table and dressed the table with clippings of olive. For more, see House Call: In the Kitchen and Beyond with Kara Rosenlund.

Without the baggage of traditional horticulture, Australian florists, flower decorators, and flower artists (call them what you will) have a freewheeling approach that is admired by people working in the same field in places like England. Australian flower people also know how to exploit their own visual opportunities, and camera talent is closely linked with floristry. See also @afloralfrenzy, @poppies_flowers, @jardinebotanic, all on Instagram.

Keep a Low Profile

Whether in the city or in the country, architecture keeps a low profile with single-story houses, like the one seen here from Kennedy Nolan (Architect Visit: An Indoor-Outdoor House in Australia), and human landscape that blends into nature&#8
Above: Whether in the city or in the country, architecture keeps a low profile with single-story houses, like the one seen here from Kennedy Nolan (Architect Visit: An Indoor-Outdoor House in Australia), and human landscape that blends into nature’s hills, forests, and coastlines.

Eucalyptus

Fondly known as gum trees, 700 species of eucalyptus provide the lofty canopy in Australian landscapes, as iconic as the middle-story tree fern. For more, see Kidnapped: The True Story of Eucalyptus.

Phoebe Dann, a Melbourne-based graphic designer, transformed a derelict shed (with her architect/product designer husband, Anthony Dann) into a compact, off-the-grid retreat, just big enough for the two of them and their baby daughter, Fleur. Photograph by Astrid Salomon from Off-the-Grid Retreat: A Homemade Cabin in Australia.
Above: Phoebe Dann, a Melbourne-based graphic designer, transformed a derelict shed (with her architect/product designer husband, Anthony Dann) into a compact, off-the-grid retreat, just big enough for the two of them and their baby daughter, Fleur. Photograph by Astrid Salomon from Off-the-Grid Retreat: A Homemade Cabin in Australia.

No Plant Too Weird

Spires of echiums, an idea borrowed from Australian gardens, pierce the foreground in front of Isabel and Julian Bannerman&#8
Above: Spires of echiums, an idea borrowed from Australian gardens, pierce the foreground in front of Isabel and Julian Bannerman’s Cornish castle walls. Photograph by Isabel Bannerman and Dunstan Baker. For more, see Required Reading: Landscape of Dreams.

With a preferred emphasis on native, local species in modern Australian gardens, things are bound to get a little unusual. Unlike the highly cosseted and not-always-convincing attempts at tropical planting in northern climes, the plant choice here is a natural partner to vitality and innovation. “We are really lucky in Australia,” says Charlie Lawler of Loose Leaf florists in Victoria. “Everything from tropical plants to alpine scrub grows here.”

Recycle and Reuse

Kara Rosenlund takes her wares on the road in Australia, where she offers up practical, well-curated, vintage items from a restored 56 Franklin Caravan. For more, see A Mobile Brocante in Australia on Remodelista.
Above: Kara Rosenlund takes her wares on the road in Australia, where she offers up practical, well-curated, vintage items from a restored 1956 Franklin Caravan. For more, see A Mobile Brocante in Australia on Remodelista.

Ikebana Influence

It is clear that Australian horticulturalists take more from their closer neighbors in Japan than they do from their colonial ties with Great Britain. The art of ikebana (and its Korean relation kokozi) is characterized by a use of living plants in arrangements, with an exploration of negative space and asymmetry.

A white anthurium floral design by Sophia Moreno Bunge from Anthuriums: Rethinking a Hotel Lobby Flower.
Above: A white anthurium floral design by Sophia Moreno Bunge from Anthuriums: Rethinking a Hotel Lobby Flower.

“We love using big-leaved plants like monstera,” says Charlie Lawler. “It easily turns any space into a jungle.” Lawler and his partner Wona Bae at Loose Leaf have turned these into monstera “chandeliers,” with the addition of fig leaf branches. Their shop and studio space in Collingwood, on the outskirts of Melbourne, is also a venue for workshops and for Wona’s weaving. She uses living material on the grand scale, creating wreaths which she could fit into several times, and nests for imaginary giant birds (or humans for that matter). Some of their creations are very small; they are all exquisite.

Tropical Jungles

Artist Wendy Whiteley rescued a run-down plot of railroad land in Sydney and turned it into a tropical paradise. For more, see Wendy&#8
Above: Artist Wendy Whiteley rescued a run-down plot of railroad land in Sydney and turned it into a tropical paradise. For more, see Wendy’s Secret Garden in Sydney.

Most of us can only dream of the huge variety of plants available to Australians, subtropical or otherwise. Here Brachychiton acerifolius, shown at left, mingles with elephant ear, or Colocasia, and the spiky Sydney native Doryanthes excelsa. The summer humidity and mild winters of the subtropics are ideal conditions in which jungly plant communities can thrive.

For more garden inspiration from Australia, see:

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on April 6, 2017.

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