31 January 2014



Linda Hamilton has taken on a mammoth project.  Her farming property 'Lynbank' sits on top of a ridge overlooking the Loddon Valley.  The original owners of the farm, first established in the 1860's, planted a large European garden.  Huge old pines are a reminder of this first garden, planted around the house paddock to ward off the fierce south easterly winds.  Other tree survivors of this earlier age are the enormous walnuts, oaks, cedars, cypress and elms.  The original farmhouse was burnt down in a bushfire in the early 20th century, but these old trees survived.

Linda beside a very old walnut tree

In the early 1990's, to take advantage of the magnificent views, a mediterranean villa was built on the highest but most exposed part of the property.  This imposing building with its blue wooden shutters, large patio and sweeping driveway made a strong statement on the surrounding Australian landscape.
The house was surrounded by an Italianate garden, a European style of highly floriferous but also heavily water dependent plants.  In formal European tradition, the beds of rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas and annuals required constant watering from the dam, fed by an underground bore.

Hedges of buddleias and conifers added to the formality of the garden.

Three gardens in one: old pine trees c 1860's, fountain c 1990 softened by Linda's plantings.

Linda, quite new to gardening, knew that something was wrong- the house and garden didn't fit the landscape.  The garden needed 'opening out' to incorporate the broader and most beautiful views.
Facing this huge challenge, she undertook a course in garden design, studying Brookes, Pearson, Piet Oudolf and their Australian counterparts.

With this new knowledge and many conversations with gardening friends, Linda set out to transform the garden to meld with the Australian landscape, whilst maintaining the best features of previous gardens.  Firstly, she allowed some heavily water-dependent plants to die.  Those that survived were nurtured, along with the new plantings.  Next, she removed the buddleia hedges and some of the newer conifer plantings that obscured the broader views of the garden.  Now the beauty of the old oak tree trunks could be seen, along with glimpses of the blue hills beyond.

Opening up the landscape: An old pump and blue hills beyond
Archways and small paths create mystery

Linda has learned the joys of the bobcat.  Now straight lines are being transformed and curves are entering the landscape, reflecting the rolling hills beyond.  Removal of some mid storey plants has allowed for the development of archways over small pathways throughout the garden, adding a sense of mystery to a garden stroll.  Water dependent annuals and perrenials are gradually being replaced with swathes of poas, correas, scaevolas and other picturesque but drought hardy plants.  Stands of snow gums soften the more formal lines of their exotic counterparts.  An imposing formality has been replaced by a more intimate space.

Drought tolerant plants reduce water use

This gardening experience has been a major challenge for Linda. "I've really struggled with this garden; [with] its size and what it represented to me - materialism and Western affluence".  She learned to let go of some preconceived traditional concepts of garden design, of lines and neat edges.  She has developed 'a shared relationship' with the garden, respecting the natural ebbs and flows of its plants.  "The garden is my greatest teacher and I have discovered so much about who I am".

Central to the changes that Linda has made to her place is the the notion of sustainability.  Firstly, mindfulness of finite natural resources such as water.  Secondly the transformation of a garden which is alienated from its environment to a space that encourages local wildlife and welcomes human visitors.  And finally, as Linda explains "the garden is so big and overwhelming, it must be sustainable for me.   How can I work with the garden so that it sustains me?

There is a balancing act between changing things to reveal the spirit of the place [but at the same time] not making more work".

Linda gains immense pleasure from her garden.  She explains that a garden can " bring you really close and embrace you".  Nevertheless, there is still a great deal of work to be done.  Sustained by her family and friends, and with the help of the trusty bobcat, she is gradually transforming a beautiful but alienated garden into one that retains its beauty while fitting comfortably into its place.  It's a reciprocal relationship; Linda nurtures the garden and in turn, the garden nurtures her.

18 January 2014

Meet the gardeners


You will read about their gardening aspirations, their joys and their sorrows and how they have transformed a patch of dirt into their very own piece of paradise.

17 January 2014

Festival at Lavandula

We are surrounded by beautiful gardens in Glenlyon and District; places that provide inspiration for gardeners like us.

Lavandula is one such place.  Originally an old dairy farm in the Swiss-Italian tradition, owner Carol White has transformed it into a beautiful lavender farm.  With a very keen artistic eye, Carol has used the framework of lovely old stone buildings to create magnificent gardens that flow from this hub.

Lavender is the key feature of the gardens, surrounded by magnificent trees.

The lawns came alive with Morris Dancers during the festival, to celebrate the harvesting of the lavender.

The lavender is distilled on the property to make lavender water and lavender oil in equipment that evokes memories of earlier times.

Lavandula presents a wealth of ideas in garden design, from the flowing gardens and walk ways to the beautiful stone walls and strategically placed 'objects d'art'.  

The placement of objects can be a hazard- what looks sensational in one garden setting may look like a piece of junk in another.  

5 January 2014

Critters in the garden

Every nook and cranny at Greenlion is inhabited by critters.  And being an unrushed, contemplative and bending down sort of activity, gardening is an ideal way to find out who lives where.  Take the dam for instance (above); it's teeming with aquatic life - tadpoles, boatmen, wrigglers and the like.

Some of the aquatic critters make tasty morsels for humans and water birds, especially the yabbies.

Careful observation is rewarded with the discovery of the more elusive little creatures, as well as providing solitude.

Echidnas try to be elusive by digging themselves into the ground to protect their vulnerable underbellies.   We have a metre high rabbit proof fence around the house block to deter visitors such as hares, rabbits, wallabies and deer.  One would think that the echidnas would be inadvertently barred from the garden too, but they can climb the fence by holding on with their fierce claws.

Quite recently we discovered a new resident- the little jackie lizard.  They are amazingly bold.  This one was skipping round my feet as I worked in a very dry part of the garden.

The skinks sun themselves on rocks but with any sign of movement they head for cover.

The blue wrens are the boldest of all the birds in the garden.  They literally catch insects and worms beside our feet as we work in the garden.

At Vizsla Lak, Margret has sign posted the driveway to warn visitors that there are ducks crossing.  Come Spring and there is a constant to-ing and fro-ing from the dam to the grasslands
jumping with insects.

Of course, although insects provide great tucker for birds, they may not appeal to humans.  This spider was in a rock pool on the river.  The children initially tend to respond to spiders with fear, but we teach them about the important role of spiders in the world and they learn to treat them with respect.

However, 'To live and let live' can try the patience of Jove.

We first noticed some holes in a secluded part of the garden.  They weren't rabbit holes and we were puzzled.  Then there were more holes, then more and more and we had a problem on our hands.  The place was starting to look like a scene from 'The Great Escape'.

We asked a friend who suggested that we had bush rats.  They had spread across the garden, digging underground tunnels all over the place.  Our patience was wearing thin.  They had dug their way dangerously close to the veggie patch.

Finally, after a visit to 'Its A Trap', we caught one of the culprits with a trap baited with fresh carrots.

And this is what we caught.  Isn't he or she beautiful?  After capturing and relocating 15 bush rats to a lovely place beside the river, and well downstream, we repaired the garden.

Hopefully our furry little friends are happy in their new bush setting.