Suchada Hongsananda is a woman of determination and adventure. Born in Thailand, Suchada came to Australia 45 years ago to study, majoring in music. She was an excellent student, but found the rigidity and routine of the hours and hours of practice absolutely stultifying. She gravitated to art and there she found her place.
Her appetite for gardens and the central highlands was first wetted as a student when she stayed with friends in Daylesford. She was mesmerised by the soft Autumn colours around the lake, so different to the glossy reds and greens of the tropics. A trip to Daylesford a few years later sealed her fate. A four acre property in Wheatsheaf was for sale, and immediately Suchada recognised its potential. "I could see, like a dream, that I could do that, that and that!" It was love at first sight.
Suchada knew nothing about gardens and gardening. In her homeland, apart from the differences in the climate, soil and plants, there was no role model to follow. Her family employed gardeners.
Initially she hired a horticulturalist, who started her journey. A small garden was developed beside the house. An existing dam was sculpted into a beautiful lake and gradually the garden grew.
As Suchada's confidence grew, increasingly she noticed that the ideas of those who worked for her did not fit with her vision. She took control of the design and the work within the garden. Absorbing ideas from 'Gardening Australia', observing other gardens and using her artistic talents, Suchada has created a beautiful four acre garden. She notes that "I never draw anything on paper. My eyes tell me what is to be done". She acknowledges that her training in art has heightened her powers of observation, sense of design and understanding of colour.
But the journey has not been without its pitfalls. Some plants failed. Suchada's friends would sometimes say "My God, why did you plant that?" However, using common sense and the lessons learned from trial and error, Suchada has developed a keen gardener's sensitivity. She believes that a keen observation of the plants, the soil and their environment provides the answers. "The trees seem to know- [and say] 'we will grow less because we are too crowded'". She also believes that each part of the garden has a different personality, which guides her in the choice of plants to put in that spot. This has resulted in an intriguing and very successful blending of Australian and exotic plants.
The garden has a personality all of its own; it follows its own rules.
"It's not a conservative sort of garden- no straight lines. It's rambling, disorganised, natural".
Suchada points out that when there are straight lines in a garden "you walk by, just like that, but if it bends you slow down to look".
She believes that "When you do a garden from the heart, you can feel it. There's harmony. I love it!"