Monday, November 23, 2009


I went to visit Paul Bangay's new garden 'Stonefields' yesterday. Its only about a 45 minute drive from where I live so we set off after the rain eased at lunchtime (did I mention the rain - we had 63mm in less than 24 hours - there go the road shoulders so carefully graded last week!). Mr Bangay is well known here and overseas. One website expressed his work quite succinctly "Paul Bangay Design is internationally recognized for modern garden design and landscape architecture. The uncomplicated and structured garden design which is Paul’s signature style is featured in his many books and works. Individuality, balance, form, elegance and simplicity are key elements in his work."

So what was the garden like? As I said in an email to a friend - expertly done, well maintained, no expense spared and undoubtedly watered with gallons of water which comes from the heavens or from a tank or bore. The local paper kindly reported that Mr Bangay has installed a tank with a capacity for 250,000 litres of water. Hmmmmmm.

Stonefields is aptly named - the surrounding fields were studded with volcanic rocks. The rocks sit on top of a deep red rich volcanic loam - the type of soil where if you stick a broomstick in, it will grow. The area is known for its high rainfall and cool temperate climate. Many of the plants Mr Bangay has chosen will probably do extremely well without the addition of too much extra water. Its that sort of gardening climate. And he has installed in-line drip irrigation for all the plants which is very sensible. His plant choices reflected the current shift towards more drought tolerant plants such as sedums, bronze fennel, box, cotoneaster, privet, Portugese laurel, lambs ears, alliums, species roses and ornamental grasses which is great to see. They were all enormous well grown lush specimens and I was insanely jealous.

The view across the valley was breathtaking, the water features superb (although I did wonder a bit about all the bronze snakes), the summer houses alluring, the clipped box shapes perplexing (perhaps he likes trimming - many men seem to like cutting things...its called the Edward Scissorhands complex) the swimming pool doubling as reflecting pool/water feature quite cunning. By the way do you know about wet edge pools? A wet-edge pool is a body of water which "produces a visual effect of water extending to the horizon, vanishing, or extending to infinity". Well Mr Bangay has created at Stonefields a green-edge lawn where the lawn seemed to extend to the horizon/forest. It was very well done and didn't even need a ha-ha.

Doable in the climate where Stonefields is located and at a few other locations in Victoria, the Blue Mountains in NSW and parts of Tasmania: the combination of good soil, high rainfall and cool temperate climate makes for terrific English style gardens of herbaceous borders, large ponds, lots of trees and green lawns. However in my opinion this type of garden is not really doable in Melbourne anymore because 1. with water storages currently at 38% we simply don't have the water anymore. 2. Melbourne is not known for its good soil and 3. the climate is warming up and very few gardens stand up well to 46º C heat which is what Melbourne got to last summer. I hope everyone who visited on the weekend realised that.
Water alone does not a great garden make.

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