Tricolour triumph

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In the beginning, it was all about the red, white and blue. The owners of this pretty Victorian home in Melbourne “love white, which is expressed in the house colour, but they also love red and used it in the rear kitchen and adjacent living area”, says garden designer Lisa Ellis.

Colour was factored into the original concept in 2011; when the planting plan was finalised two years later, “we created different zones or themes, with the red garden in the rear, and the front garden featuring mostly blue and white plantings”.

But it’s not just colours that make this 900sqm block in the city’s inner east sing. “The design concept was for a bold, romantic style of planting to play to the grandeur of the home,” Ellis says. Drama is created through the use of repeated massed plantings of old-fashioned species in bold drifts and swathes. Many are scented or good for picking, reflecting the owners’ English background.

The front garden is a careful composition of varying height and textures, blending structural mounds of Dutch box (Buxus suffruticosa) and Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) with what Ellis describes as “a more feminine whimsy” of flowering perennials such as Salvia ‘Marine Blue’, Plectranthus ecklonii and Ajuga ‘Caitlin’s Giant’. Blue flowering shrubs include Californian lilac (Ceanothus) and Chinese plumbago (Ceratostigma willmottianum).

To offset the imposing scale of the house, which sits almost 1.5m above street level, Ellis added five white crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’), which provide a tree canopy that will eventually reach 8m in height. “We use these trees a lot in our work,” she says. “They’re so obliging and offer interest in every season. Even the bark in winter is lovely.” Other white flowers include Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’, Gardenia ‘Florida’, New Zealand renga lily (Arthropodium ’Matapouri Bay’) and winter rose (Helleborus ‘Josef Lemper’).

The challenge of the back garden was to soften the high retaining walls – a consequence of the sloping site – that dominated the view to the garden from the rear living areas. Ellis created tiers of greenery by planting creeping fig (Ficus pumila) to grow up the walls, with prostrate rosemary and Parthenocissus sikkemensis tumbling from the top. “The creeping fig has been an outstanding success,” she says. “It covered the walls in just a year, sucking up the moisture at the base of the walls.”

The red garden features red daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Seeing Red’), Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandorf’ and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, whose pink flowers quickly fade to russet tones that display for months.

The house required significant renovation when the couple bought it in 2009. The garden was completed in late 2013 but growth has been buoyant since, which Ellis attributes to significant soil amelioration and ongoing fertilising and pruning.

“When a landscape designer’s work is implemented, the journey is only beginning and gardens can take seven years to mature,” she muses. “For the architect and interior designer, their work is finished and looks as good as it ever will. In this garden, I think we’re ahead of the game after just four years.”

Source & Image: The Australian