Category Archive: Gardens

Kitagawa Village “Monet’s Garden” Japan.

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs.

I have been very fortunate over the years to explore many gardens throughout Japan. This was my seventh time to Japan and you would think after this many visits that I would have seen it all. But the wonderful thing about the gardens, parks and landscapes in Japan is that they are always breathtakingly beautiful. You can never get tired looking at the scenery in this part of the world. However, on this trip I wanted to stay further away from the big bustling cities. I hid in small mountainous town surrounded by stunning views and sapphire rivers; this town is called Otoyo-Cho which is located in Nagaoka District, Kochi Prefecture.

During my time in Otoyo I spent a lot of my time adventuring out on long day drives to explore temples, shrines and a few gardens. One of the most memorable gardens I visited was in Kitagawa Village called ‘Monet’s Garden’. This garden was a 3 hour drive from where I was staying, and after a long car drive I was excited to get out and explore.

These gardens have been inspired and designed to recreate Monet’s “Water Lilies” garden. The water lilies are the star in many of his famous paintings. The large pond is the main attraction which draws gardeners from all across Japan to come visit. The colourful blooms of the water lilies sit proudly atop of the water surface, which are best viewed during the day before the flowers close in the evening. The gardens sit nestled amongst the mountains and the rolling hills add another layer to the romantic and tranquil atmosphere of this garden.

Every garden-bed border was smothered in colourful blooms such as Viola, Sweat Pea, Oenothera, Achillea, Poppies and many more amazing plants! The Hippeastrums flowers were the size of dinner plates and the vibrancy of the flowers were unbelievable! If you find yourself in this part of the world I would highly recommend taking the time to take a look at this garden and take in the beautiful scenery.

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs – the Gardeners Notebook

“Wild At Heart” wins 1st prize in Boutique Garden Competition

Emmaline Bowman is one of the new generation of Landscape Designers. A woman brought up in the Gippsland countryside, Emmaline practices what she preaches. Her belief in using native plants was seen first hand in this years Melbourne International Flower & Garden  Show where she won first prize in the Boutique Garden Competition. Now her company, Stem Landscape Architecture & Design is now going to be in high demand, to create more of her wonderful gardens.

The garden Emmaline designed was all about bringing nature into your own backyard. We can all have our own little piece of nature, no matter how small our garden is. It’s not just about using native plants, although that’s a good start. It is about creating a habitat, and this might include water, little home for insects and the acceptance that insects, birds, and animals are all a part of it.

The garden was aptly named, “Wild At Heart” To enter this competition, the garden had to be 5m x 5m in size. It was a beautiful garden that expressed itself well. It was also well built (all above ground) and was judged to be the best in its category. One of the features was a vertical garden of water plants running into a pond.

Here is what Emmaline’s submission said about the garden:

‘Wild at Heart’ is a garden designed to integrate Australia’s native flora and fauna into a retreat for people to unwind and reconnect with nature. It is a conservation project bringing Australia’s unique natural environment into urban backyards; unifying rehabilitation with the opportunity for people to once again experience nature in everyday life.

Working as a system, it is a place where water naturally cools the air as it trickles down a planted wall into a pond that winds down past the recycled timber deck and where native frogs provide a wonderful symphony of melodic tunes amongst the flowering water plants. It is where misshapen stones and boulders provide homes for skinks and geckos to feast on the insects that are drawn into the garden, and where native bees and insects pollinate the numerous native flowers and edible plants.

This garden provides a space where one can step back into nature, away from the harsh sounds, smells and bustle of city and urban life, to a place where nature works effortlessly. Children can observe and discover Earths own creations as children did in years past. It is a place that allows you to unwind as you relax on a suspended day bed with a beverage and your favourite book.

Gardenworld was proud to provide plants towards this project. Lotus Watergardens also provided the murray river rainbows – a small native fish that lived in the pond.

Link: Stem Landscape Architecture & Design

A unique garden in Camberwell.

By James Wall.

This morning we were thrilled to visit an open garden in Camberwell, an inner suburb of Melbourne. I think the houses are Edwardian in the area and most of them seem beautifully restored. This house’s owner, Natalie had also created a beautiful garden.

Carex grass adds an interesting dimension to the perennial border

Verbena bonariensis was a highlight

The design was inspired by English garden designer Dan Pearson and included hazy drifts of summer flowering perennials combined with swathes of ornamental grasses and with some deciduous trees dotted around. The combination of flowers and grasses certainly created a great contrast of foliage and structure.

Miscanthus sinensis "Flamingo"

The front garden was built first. It creates a mature look, befitting of the street. Once inside on the front lawn, the plants really blend well but at the same time stand out individually as heroes. I felt welcome, but not overwhelmed.

Love the pavers and the Gingko biloba trees.

 Kay Paris magnolia, buxus balls and blue heliotrope.

Kay Paris magnolia, buxus balls and blue heliotrope.

Ficus hillii makes a great backdrop.

Hydrangea quercifolia

Native violet - Viola hederacea

olives on left and lemons on right

The backyard was a family orientated area. There were vegies in concrete pipes, amazing espaliered olives and lemons and also a pool.  The original pool was plonked right in the middle of the garden, where the fescue lawn now is. with requirements of pool fences these days, it would have been such a waste of space. The good thing about removing the pool was that 2 x 12,500 litre concrete water tanks were put in its place, enough to water the garden and top up the new pool, which is on the edge of the block – much more sensible.

It was an awesome garden to visit and Natalie has great vision. Enjoy some of the photos below, and hopefully you get some inspiration for a little piece of your garden……

Funky Forest Pansy

Oregano used between paving.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' and Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Acer-x-freemanii 'Autumn Blaze'

Creeping Thyme

Asparagus meyeri as the hero.

Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' from the street.

What a cool piece of climbing !

A landscaper’s garden.

By James Wall.

After doing a couple of deliveries this morning, I realised that I was right near one of the gardens in this years Garden Designfest – a bi-annual event held by the Rotary Club to raise money for charity.

The idea of the event is for Landscape Designers to showcase particular gardens that they have designed and arranged to be built. It is a great for the sharing of ideas and results in the creation of trends. Most importantly, it showcases great ways to utilise plants.

The garden belonged to Mark Pedley, owner of Ingardens Landscaping. Existing trees on the property dating back to the 1930s dictated the design which includes simple curves which soften the area, along with a large bluestone entertaining area, a small lawn and a formal pond which was lovely and clean.


One of the flowering plants that was used frequently were the Lychnis, which Mark said go well for about 3 years or so. They certainly looked healthy right now, with their silvery foliage and pink flowers; also some were white.

Westringia background, pink lychnis and yellow heuchera

The giant pruned balls of westringia did not look out of place, and complimented the rest of the plantings well. Another impressive background plant was the smokebush at the end of the garden. It has enjoyed Melbourne’s long cold winter and is at it’s peak.

smokebush in background

The pond looked simple but elegant. It was exceptionally clean which Mark said was easy with the filtration system hidden in the garden which involves the process of running the water through the UV system.

In the smallish backyard, there were some impressive olive trees with commanding trunks. Also impressive was the row of Cupressis that were a very effective screening along the boundary, but also situated in a very narrow garden bed. Mark said the secret was to plant them much less than a metre apart. It was certainly a nice change from lily pillies, in which few varieties would have stayed this narrow.

All in all, this garden was a nice place to be and with a little more growth in the next few years, it will be even better, and owner Mark should be even prouder.

Paul Bangay’s Stonefields

By Tim White.

Having booked tickets to see Paul Bangay’s “Stonefields” garden in support of Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Foundation (a not-for-profit charity that delivers food education to Australian children) a couple of months ago, we were looking forward to seeing this magnificent garden and hoping the weather would be kind to us. Fortunately we encountered a perfect day that was neither too hot nor raining and were able to enjoy the garden which is not usually open during Autumn. This meant we were able to see the beautiful trees transforming through their magnificent Autumn colours before they headed to their winter dormancy.

The land for Stonefields was purchased in 2003 and the villa and gardens completed in 2006. The design of the villa ensures that there are plenty of views of the exquisite gardens and beautiful Macedon Ranges through the use of terracing of the sloping property. The garden is surrounded by magnificent Manna Gums (Eucalyptus viminalis) up to 400 years old and blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) providing a wonderful backdrop to the enclosed garden once you are inside it.

The garden is divided into different rooms, each with its own theme but linked to the others with repeated shapes or plants. Hedges of Ligustrum vulgare (common privet), Crataegus (hawthorn), Prunus lusitanica (Portuguese laurel) and x Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland cypress) form the green walls of the rooms and these are meticulously trimmed by a full time gardener.

Walking through the entrance to the garden you first encounter a secluded courtyard the centrepiece of which is a square pond with a clipped box hedge in the middle. From there your eye is drawn to a perfectly circular hole in the hedge on the opposite wall that gives you glimpses of the villa enticing you to see what lies beyond.

The Blue Borders garden is just that – a beautifully laid out garden with blue flowered perennials framed with box hedge. Through the centre of the paving that steps down through terraces runs a simple stream that is interrupted by several snake sculptures spitting water, created by Melbourne based artist Ivana Perkins. This guides your eye to the front door of the villa which has snake door handles to complete the theme.

The tulip parterres garden is amazing with the precision and intricacy of the box hedging. This along with the rest of the garden changes with the seasons and would take on a completely different appearance at different times of the year – the tulips planted in this garden are dormant at the moment. Stonefields is a garden you could visit often and be surprised at the seasonal transformations and its changing appearance.

Other garden “rooms” at Stonefields include the Apple Walk, Rose Garden, Herb Garden, Veggie Garden and Pool Garden. If you get the chance and it opens again next time, I would highly recommend a trip out to Stonefields which is in Denver, about 80mins from Melbourne not far from Kyneton.

How to present the garden when selling property.

By James Wall.

Selling property is one of the biggest changes you will make in life. Whether it be the home you live in or an investment property, the main aim is to sell it for as much as possible.

Whilst many vendors are keen to de-clutter the house, employ a stylist and even hire furniture – not as many think about the garden and the value it can provide. The day comes to take the photos for the glossy brochures and that’s when any glaring omissions in the garden become plainly obvious.

When someone sees your property online, or they drive past, first impressions are important. Overgrown plants, weeds and empty pots can be a turn-off, and therefore one less potential buyer who may decide to take a look. Conversely, it can be another bargaining chip for an investor who just wants to hammer you for the lowest price, so they can make all the upside.

The investment required to to improve your garden quickly is minimal. Obviously a smaller courtyard garden is going to be easy to make a big difference, but even a large garden can undergo simple cosmetic changes and have great effect.

Here is a simple guide as to what a small budget would cost in terms of a percentage of sales:

Sell a property for 500,000 and spending $1000 on the garden is 0.2 percent of the sale

Sell a property for 750,000 and spending $1000 on the garden is 0.13 percent of the sale

Sell a property for 1 mill and spending $2000 on the garden is 0.2 percent of the sale

Sell a property for 1.5 million and spending $2000 on the garden is 0.13 percent of the sale.

Obviously, if you do the work yourself and spend the money on plants and materials, the effect will be even greater.

The reason I point these numbers out is that many people come into a nursery and want to tizzy up the garden for sale by spending just $300 or $400. They usually buy plants that are too small for the job and only half do the job.

Chinese Star Jasmine greets perspective buyers.


– Don’t necessarily come in with a pre-determined list – be flexible and consider alternatives if they are looking better. Often there are plants in season that are at there peak. Choose what is looking good.

– Include some flowering plants, especially for the front. This helps with that cheery feel – but don’t overdo it. Remember you can usually use plants in full flower as the campaign will usually only be for six weeks. Buy them in larger pots and expect to pay $15 each for some good ones.

– Use plants in larger pots – minimum 20cm diameter pots. Some bigger plants may cost $50 and a larger feature specimen may cost $150, buy this can still fit in a $1000 budget.

– Tell the nursery people what you are doing and ask if there are any larger type plants that are on special at the moment. Some things just give better bang for bucks.

– Mulching around plants with a natural coloured pine bark mulch can really finish off the look of freshly planted plants quite nicely. Up to 10 bags buy at a nursery but for bigger gardens consider getting a bulk load delivered for better value.

– Replace shabby plants in  pots that can’t be resurrected. This goes for herb gardens and vegetable gardens. If they look ordinary, you are not selling the dream. Advanced herbs are easy to get for between 7 and $15 but advanced vegetables are sometimes a bit harder to get. In warmer months lettuce grows very quickly and can be sourced in extra large cell punnets for around $10. Those 6 plants will grow surprisingly quickly and add to the effect.


If you are not a gardener, start thinking like a gardener. Walk the whole property with a pair of secatuers and cut off any yellowing or dead leaves. It might just be 3 dead fronds off a tree fern, or a few yellow leaves on a hedge that dried out once or twice over summer. You want everything to look green. If you have enough time, apply liquid feed to your garden or throw down some fast acting granular fertiliser, but obviously not slow release fertiliser that will just take too long to react.

Dead head flowers that look finished or damaged. This will encourage new flowers. Strip old leaves off the bottom of agaves and cordylines.

Remove weeds.

Prune back big overgrown shrubs, especially in small gardens where you want to promote a sense of space.

Mow the lawn regularly but don’t cut too hard as this loses that luscious lawn look that we want.

Sweep or blow paths


This is where most people get it wrong. Plants that have only recently been planted need regular watering. If you are not living at the property, you will need to check the watering at least 3 times per week – more in hot weather.

Water at the base of flowering plants so as not to wet the flowers. The flowers will then last twice as long.

Sweeping, raking and rolling up hoses. All those little things you do before the inspections will make a big difference.

Remember, that as well as watering for at least a month leading up to the sale – you may even need to maintain for another 90 days until settlement. This may be a challenge if you are not living in the house you are selling. It is common decency however to hand over the property in the same state as the buyer saw it, and that includes the garden.


De-clutter – its just the same outside the house as in the house. Make it look clean and simple.

Get an independent person in and ask them what looks ugly in your backyard. Often its things you never noticed – like a damaged fence, rusted clothes line or sheet of corrugated steel at the back of your vegetable garden. Faded plastic kids toys are another ugly addition to many a back yard. Block it out, cover it, or get rid of it.


As you can see, none of this is hard. It is merely a list of achievable solutions to help improve the look of your garden. You’ll have it all ready for sale, it will look fantastic and you will think to yourself, “Why hasn’t it looked like that for the last 5 years”

But thats’s ok, don’t spend any more energy on this one, save it for the next one !

Cup Day at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

By James Wall.

What do you tell your children on your day off that you want to walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne ?

You tell them we are going on a photographic assignment of course. One child gets the camera for half an hour and then the other child gets its for the next half an hour. When we get home, we have a slide show and see just what sort of pictures we have taken.

Yep, they liked the idea, so before they could change there mind we were in the car and on our way.

The weather was perfect and it was mid morning so there was still parking. The gardens had a real buzz about it. It reminded me of the first spring day at Central Park in New York. People were just bursting with energy to get out there. With Melbourne Cup on, there were somewhat annoying helicopters buzzing about the air like giant blow flies, but even these could not destroy the subtle euphoria that was in the air. It was a day to bump into an old friend out of the blue. It was a day to appreciate nature.

At some stage during the photography, a kids flick of the camera dial accidentally took 4 photos of everything, but with 3 of the photos being altered with special effects. I guess some of the greatest human creations were made by accident. Below are some of the results to our day out at the Botanic Gardens.

By the way, the cafe was excellent, the kids area was rocking with little boats running down the creek, the trees were ever majestic, so if you haven’t been to this wonderful place in a while, like I hadn’t, make sure you get down there soon – cause photos can never tell the full story.



The Yuyuan Gardens in the Old City of Shanghai.

Yuyuan Gardens

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs.

Throughout my travels around China I had the opportunity to see a lot of different attractions and only a few gardens. Out of all the gardens I had the chance to visit this was by far my favourite and left me feeling the most impressed. This garden is beautifully landscaped with man-made hills that flow naturally into the scenery and has a great diversity of plants.

300 Year Old Wisteria

The Yuyuan Gardens are located in the Old City of Shanghai. As you wonder through these gardens there are many unique artistic styles to discover from the paintings to the placement of plants. I found myself excited to discover what may lie around every corner!

Yuyuan Gardens was first constructed during the Ming Dynasty, 1559, by Pan Yunduan. He wanted to build a garden for his father to comfort him in his old age. But the construction of the gardens was postponed for 18 years until 1577, due to Pan Yunduan being appointed as the new Governor of Sichuan.

Lotus plants.

Once the gardens were complete they were the most prestigious and largest gardens of their era in Shanghai. However, due to the expenses of the gardens the Pan family eventually fell to ruins. The Pan family was unable to keep up with the expenses of the gardens, so the gardens were passed on to new owners.

In the 19th century the gardens suffered damage from the First Opium War and the Taiping Rebellion, with almost all of the original structures completely destroyed. From 1956 – 1961 the gardens were repaired by the Shanghai Government, and were reopened to the public.

If you find yourself traveling to Shanghai in the near future I would highly recommend that you visit the Yuyuan Gardens. I only got to spend about an hour seeing these gardens but I would recommend spending a bit more time to absorb the beauty of this landscape.

Australian designer awarded medal at Chelsea.

For those without pay television, you may never have heard of Charlie Albone. He is a Sydney based Landscape Designer who is also one of the hosts of a TV show called Selling Houses Australia. Basically they do up a house, and his job is to fix up the garden – on a budget.

This time in real life however, this garden was on a different kind of budget! Charlie went to the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show and created a stunning little garden called, ‘The Time In Between’. His design as a space to tell his late father about his life since his passing. It is a space to reflect, contemplate, celebrate and enjoy life. His father died when he was 17.

The garden was awarded a Silver Gilt medal which is just one down from a gold. As you can see by these photos from the Royal Horticultural Society, the standard of workmanship and quality of plants in this garden were absolutely top quality and reinforces the exceptional standards that Australians set when they enter The Chelsea Flower Show.

The first section of the garden celebrates life with beautiful and romantic planting; the water feature in the next section reflects the emotions felt at the loss of someone close, as it can empty in a matter of seconds; and the rear of the garden is an intimate space to sit, connect and communicate with loved ones. The flowers include white aquilegia, purple iris and purple balls of allium or a flowering type of onion which look magnificent.

Although Charlie is an aussie now (we’ll claim him after this for sure) he actually was born in Hong Kong, Charlie and then moved to the UK when he was 12 years old. It was here that he developed a keen interest in landscapes and gardens. On leaving school, he landed a job maintaining the grounds of an English country manor. With no formal qualifications, he learnt on the job and worked for many UK landscaping companies before coming to Australia on a working holiday 12 years ago. He fell in love with the country and decided to further his education by gaining a Diploma In Horticulture And Landscape Design.

Congratulations Charlie. See his garden at the Chelsea website, or his own website Charlie at Chelsea.

photo copyright by kuva


By James Wall.

It was with admiration for the level of participation in the creation of  what was standing before me. There were five days until the Garden Show started and lots of people were involved in getting it ready. These included the lads from Avoca Landscape Construction who were halfway through the mock bridge (I say mock bridge because there was to be no water under it, but Dichondra repens planted to look like water). A Semken staffer was pushing a wheelbarrow almost ‘walking the plank’ to get from one high point to another, and there were plants ready to be positioned in the space beside us. Carolyn Blackman from Vivid Design was forging on and all was good because apparently we were ahead of schedule; but who really knew what lay ahead…..These are the thoughts that go through your mind when building a show garden. By the time it is built, you clearly see all of its imperfections. You are intimate with it, and sometimes it can be your little place in heaven, but other times your nightmare. Everything you ever planned leading up to this project, is now being tested to the hilt. There are still a few magic tricks up your sleeve, but there is also reality.

……and the reality is, that some of the general public may say “it does nothing for me” whereas others and hopefully the majority say, “it’s beautiful, job well done”. None of them see it like you do, missing at least some of the imperfections that you deep down in your heart know are there, and must admit that are there cause if you don’t, a smart judge will tell you why you lost marks…..

It’s the first day of a 5 day show and already you have had to do some maintenance, just when your media commitments are kicking in. Mmmm great timing, but alas, there is one other thing you know for sure, and that is by 5pm Sunday, your show garden will no longer exist. Hope you got some good photos, cause it will be over.So I guess however it turns out, you are best to enjoy your little garden. Its a very small window of time, so let your garden be what it was, a manicured fantasy, a miniscule piece of paradise, a love of plants, a good design. Be at peace with your garden, cause now it is gone

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