Every morning, Melbourne homeowner Melissa looks out at her garden and smiles. “It’s heaven,” she says. It’s an understandable response. Hugging her home in every direction, the garden is a layered and luxurious buffer to the outside world. And by late spring, when the star jasmine and 71 white hydrangeas begin popping into flower, the garden turns into a phosphorescent, scented wonderland. It is, indeed, a celestial sight.
Melissa and her daughter, Jessie, moved to the property in Glen Iris, two years ago. “The garden was very much the drawcard,” says Melissa. “I just loved the privacy and the feeling of being surrounded by nature.”
This heavenly gardenscape was designed in 2016 by landscape designer Inge Jabara for the previous owners. They were giving the 1960s brick-veneer home a Hamptons-style makeover and wanted a garden to match. When Inge came to the project, the garden was original and untouched. “It was your standard 1960s garden, with a meandering concrete pathway to the front door and a sea of grass,” she says. “Out the back there was a citrus tree, a few cherry trees, a lilly pilly and small shrubs skirting the boundaries.”
Inge was excited by the brief, which called for full-scale planting of the 870-square-metre site. “They wanted to create a country garden in the middle of the city,” says Inge. “I loved that they wanted to dedicate such a large space to garden. Instead of filling it with a pool and pergola, they chose to fill it with plants.”
In terms of plant selection, Inge’s aim was for “a classic but modern look, to match the Hamptons styling of the house”. She wanted the palette to be largely green and white, so the obvious starting point, she says, was white hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens), which are planted en masse in the front and rear. Portuguese laurel hedging wraps around the outer perimeters, with English box (Buxus sempervirens), murraya (Murraya paniculata) and lilly pilly (Syzygium smithii) adding further tiers of hedging, and Chinese star jasmine festooned on the fences.
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Dainty seaside daisies (Erigeron karvinskianus) add a magical sprinkle of white at the lower levels of the garden. “This garden needed something softer and something that was a bit unruly and rambling,” says Inge. “The rest of the plants are all structural foliage plants or hedges, and the seaside daisies add a spray of flowers that helps to soften the retaining walls and give the garden a tranquil feel.”
To add some dynamism to the palette, she brought in silver tones, specifically “silver foliage plants with purple flowers” including catmint (Nepeta faassenii), lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) and german iris (Iris germanica). “This also means there are a couple of different flowering seasons. By late November, when the hydrangeas are gone, the iris and catmint are in flower, so you get a flush of purples.” The same plant palette has been used front and back, with the more complex, mixed planting (and higher-maintenance beds) closer to the house.
The rear garden is divided into several zones. Extending from the deck is the ‘pear walk’, a bluestone pathway flanked by an avenue of 12 Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ leading to a sizeable vegetable garden. This walkway is also the only access point to a level area of lawn measuring 11.2×4.7 metres, which is enclosed by Portuguese laurel. “I designed it this way to encourage people to explore the garden,” says Inge. “A garden should always have three to four destination points.” More ornamental pear trees – this time Pyrus calleryana ‘Aristocrat’ – are planted down the driveway. “All the pear trees turn the most amazing auburn colour in autumn,” says Inge.
For Melissa and Jessie, the garden has been a salve during Melbourne’s long months of Covid-induced lockdown. “We feel so lucky to have this space,” she says. “It’s so relaxing and tranquil, it really does feel like a little piece of the country in the city.” Inge Jabara Landscapes; ingejabaralandscapes.com.au
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