Rosanna Garden

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This has been another long-term project that is both challenging and consequently rewarding. The site is a garden in Rosanna that for 50 years was a place of love, of growth and change. The owner is an avid gardener, and has a strong knowledge of plant taxonomy having volunteered for a number of years as a guide at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. That is where the challenging part comes in.

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The garden has become a victim of it’s own success and subsequently high maintenance as successful species have applied Darwin’s law and utterly dominated the garden. The outcome is a space that has become infested with garden weeds such as Wandering Dew (pseudonym), Plectranthus and the ever popular fish fern.

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The initial brief was to assist in establishing a series of strategies to reduce the overgrown component and gradually return the garden to a collection of specimens. Due to the nature of the invasive species it would be extremely difficult to attack the space in a piece by piece fashion, and after the initial analysis the client initiated a more aggressive approach – in essence to rebuild the entire garden botanically.

The brief then became to reestablish a garden space that was low maintenance but also retained a sense of fascination with the botanic world, a garden that would reveal hidden details when the observer looked a little closer. Coupled with a low budget and an approaching summer, this was a garden that couldn’t be done over several years – the work needed to be completed as soon as possible. However the summer months prevented any immediate planting binge, which was advantageous as it allowed time to ensure the invasive species were thoroughly removed.

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Needless to say, there was a lot of work to be done. A catalogue was collected of existing species, provided largely by the client. Discussions were had on what was to be retained and what to be removed. This essentially boiled down to larger sentimental species that evoked a history of the garden, along with a number of unique specimens to remain. It was important that, despite the overhall, the character of the garden be retained as there was a lot of personal history in this garden.

Everything else was to be removed.

PlanThe analysis had revealed a broad spectrum of different micro-climates that needed to be embraced or remedied via the planting plan, depending on the function. The site was broken into zones that indicated both heat and exposure, as well as the division of garden beds.

To address the botanic interest of the client, each bed has a detailed mix of vegetation, designed to provide contrasting textures and colour throughout most of the year with minimal replication and mass planting. A number of viewing points have been added, and the spaces have been opened up to allow partially obscured views through the garden that both frames and hides certain points. These new beds blend with the historic plantings, and thematically cross the paths, blurring the traditional bordering of classic garden edges whilst still adhering to the existing pathways that have been in place for over 30 years.

Stage one will be to clear the most weedy species, stage two hard landscape and then stage three, come autumn, the best part – the planting.

Update – Jan 2014

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Brief update – to save on the cost and carbon footprint, as much plant matter as possible will be composted on site over the summer, and reused as either mulch or soil. This depends largely on the size, species and the success of the compositing procedure.

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As shown in these images (and by the revealing tower of an old bird’s nest fern), a large amount of the colonising species have been removed with the assistance of a number of the client’s relatives volunteering their time. These were then stacked into two piles to be composted over the summer. It was initially one pile, but that threatened to breach the fence height.

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To assist the process and prevent cut weeds from striking, they’ve been placed on a bed of black plastic, with plastic placed on top to increase the heat within. Some species are intended to simply just dry out – once dead, they can be reworked into other compost or mulch, however the success of this rests largely upon the heat of summer – which for the first time in a while has been suggested to be milder than normal (typical!). Once this is complete some of the plastic will be used to line a number of trenches to be dug along the fence line to prevent invasive species returning from the neighbours.

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More to follow …