ever so slow design

Three years ago Paul Bangay, prominent Melbourne garden designer, bought a large piece of land in the country and transformed into a garden that people pay to visit. He did this in three years! How on earth (pun intended) did he do it? I’m sure part of the answer is talent and training. It may also be due to using a formal garden style, which heavily depends on symmetry.

I am ongoingly struggling with the need for balance and a soothing, natural looking structure. This structure of course is not a bit natural, it is contrived to look natural. And there are no straight lines in nature. So – I need repetition in order to preserve calm, but there need to be surprises to prevent boredom and predictability.

So far, this endeavour or project or passion or addiction – I don’t know quite what to call it – has taken me 29 years. It was in 1979 that we moved in, and at the time the back yard wasn’t a garden at all, it was merely a mess of weeds. That was turned into a central lawn with assorted Australian native shrubs and trees neatly planted around the perimeter. I guess that was Back Garden Version 1. I’ve lost count what version I’m up to now.

Many of my plants are like the Jews in the bible, because they spend a long time wandering before they find their true home. A dogwood was moved about 4 times before I found its right spot. Last week I found just the right spot for the above smoke bush which was in transitional housing. I knew straight away that it was in its rightful home, it just looked right. It was a case of trial, trial, trial until finally it was right.

I hope it will forgive me for moving it just before summer instead of waiting till autumn when it will have dropped its leaves, but I just couldn’t stand it any more in its last position in the corner of the front garden.


  1. My plants have a lot of Jewish in them too. My husband is forever asking me, "Are you sure you want this here, or are you going to move it?" Answer, depends on how it looks.

  2. I agree, Darla, and the thing is, it seems impossible to always be able to predict how it will look in the future, when the plant has grown (or not) but everything around it has also changed!
    Cheers, Sue


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