Ian BarkerDesign for a plant-focussed parterre garden

Investing in a new garden is a big commitment. Not only is it essential to create a beautiful space that will add value to your home, it’s also important to have a space that meets your lifestyle needs and personal tastes. When the owners of this home in Melbourne’s leafy Glen Iris decided it was time for a garden revamp, they enlisted us to design something that suited them to a tee.

Plant-focussed parterre garden. Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne

Plant-focussed parterre garden. Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne

The home and existing garden had an inherent Spanish/Mediterranean feel to it, particularly in the rear garden so it was important to the owners for this to be carried across into the new garden in order to compliment the house but still keep to the traditional planting style that homeowner, Liz was so fond of. In addition to this, their principal requirements were for a large entertaining area, a pizza oven and a small produce garden to satisfy their love of cooking and entertaining friends and family.

Plant-focussed parterre garden with water feature by Rudi Jass as a central focal point. Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne

Plant-focussed parterre garden with water feature by Rudi Jass as a central focal point. Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne

Style wise, they wanted the garden to be balanced and structured, and to incorporate a strong focal point that would be eye catching from the moment you step through the front door of the house. When beginning any design project it’s really important to listen to the client and understand their individual requirements and tastes. The challenge is then to find ways to incorporate these into the design in the most functional and aesthetically pleasing way possible.

Considering Liz’s immense passion for plants, we suggested that these clients consider foregoing a traditional rear lawn in favour of having a plant focussed garden instead. Although not something they had originally considered, in the end Liz’s love of plants won out and we were able to create a beautifully lush parterre garden containing a stunning mix of some of Liz’s favourite plants.

Plant-focussed parterre garden Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne. Water feature (right) by Rudi Jass.

Parterre garden design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne. Copper water feature (right) by Rudi Jass, surrounded by Boston ivy

A key element of the garden design is the water feature by Rudi Jass placed in the centre of the back wall of the garden, which is surrounded by creeping Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata). This beautiful piece consists of a copper wall with running water which spills over the mottled surface and into a small pond. Just as the clients had requested, this feature acts as the focal point of the garden while adding a peaceful tranquillity to the space.

The finished garden has strong Mediterranean influences but remains very balanced, structured and traditional throughout. It is the sort of formal garden that could work with a variety of different homes but does so particularly well here due to the careful attention paid to the Mediterranean touches.

Camel paving leads to the Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne

Camel sandstone paving leads up to the garden’s main terrace. Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne

We used ‘Camel’ sandstone paving for the steps that lead up to the raised main area of the rear garden and the parterre design. This area is enclosed by a large existing hedge, an ‘alpine’ stone clad retaining wall, and a row of Manchurian pear trees that blossom gloriously in the spring. The six separate garden beds are edged with English box hedge (Buxus sempervirens), creating the formal structured look, and are surrounded by paths of white ‘Torquay’ river pebbles, which provide beautiful contrast. The beds contain a varied and ever-changing mixture of plants, including hellebores, Nepeta (catmint), Sedum, bearded iris, evergreen daylily and olive trees, just to name a few.

Hellebores feature throughout the garden. Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne

Hellebores feature throughout the garden. Design Ian Barker Gardens Melbourne

Plants were chosen that worked well together and that would change throughout the seasons, creating interest all year round. Our design team also gave careful thought to selecting plants that would keep the Mediterranean feel of the garden alive. This was achieved by choosing plants such as olive trees, which have an obvious Mediterranean ‘look’ but also by using a mixture of leaf colours in the palette i.e. a blending of grey-green and black-green foliage. The flowering colour palette contains burgundies, mauves and whites with sprinkles of yellow to evoke a feeling of warmth and sunshine.

The owners couldn’t be happier with their completed garden. Not only is it a beautiful space to occupy, but we have managed to combine all the essential elements into what we believe, is a clever and innovative design. Despite not having a traditional lawn for kids to play, the pebble paths provide spaces for small children to run up and down, and the abundance of plants in the garden beds create a make believe forest to discover. Our clients have told us that they excited to think of their future grandchildren exploring in the garden and developing their own passion and appreciation for plant life, and we’ll be watching this garden grow over the years as our maintenance team continue to nurture and protect it.

It’s a thrill to see our design come to life; to watch as the different plants take centerstage throughout the seasons, and to know that our clients are happy with the garden we have created for them.

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Ian Barker

About Ian Barker

Ian began his landscape design, construction and maintenance business in 1996 after completing two apprenticeships, several horticultural courses, plus extensive work experience abroad. Ian places high importance on helping clients design a garden that’s tailored specifically for them. His approachable demeanour, love for the outdoors and timeless style continue to prove a winning combination. Ian Barker Gardens is now a three time medal winner at the world renowned Chelsea Flower Show in London, and most recently won a gold medal for the show garden ‘Cross Roads’ at the 2015 Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show.

2 thoughts on “Design for a plant-focussed parterre garden

  1. Barbara on said:

    It looks very nice Ian. I love to see ordered gardens, though on a personal level as a user I prefer your meadow garden :). I hope the owners of this garden will open it for the 2016 GDF. I would love to see it in 14 months time.

  2. Ian Barker on said:

    Hi Barbara. As you may be aware from our previous blogs, naturalistic perennial planting is definitely what we prefer to do, however we always design to our client’s tastes.

    Its funny you should mention the GDF – we were going to open the Glen Iris garden this year but unfortunately, travel plans got in the way! Its highly likely we will choose to open this garden in 14 months time, or if not this one, we will make sure we choose a plant focused one!

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