Phillip WithersListening to the locals: a new garden for The Cellar Door

I, like many, enjoy more than anything to take a break from a routine and embrace a new destination. By going and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for a few days or weeks, it opens your eyes and you realise that there is more to life than just the day to day. There is nothing better than finding out what a place is really about; its history, its food and drink, its culture and its beauty. To become a local for a brief moment allows you to listen, hear, and then interpret its language.

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

I was lucky enough over the past few months to see a vision like this come to life for the people of Melbourne out in the eastern suburbs of Ringwood, as part of the new Eastland, town square precinct. It’s a new restaurant and bar called The Cellar Door and it’s three storeys tall showcasing what can be found for the plate and in the glass as you wander out into the Yarra Valley region, a beautiful destination surrounding the Yarra River in Victoria, Australia. The river originates approximately 90 kilometres east of the Melbourne Central Business District and flows towards it and then out into Port Phillip Bay.

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door Photo Stuart Cox

The idea for The Cellar Door was the brainchild of Dale and Bec White who have been passionate about developing this concept for years. I first understood this passion for the importance of understanding a locale when I heard Dale talk at a local football ground, not just about the restaurant but about community. And its that sense of community that they have brought to their third premises called The Cellar Door, which follows their success with their other ventures The Public Brewery and also Bekendales, both situated out in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne in Croydon.

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

From the start of our involvement, we were excited about creating this commercial garden by working with a palette of plants that capture the essence of fresh food of the Yarra Valley region. To do this we used the following plants in different areas over the three storey setting

Dining area – The ground floor dining area needed to deliver the diners a planting punch, with an edible entrance of lemon and bay trees, underplanted with a lower canopy of more edibles and aromatic plants like dwarf bay (Laurus ‘Flavour Master’), lavender (Lavendula), curry plant (Helichrysum), sage (Salvia officinalis) and creeping thyme (Thymus). The ornamental grape is set up to climb up the timber-clad wall to create a living green screen. Wandering into the dining area, diners will discover a giant multi-stemmed olive tree (Olea europea).

Hanging string balls at The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

Hanging string balls at The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

Mezzanine – The first floor is a mezzanine set with a runway style walk-through entrance of dwarf bay laurels (Laurus ‘Flavour Master’) and pleached Tahitian lime trees (Citrus latifolia). Here we added a decorative element of hanging Japanese string balls holding dwarf lemons Citrus ‘Lemonicious’ and devils ivy (Epipremnum aureum).

Mezzanine level at The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

Mezzanine level at The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

Rooftop bar at The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

Rooftop bar at The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

Roof top bar – The top floor is an open air rooftop bar where you can grab a local drop or bite to eat and gaze across the views of the east Melbourne plains. Surrounding the bar is a mosaic of colourful herbs, vegies, fruit trees, aromatic plants and flowers that are ready to pick, such as lemon trees Citrus limon ‘Eureka’, olives (Olea europea), strawberries (Fragaria ‘Temptation’), kale (Brassica oleracea), curry plant (Helichrysum italicum), corn (Zeas mays), parsley (Petrosilinum crispum), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) and mixed African daisy (Osteospermum) just to name a few.

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

Italian parsley and aromatic curry leaf plant at The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

The Cellar Door. Planting design Phillip Withers. Photo Stuart Cox

So if you want to get local and vocal, I’d say stop by The Cellar Door at Shop R10 Eastland in Ringwood, sample the fine food and drink and see how the garden works with the building to create that Yarra Valley feel. It captures the beauty of the area and the story of the local region, one that every community can understand…

[All photos by Stuart Cox and courtesy The Cellar Door]

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Phillip Withers

About Phillip Withers

Phillip started his design through more art based development studying a Diploma in Arts at RMIT. He was then drawn to garden design through garden maintenance and construction, studying a Diploma in Landscape Design and Sustainability at Swinburne University. He started Phillip Withers Landscape Design and has been lucky enough to create 3 show gardens in different forms, from achievable, to student, to professional. He has also taught Computer Aided Design with Kangan Institute and now Swinburne University. Phil is also a keen traveller and believes that it is the key to keeping design interesting…

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