The Walcott’s garden in Canberra is a perfect example of how a large garden should be designed and planted. Big gardens need larger plants and bold, flowing shapes, as most of the plants and features are viewed from a distance of many metres. It’s quite different to designing a usual quarter acre (1000 sqm) block or a small garden, and it takes skill to both make it a visual feast at that distance but also interesting to stroll about and explore.
The Walcott’s have been developing this garden in Canberra’s Red Hill for many years. Although it’s predominantly a garden of Australian native plants, it’s not a purist’s garden, as Rosalind and Benjamin are quite happy to include plants from other countries (often of the same genera, like Leptospermum) if it suits their design intent. Several older non-native trees that were on the property have also been retained to keep essential structure, mass and shade in the front garden. Plants are massed and mounded, or singled out as specimen planting when their form, foliage or flowers warrants it.
Australian native plants tend to have more subtle colours and finer textures than exotics, so building form, and foliage and flower colour contrasts into a planting design takes a practised eye. As you’re planting shrubs, even fast growers take some time to develop so it can be a slow and difficult process unless you really think it through – something at which the Walcotts are obviously very good.
Canberra has cold winters with regular frosts, just over 600mm (24″) rain annually, warm to hot summers and heavy clay soil.
The Walcott’s garden was open in late October 2013 through Open Gardens Australia.
Click on any photo to see a larger image slideshow.