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Garden Design

Review – Musk Cottage

Christopher Owen

Christopher Owen

February 6, 2015

If the Garden Vineyard is a considered and masterful performance that builds on the history of garden making then Musk Cottage is marching to its own beat. The word that comes to mind here is swagger. It’s self-conscious but it struts! It’s loose at the edges but it wants to be. I could almost see Keith Richards lounging on the vast deck with an acoustic guitar and a beer.

Musk Cottage2It allows space for the human; you just want to hang out in it because it feels good. There are no tricks here, no conjuring.

This garden really is modern and not necessarily because of the visual design approach, which is there, but because of the thinking that spurred its genesis.

It was built by the team at Eckersley Garden Architecture and is a place for them to experiment with plant material, and they’ve made a garden the way they want to. It’s as much about ecology and resource management as it is about garden design.

Musk Cottage1You get the sense that if they like the look of a plant, have a good feeling about it, they plant thousands just to see what happens. Well that’s my take on it but it’s likely to be more considered than that. Loads of grasses of all kinds are bursting out of the place – it’s multicultural in palette but feels predominantly native.

I was fortunate to chat a while with Scott Leung, one of Rick Eckersley’s business partners and garden designer. He explained that the new plantings were only five years old and they began work in a time of drought. Plants were only watered occasionally to get them established and sometimes not at all. Naturally occurring plants on the site were lifted and transplanted to other parts of the property to make way for the planned garden. In the recent big rains a miniature wetland has been created.

Musk Cottage blends into the surrounding countrysideThe landscape is huge and dissolves into the surrounding country effortlessly.

There are some mad moments like the ‘Fire Hide’, a transparent spiral of rusted steel work with a burn pile at the middle. The sight of it put a smile on my face. It was encrusted with bones and found objects, tools that had reached a use-by date and were now elevated to a form of bush art sculpture. I loved it.

Musk Cottage3The Sculptural Maze Garden is cool. The most photogenic angle is just under the epic bough of a slumbering juniper too tired to hold itself up anymore. There is no need to walk the maze though, as the magic’s not inside, with the money shot framed by the juniper… interestingly when you look back at the maze from the cottage it disappears. I don’t know if this is deliberate or not but you get the feeling the maze doesn’t care, and struts on as if the only audience that matters is under the big old juniper.

I’m a fan of grasses so there were some nice surprises such as Austrostipa elegantissima which I had never seen in the flesh, along with a gorgeous little grass in the wetlands which could easily have arrived on the wind and formed a colony. This is how much of the garden feels.

Musk Cottage wavy pathsWavy gravel paths, a built-in trampoline, a gathering circle with embedded glass bottles with a fire pit, and a golf green all add to an air of “let’s hang out”.

Musk Cottage firepitIt’s the premise of this garden that I love. It’s a grand ecological experiment but along the way it also manages to make you feel a little bit like a rolling stone.

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