De­sign Mo­ment Sur­vey­ing the pro­lific ca­reer of renowned land­scape de­signer Paul Ban­gay.

A passion for plants sown in child­hood has borne a life­time of fruit, writes Chris Pear­son.

Australian House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

Next door to Paul Ban­gay’s child­hood home in Mel­bourne’s outer east was a ram­bling Ed­war­dian es­tate, com­plete with or­chards, for­mal gar­dens, pad­docks and gar­den­ers’ cot­tages, unoc­cu­pied and in a state of de­cline.

“I had free rein of the prop­erty, space in which to roam and dream,” says the renowned land­scape de­signer (in­set).

Un­latch­ing a gate his fa­ther had in­stalled in the fence, Paul en­tered his own se­cret gar­den. At the ten­der age of 10, he planted his first gar­den there, lov­ingly tend­ing to beds of peas, beans, zuc­chini and rhubarb. Each even­ing, as he re­turned to his bed­room, he dreamed of work­ing in land­scape de­sign and buy­ing his own coun­try prop­erty. “The ex­pe­ri­ence gave me a sense of large-scale gar­den­ing and a very Euro­pean sen­si­bil­ity,” says Paul. And it kept his fam­ily in fresh veg­eta­bles.

There were lessons learnt on his own side of the fence, too. Paul’s mother, keenly aware of gar­den trends, em­braced the na­tive-plant move­ment in the 1970s, deck­ing the fam­ily gar­den out in na­tives, then re­plant­ing it in the 1980s when the English coun­try-cot­tage style took root. “Our gar­den was never static,” he says. From this, he gleaned that a gar­den is ever-evolv­ing, from one year to the next, from season to season, even within the space of one day.

Grad­u­at­ing from Mel­bourne Univer­sity with a Bach­e­lor of Ap­plied Sci­ence in Hor­ti­cul­ture in 1985, Paul opened an up­mar­ket nurs­ery in Toorak shortly af­ter­wards, as well as de­sign­ing gar­dens un­der the PRB De­sign moniker.

In 1994, he won a Mel­bourne Arts Cen­tre trav­el­ling schol­ar­ship to study land­scape de­sign in Europe, which fur­ther shaped his de­sign sen­si­bil­i­ties. Two years later, he penned his sem­i­nal book, The De­fined Gar­den. That, in turn, de­fined him as the mas­ter of the for­mal Euro­pean look, its lush, sump­tu­ous pages cel­e­brat­ing Buxus, pen­cil pines, stone or­na­men­ta­tion, gravel paths, sym­me­try and scale. In 1998, he fol­lowed it up with a tome for those pressed for space, The Boxed Gar­den, while 2003’s The Bal­anced Gar­den was an ode to sym­me­try. Paul achieved the sec­ond part of his dream in the 1990s, buy­ing his first coun­try prop­erty, St Am­brose Farm in Wood­end, Vic­to­ria, fol­lowed by Stone­fields in nearby Den­ver in 2006. Mean­while, his busi­ness thrived, with com­mis­sions com­ing from all over the world, in­clud­ing New Zealand, Europe and the US.


Paul Ban­gay brought Buxus- lined gravel paths Down Un­der, the style trans­lat­ing eas­ily thanks to the plant’s har­di­ness and drought-tol­er­ance. “It’s a very for­mal look, shaped by my passion for Ital­ianate gar­dens, ever­green, pre­cise and per­haps a lit­tle static,” he says. But, echo­ing his mother’s gar­den, his de­signs have evolved – and re­laxed.

“I be­gan with just white and green palettes, but now I am plant­ing out herba­ceous peren­ni­als in ta­pes­tries of warm, clash­ing colours, such as reds, or­anges, rus­sets and yel­lows, in hard­scap­ing with more curves, or­ganic shapes and tex­tures.”

His lawns are shrink­ing and the beds are deeper, too. “Deep beds can be filled with lay­ers of plants, mak­ing them much more in­ter­est­ing,” says Paul. “This com­plex­ity of plant­ing pro­vides sea­sonal de­lights, such as flow­ers and per­fume.” Per­haps he is mov­ing to­wards that lux­u­ri­ant, un­kempt gar­den of his child­hood…

Paul Ban­gay’s gar­den at Stone­fields (left) in Den­ver, Vic­to­ria, is open on Novem­ber 17 & 18 to raise funds for the Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Foun­da­tion, of which Paul is a mem­ber. See kitchen­gar­den­foun­da­­fields.

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