THE WIN­TER GAR­DEN

LAND­SCAPE DE­SIGNER PAUL BAN­GAY RE­VEALS WHY WIN­TER IS HIS FAVOURITE TIME OF YEAR IN HIS GAR­DEN AT STONEFIELDS.

Country Style - - GARDEN - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY SIMON GRIF­FITHS

FOR MOST SUN LOV­ING PEO­PLE, win­ter is their least favourite time of the year. Not me, its my favourite sea­son — see­ing the gar­den and house sur­rounded with mist brings the word ‘sanc­tu­ary’ to mind. Noth­ing is more nur­tur­ing than a warm house with a fire roar­ing, for me that is a home. For the gar­den it’s a pe­riod of rest. Due to our high moun­tain el­e­va­tion and cold win­ters, of­ten pep­pered with light dust­ings of snow, lit­tle growth is oc­cur­ring. By now we’ve cut all the peren­ni­als to the ground, fed and mulched the beds, and the trees have shed their de­cid­u­ous coats. This lack of herba­ceous fo­liage and bare trees leaves only the gar­den’s struc­tural and green ar­chi­tec­ture to pre­vail. Now is the time for the hedges to re­veal their true beauty as they stand over the empty flower bor­ders. This is one of the rea­sons I like us­ing hedges in coun­try gar­dens — they pro­vide in­ter­est in win­ter. The for­mal­ity of my gar­den at Stonefields, lo­cated in cen­tral Vic­to­ria, with its lower front of bor­der plant­ing of Buxus sem­per­virens and its rear taller hedges of Li­gus­trum vul­gare, con­trasts beau­ti­fully with the soft, at­mo­spheric win­ter mist. Early win­ter is a busy time as we fin­ish the tidy up and cut­ting back of late au­tumn. All beds are then fed with a layer of well-rot­ted an­i­mal ma­nure, ei­ther chicken or sheep. Sourc­ing an­i­mal ma­nure can be dif­fi­cult, as it needs to have been rot­ting for a long time to re­move all its de­com­pos­ing heat that can burn some ten­der plants. I am of­ten re­minded of the vast sup­ply that ex­ists un­der the shear­ing sheds of coun­try prop­er­ties I work on, this sup­ply is the best as it has of­ten been re­sid­ing there for decades. After the ma­nure, we add a mulch layer of com­post — our own if we have enough or a good, well de­com­posed com­mer­cial com­post. My gar­den beds then drift off to sleep for the win­ter. It’s a great feel­ing of relief when all this has been done, some peo­ple think a peren­nial bed in win­ter is bor­ing with its lack of fo­liage but I see a space rest­ing and pre­pared for the fu­ture. We don’t cut down all the peren­ni­als, leav­ing the or­na­men­tal grasses to the last sec­onds of win­ter just be­fore their fresh spring growth ap­pears. The frost clings to their brown skele­tal flow­ers mak­ing them a wel­come ad­di­tion to the win­ter gar­den. Late win­ter is the time for con­struc­tion of new gar­den ar­eas and struc­tures. The dor­mancy of plants and lawns means the gar­den­ers have more time for these projects.

Last year it was the cre­ation of a 100-me­tre dou­ble lilac walk, com­menc­ing with a ma­sonry arch topped with a pair of bronze kook­abur­ras, and end­ing be­low the wood­land with a cir­cu­lar level lawn. This year we plan on build­ing a new per­gola just above the cir­cu­lar lawn. Like all our struc­tures in the gar­den, it will be con­structed from con­crete blocks and ren­dered and lime washed in the house colour. It will be crowned with tim­ber beams and planted with the blue Wis­te­ria sinen­sis; I can never get enough wis­te­ria in a gar­den. The per­gola will be loosely mod­elled on one I saw on the Amalfi coast two years ago dur­ing a trip I did with au­thor, Tr­isha Dixon, in search of the orig­i­nal per­gola that in­spired in­flu­en­tial English land­scape de­signer, Edna Walling. Ap­par­ently she stopped in Italy on one of her trips to Aus­tralia and was so im­pressed with a per­gola she saw that it stuck with her for life. Sadly mine will not be as long as hers usu­ally were, be­ing only five me­tres, but it will hand­somely mark the en­trance to my lilac walk. Not all the gar­den is asleep dur­ing win­ter; the wood­land starts flow­er­ing late in the sea­son, firstly with masses of Helle­borus, which line the path through the wood­land. They are cut down to the ground in early May, which rids them of their tired sum­mer fo­liage and al­lows new leaves to emerge. By Au­gust the first flow­ers ap­pear, push­ing up higher than the ju­ve­nile win­ter leaves in clus­ters that set the path alight with colour. They are mostly the com­mon pink and white Helle­borus ori­en­talis, but I am col­lect­ing more of the darker plum coloured va­ri­eties. The other wel­come win­ter flflow­ers in this part of the gar­den are the snow­drops. They are un­der­plant­ings to the Hy­drangea pan­ic­u­lata bor­der on the side of the wood­land. One of the great sur­prises at this time of year is the win­ter flow­er­ing hon­ey­suckle. I planted it as a com­pan­ion to its sum­mer flow­er­ing cousin in my hedgerow. The sur­prise is when you walk past the hedgerow and are over­come with the sweet fra­grance of the flower. This in­for­mal hedge con­sist­ing of the hon­ey­suck­les, ‘Ru­gosa’ roses and fi­five va­ri­eties of white flflow­er­ing hawthorn, me­an­ders around the nat­u­ral con­tours of the house field. The sever­ity of our win­ters means it’s near im­pos­si­ble to grow citrus, ex­cept on es­paliers on the north­ern wall of the rose gar­den, where they thrive on the heat re­tained by the stone. They are cov­ered in fruit all win­ter and add colour to the oth­er­wise life­less rose gar­den. I try to in­cor­po­rate as many pro­duc­tive plants into coun­try gar­dens as I can; part of the lux­ury of a coun­try gar­den is the space it al­lows you for the in­cor­po­ra­tion of fruit trees and bushes in the or­na­men­tal ar­eas of the gar­den. Nearly all our rains comes in the win­ter with some, if we are lucky, in spring. The beauty of this rain is a stream that ap­pears in the top pad­dock, over­flow­ing into the dams be­low, then weav­ing its way along a sea­sonal path through our home field. I love the sight and sound of this wa­ter flow­ing across the grass and ev­ery year I vow to make a deep stone-lined rill for it, but with the ar­rival of spring it dries up and I for­get all about it un­til the next win­ter when it rises again. For more in­for­ma­tion about Paul Ban­gay and his gar­den, tele­phone (03) 9427 9545 or visit paulban­gay.com

CLOCK­WISE, FROM RIGHT The Buxus sem­per­virens sphere walk in the outer field; Euphor­bia cy­paris­sias un­der ice; the newly pruned ap­ple walk, which fea­tures a snake sculp­ture by Ivana Perkins; snow cov­ers the box parterre.

An outer hedge of Li­gus­trum vul­gare, mid­dle plant­ing of Rosa ru­gosa ‘Alba’ and Buxus sem­per­virens spheres in front. A row of pleached horn­beam ap­pears be­hind the li­gus­trum hedge.

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