Q&A

Paul Ban­gay, gar­den de­signer, 54

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Front Page - By Cathy Os­mond ◖ ◗

As one of Aus­tralia’s most cel­e­brated gar­den de­sign­ers, you’ve done projects on grand es­tates across the world. What stands out? Big coun­try gar­dens are my favourite, es­pe­cially when the owner is pas­sion­ate about it. An ex­cit­ing one was Larun­del, out­side Bal­larat; I did the gar­den there for the Just Jeans fam­ily, the Kim­ber­leys, when I was just out of univer­sity. And there’s one in New Zealand that I ab­so­lutely loved do­ing; it’s high in the Alps on the South Is­land and so re­mote you had to get there by boat or he­li­copter.

You’re co-pre­sent­ing a doco to mark 90 years of the gar­den at Cru­den Farm out­side Mel­bourne. What’s spe­cial about that place for you? I first went in the 1980s when I was a hor­ti­cul­ture stu­dent at Mel­bourne Univer­sity and there were two re­ally fa­mous gar­den­ers in the re­gion: Joan Law-Smith at Bolobek, Mount Mace­don and Dame Elis­a­beth Mur­doch at Cru­den Farm. I was very ex­cited to go there. Dame Elis­a­beth showed us around; a few years later I started work­ing for her grand­chil­dren and got to know her a bit bet­ter.

What can you tell about the late Dame Elis­a­beth from her gar­den? She had a very re­laxed sen­si­bil­ity – it’s not at all for­mal. A great love of trees and wa­ter. A gen­eros­ity: the gar­den beds are very full and gen­er­ous. And just a sim­ple sense of style.

Michael Morrison has been head gar­dener there for 48 years. How does hav­ing a “long view” help a gar­den? Cru­den Farm is very rare in that Dame Elis­a­beth was there for 80 years. She planted oak trees and saw them to ma­tu­rity; not many peo­ple get to do that. I think the gar­den be­ing so well loved and main­tained is largely due to Michael; he still refers back to what he thinks “the boss” would want.

You’re known for the for­mal parterre gar­den, with lots of box hedges… I’ve been type­cast with that look; as I’ve got older I try to do softer gar­dens. When I first started the fash­ion was for for­mal, Ital­ianate gar­dens look­ing to that old Euro­pean style; now the trend is for a prairie style of plant­ing, ro­man­tic, or­ganic shapes and lots of colour, which I think is won­der­ful.

Is there such a thing as a green thumb? And do you have one? I still make huge mis­takes; it’s all about ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. I al­ways say, “Try some­thing, and if it doesn’t work pull it out and try some­thing else”. In that way the green thumb re­ally doesn’t come into it. I think the rest is about pas­sion.

Stone­fields, your 16ha gar­den near Dayles­ford, is open this month. What will peo­ple ask you on your pri­vate tours? Men ask about the lawn, and con­struc­tion type of ques­tions, and women ask about plant types and se­lec­tion. I know that sounds sex­ist but this is what hap­pens…

Do you still get your hands dirty? Not at work but at Stone­fields, def­i­nitely – the veg­etable gar­den is my thing.

A vegie gar­den sparked your pas­sion when you were 10. What sort of child were you? I was very so­cial – I had lots of friends at school – but I used to come straight home and look after my gar­den and goats; I milked them and sold some pro­duce. I also loved wan­der­ing around the big old aban­doned gar­den next door. I was al­ways an out­doors per­son. is on the Lifestyle Chan­nel, Novem­ber 8, 8.30pm and on de­mand. The gar­den at Stone­fields is open Nov 18-19 in sup­port of the Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Foun­da­tion. kitchen­gar­den­foun­da­tion. org.au/stone­fields

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