The plea­sures of a flower gar­den

In­spired by the great English gar­dener No­rah Lind­say, Frog­more in Aus­tralia com­bines max­i­mum for­mal­ity of de­sign with max­i­mum in­for­mal­ity of plant­ing

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS CHRIS­TINE REID

Nurs­ery­man Jack Mar­shall and florist Zena Bethell looked to the English gar­dener No­rah Lind­say for in­spi­ra­tion when de­sign­ing their flower-packed gar­den


Look­ing glo­ri­ous in the au­tum­nal sun­shine is Frog­more, a bril­liant world of flow­er­ing plants hid­den be­hind banks of trees and hedges. But this is not the Frog­more beloved of Queen Vic­to­ria that forms part of Wind­sor Great Park, this Frog­more, named after its English coun­ter­part, is in Aus­tralia – 62 miles north of Mel­bourne among the Vic­to­rian hills. Its own­ers Jack Mar­shall and Zena Bethell like to ex­per­i­ment with plant­ing ideas from gar­dens around the world, but they are true be­liev­ers in the clas­si­cal tra­di­tion of gar­den de­sign and the rule of ge­om­e­try. “Our mantra is max­i­mum for­mal­ity of de­sign and max­i­mum in­for­mal­ity of plant­ing,” says Jack. “We look to that great English gar­dener No­rah Lind­say for our in­spi­ra­tion.” The inf lu­en­tial Bri­tish gar­den de­signer Rus­sell Page once said of No­rah Lind­say (1873-1948) that ‘ by her plant­ing she evokes all the plea­sures of a f lower gar­den… with an air of rap­ture and spon­tane­ity’. Page’s com­ments hap­pily ap­ply to the gar­dens at Frog­more. When Jack and Zena bought the prop­erty 16 years ago the site pre­sented a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to create the Lind­say style of gar­den. Both come from back­grounds in hor­ti­cul­ture – Jack in a whole­sale nurs­ery busi­ness and Zena in f loristry with years of ex­pe­ri­ence with a ma­jor Mel­bourne f lorist – and wanted a space that would ac­com­mo­date both a vast gar­den and a small nurs­ery.

Sur­rounded by eu­ca­lyp­tus for­est the gar­den of­fers fab­u­lous vis­tas but the site ini­tially pre­sented prob­lems for the cou­ple. “The site had once been a potato pad­dock and then a peren­nial nurs­ery for many years,” ex­plains Jack. “The first is­sue we had to ad­dress was the poverty of the soil; even now we are con­stantly

rein­vig­o­rat­ing the gar­den with up to 17 truck­loads of stable ma­nure ev­ery year. It had wa­ter – above the ground – and the old rec­tan­gu­lar out­lines of the for­mer gar­den beds proved use­ful for our pro­jected de­sign.” These out­lines helped Jack and Zena create the con­trol­ling axes that al­low peo­ple to read the gar­den. “We wanted it to be leg­i­ble so that un­con­sciously the vis­i­tor’s eye is taken up the slope to the big sky over­head,” says Jack. “Our first plant­ings es­tab­lished the green struc­ture of hedges, us­ing horn­beam and box for the plant­ing. Box has be­come the leit­mo­tif in the gar­den over the years. The horn­beam, in­side the gar­den perime­ter, looks light in win­ter while the na­tive eu­ca­lypts are ever­green.”

While Jack and Zena’s first ge­om­e­try ex­er­cise was all about straight lines and right an­gles, their work now in­cludes squares and cubes, tri­an­gles and, in one sen­sa­tional area, cir­cles. The so­lid­ity of flat-topped box squares and cubes an­chor the more ephemeral sea­sonal plant­ings. Tri­an­gles pro­vide the un­der-pin­ning of the fab­u­lous Sun­set Bor­ders. With the so­lid­ity of the hedge at the back, the plant­ing is or­ches­trated in tri­an­gles of peren­nial plant­ing, such as can­nas, form­ing the out­line, then in­filled with an­nu­als. As Jack points out: “When it’s in full flower, you’re not aware of the un­der­ly­ing bal­ance.” The in­clu­sion of an­nu­als, says Jack, gives a greater depth of sat­u­rated colour. “You have to have the larger flow­ers of dahlias, celosias, zin­nias and cal­en­du­las,” he says.

The for­mal gar­dens are made up of dif­fer­ent ar­eas, fea­tur­ing sep­a­rate colour pal­ettes and each with their own beauty. While the dy­namic Sun­set Bor­ders mix hot colours, the Crim­son Bor­der or Bishop’s Bor­der re­lies on the dark reds and pur­ples of car­di­nals’ and bish­ops’ cler­i­cal robes. An­other bor­der fea­tures a suc­cess­ful in­ter­play be­tween crim­son and del­i­cate vi­o­let and laven­der colours. A to­tal con­trast is the Pale Gar­den – a sub­dued and ex­quis­ite ar­range­ment. It’s not a white gar­den like the one made so pop­u­lar at Siss­inghurst by

Vita Sackville-West: Jack and Zena have clev­erly in­cor­po­rated soft le­mons and pinks to mit­i­gate the ef­fect of the brown­ing-off of white f low­ers in Aus­tralia’s se­vere sum­mers.

Ge­om­e­try also un­der­pins the Prairie Gar­den area, which is an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the New Peren­nial style of plant­ing, pop­u­larised by the likes of Piet Ou­dolf in Europe and Wolf­gang Oehme and James van Swe­den in the USA. It fea­tures big bold clumps of plants and massed grasses, such as dif­fer­ent types of mis­cant­hus and pan­icum. Al­though it ap­pears to be free form, the un­der­ly­ing struc­ture is cir­cu­lar, much more ap­par­ent when you walk through the tall wav­ing fo­liage. Jack and Zena think this con­tem­po­rary style of gar­den­ing with massed plants, par­tic­u­larly the grasses, is mis­un­der­stood in Aus­tralia. “The com­mon at­ti­tude is that long grass equates with snakes and fire haz­ards… it’s go­ing to take time for gar­den­ers to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween the prairie style, which is green fo­liage in sum­mer and cut down in win­ter, and the na­tive grasses of Aus­tralia, which are green in win­ter and dried and bleached in sum­mer,” says Jack.

When the sun­shine dis­ap­pears be­hind the clouds and win­ter sets in, Jack and Zena re­treat to their com­puter where pho­to­graphs and spread sheets await. Metic­u­lous plan­ning for next sea­son’s bor­ders is about to be­gin.

USE­FUL IN­FOR­MA­TION Ad­dress 1560 Tren­tham-Green­dale Road, Lerderderg, Vic­to­ria 3458, Aus­tralia. Tel +61 (0)3 5424 1777. Web­site frog­more­gar­ Open March – April (the gar­den’s flow­er­ing peak is mid-March), 10am-4pm, ad­mis­sion AU$10. Jack and Zena’s bou­tique nurs­ery on the site is open all year apart from July. Web frog­more­gar­ Open March and April each year. The gar­den’s flow­er­ing peak is mid-March.



In the right-hand bor­der of the Pale Gar­den, Nico­tiana mu­ta­bilis, with white flow­ers that fade to shades of pink, rises from a froth of Cos­mos bip­in­na­tus ‘Psy­che White’ and Ammi ma­jus, while on the left the pale-le­mon Dahlia ‘Lime Glow’ stands out among Scabiosa colum­baria subsp. ochroleuca and Sym­phy­otrichum pi­lo­sum var. pringlei ‘Monte Cassino’.

This im­age The bis­cu­ity grasses in the Prairie Gar­den seem more golden set against the red au­tum­nal fo­liage of Vibur­num op­u­lus ‘Not­cutt’s Va­ri­ety’, while the golden fo­liage of the tallPop­u­lus ni­gra ‘Ital­ica’ con­trasts with the ev­er­greens of the for­est.Fac­ing page At the for­est edge there is a softer for­mal­ity to the gar­den with swathes of Mis­cant­hus sinen­sis ‘ Sara­bande’ flank­ing a raised run­way of Buxus sem­per­virens.

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