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Sunday, July 14, 2024

A Magical Family Garden As Productive As It Is Pretty

Anastasia Elias renovated her home in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs at the beginning of 2019, and began planting the garden in winter of the same year, just before her young family moved into their new house. In that short time, the garden has become an abundant wonderland – sprouting with vegetable patches and self-seeded flowers that scatter the meandering front grass of their own accord.

Anastasia is a self-taught gardener, and her passion for horticulture is guided by a concept called biophilia: the belief in an intense and symbiotic affinity between humans and the natural world. This approach permeates the entire garden, from the cubby house overgrown with jasmine and violets, to the lunar calendar that she uses to plot her planting cycles.

This is a deeply holistic family garden, one that is constantly informing and framing the human lives that tend it.

Walking Between Two Worlds, With Designer And Palawa Woman Sarah Lynn Rees

Today we’re wrapping up our inspiring and informative ‘Words from the Wise’ series, with Sarah Lynn Rees, Palawa/Trawlwoolway woman, lecturer, curator, and lead Indigenous advisor at architecture firm Jackson Clements Burrows Architects.

Through studying architecture, working in remote communities, and an understanding of her own heritage – Sarah’s practice is rooted in the social, cultural, political and ethical ramifications of design.

In this fascinating conversation with recent Monash Art, Design + Architecture Masters of Architecture graduate, Declan Murphy, Sarah talks about the importance of designing the built environment with Country, culture and community front of mind.

An Art-Filled Melbourne Family Home With Santorini Vibes!

Looking at the images of this home alone, with its references to various design periods and geographical influences, it isn’t easy to determine its location!

What looks like it could be an elegant Santorini contemporary gallery is actually the family home of artist and interior decorator Phoebe Rolleston, George Rolleston, and their children Humphry (7), Louis (5), and William (3), located in the Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris!  

Formerly a quirky ‘80s property, renovations by architect Lucy Bowen have totally transformed this home, complemented by an ever-changing display of original art.

Chris Cobbett and Jonathan Cebon – The Design Files | Australia's most popular design blog.

GardensChris Cobbett and Jonathan Cebon - The Design Files | Australia's most popular design blog.

It’s not every day you come across someone who loves gardening so much they buy the vacant block next door to their home, knock down the dividing fence and build a garden.  Chris Cobbett and his partner Jonathan Cebon definitely seem like my kind of folk!

Chris and Jonathan have lived in this house in Melbourne’s Clifton Hill since 1980. They bought the block next door a number of years ago, and in 2005 they started planning the garden. They engaged the help of landscape designers Rick Eckersley and Myles Broad of Eckersly Garden Architecture to design the space, and in 2006 the garden was built.’

At the front of the block stands a tall metal pavilion, with star jasmine growing over it. This structure provides a sense of scale next to Chris and Jonathan’s two storey terrace next door, and also works as a sort of ‘destination’ within the garden, creating a designated seating area from which to sit and enjoy the view beyond. A pathway of huge bluestone steppers connects an entertaining area at the rear of the house with this purpose built structure.

Nestled at the rear of the garden is a large vegetable patch and a very special ironbark tree, given to the couple around 20 years ago, posthumously, by their friend Barrett Reid, who was a close acquaintance of John and Sunday Reed, and lived at Heide after their deaths in 1981. Barrett promised Chris and Jonathan an ironbark seedling, and had propagated it for them, but ended up sadly passing away before having the chance to pass it on. The tree is now around 10 metres tall, and serves as a daily reminder of Chris and Jonathan’s dearly departed friend.

One of the great successes of this garden is the careful balance between structure and softness. While the lines of the design are quite strong and angular, the softness of the planting and the irregular bluestone steppers weaving through the garden create a real sense of groundedness. The space has a strong and modern energy, yet it feels warm, inviting, and so well loved.

Wherever a beautiful garden exists, you usually find ‘designated’ gardener in the household, and in this case, Chris the passionate plant man.  This garden is his pride and joy. ‘The garden is absolutely my passion’ he says ‘It’s what I have always wanted. I love the act of gardening. The digging, the smell of the earth, the plants’. Chris has maintained and built on his family’s beautiful outdoor space over the past 8 years since it was first planted. He spends much of his spare time in the garden, weeding, pruning, and planting. Everything that comes off the garden gets put back on the soil as mulch, in conjunction with compost and Lucerne hay. ‘I just chop the prunings up and put them back onto the garden. My elderly mother who lives down the street hates it. She thinks it looks like rubbish!’

This is how it goes in Chris’ garden. The natural cycles of the plant world are respected, and plants are left to live out their lives in fullness (within reason, of course!). He says, ‘I like things to grow and stay and die and decay. Like the artichokes, for example. They’re still there at the end of autumn, looking like dried out old sticks. They are just so beautiful.’

At its best, landscape design can be a really powerful tool. It can translate the client’s needs and desires into an outdoor space that is both functional and beautiful. But design can only go so far – the hard work is often done after the garden is built and planted.  The real magic happens when the client understands the aesthetic vision of the designer, and is keen to get their hands dirty nurturing it and making it their own, as Chris has done here. As a landscape designer, it’s a joy to see a garden so well maintained and well loved, almost 10 years after it was first designed.  Exemplary work, Chris and Jonathan!

For more garden goodness from Georgina Reid, check out her amazing website – The Planthunter.

The beautiful frontage of Chris and Jonathan’s home. The structure at the front of the garden block was a council requirement, as was the visual definition between the two pieces of land, to retain streetscape values.  Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins/The Design Files.


The Melbourne Garden of Chris Cobbett, Jonathan Cebon and family.  Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) grows up the metal pavilion at the front of the garden. Low foliage plants such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis cvs.), sedge grass (Carex spp.) and various types of hellebores grow amongst the bluestone steppes. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins/The Design Files.


 Irregular shaped bluestone steppers wind through the garden. Creeping Thyme (thymus serpyllum) creates a green carpet between the stones. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins/The Design Files.


There’s a lovely balance between hard landscape forms (walls, paving, structures etc.) and planting in this garden.   The predominately green/grey colour scheme is punctuated by the autumnal tones of the ornamental grape (Vitis vinifera) at the rear of the house, the exuberant red bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.) growing up the boundary wall and the hollyhock flowers (Alcea rosea), standing tall above the garden. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins/The Design Files.


Raised concrete beds frame the entertaining area at the rear of the house. Two fig trees (Ficus carica) provide fruit in late summer. A huge fruit salad plant (Monstera deliciosa) grows on the boundary wall, and a large bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) provides year round foliage interest. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins/The Design Files.


A raised circular pond is flanked by native tussock grass. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins/The Design Files.

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