This biennial weekend-long event, run by the Rotary Club of Kew, is chaired by well known Melbourne landscape architect John Patrick (also a presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia), and encompasses over twenty-five private gardens across Melbourne and surrounding countryside, which have all been professionally designed.


The purpose of the event is to raise the profile of the charities that Rotary supports; fundraise for these charities; and by means of opening these gardens, to encourage creative, bold, versatile and responsible gardening. All funds raised go directly to the nominated charities which have included: Camcare (supporting families under stress), Breast Cancer Network (informing women and men), Alola Foundation (running support programs for women in East Timor), Friedreich Ataxia (supporting research) and Rotary medical and humanitarian projects.

This garden is the conversion of two separate courtyard gardens into one garden space, in adjacent Roy Grounds designed mid-1950s townhouses.  These modernist buildings with double-height windows spanning the width of the house, provide beautiful framing to the garden, which is densely planted and includes established trees, a linking wide set of steps and crazy paved areas.   My first impression on visiting the apartment was the framing of the view provided by the large bank of windows, and the result is a very harmonious, green retreat, enjoyed equally from the inside looking out, as from within the garden itself.


While the lines of the building are very clearly rectilinear, this called for some balance in the garden design, in the form of overlapping circles. Taking inspiration from Grounds’ gold award winning home close by – a square format opening inwards to a circular courtyard – both garden areas are set to a circle within a square. The lower courtyard comprises a swathe of crazy paved terrace continuing the curve of garden bed around a circular lawn and central feature Liriodendron tulipifera.  The upper courtyard also has a central feature tree (Arbutus canariensis) surrounded by a circle of widely-set crazy pavers.  The retaining wall and wide steps between the two areas continue the circular pattern, radiating out from the central tree in the upper courtyard.


The balance of the green circle of lawn in the lower garden, offset by the upper circular crazy paved area planted with sprawling thyme, provides a yin/yang contrast, highlighted by sculptural elements in the garden that in the upper garden are composed of white marble, and in the lower, of black textiles. These sculptures and pieces of furniture are beautifully offset by the surrounding vegetation.


Planting comprises contrasts in texture and form of various shrubs, ground cover and small trees. The Arbutus was chosen as an evergreen specimen tree with ongoing seasonal interest provided by its striking bark and branch structure, its delicate bell-like flowers and strawberry shaped fruit, as well as its handsome serrated leaves. A grove of flowering cherries was a specific client request, providing stunning spring display, and an existing bamboo glade was supplemented by additional clumps to provide elements of repetition in form and height.


Floral interest at different times of the year is provided by existing Camellias and Azaleas, various Michelias, Anemone x hybrida, Gardenia florida, Zantedeschia aethiopica, Luculia gratissima, Abutilon sp., Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’, Hydrangeas, Heliotropium arborescens, Pieris sp., Hellebores, Arthropodium cirrhatum, Clivia miniata and Liriope muscari. There is also ground cover of Vinca minor, Thyme and Ajuga reptans. The substantial rear fence of the property is being revegetated with various climbers including Trachelospermum jasminoides, Hydrangea petiolaris and Hedera canariensis.