This garden has evolved for just over 12 years since the owners, Mim and Paul, moved in. They run a landscape design and construction business, and the garden provided an opportunity to express creativity and experiment with ideas and plants. It started as a place to practice their trades, learn, play, entertain and be an example of how a sustainable and productive garden can also be beautiful and functional.

The arrival of their first child set them on a new trajectory. They ask “How do we expect our children to care for this planet if they have never had the opportunity to fall in love with the wonders that it holds?” So outdoor play, mud, dirt, chickens, bees, homemade pizza, flowers, bugs, and herbal potion are now essential aspects of garden activities.

Mimpaul3Part of their philosophy was “If you can eat it, it gets a place.” They both love the satisfaction of eating home grown, and this has taken on an added value now their little people are starting to get involved – the carrots are a favourite and Mim and Paul are unlikely to get many ripe strawberries this year, but say it’s ok because they understand that the temptation to pick them can be just a little too strong.  Chickens and rooftop bees provide eggs and honey and amazing joy at watching children collect the eggs, feed the chickens and watch their dad climb onto the very rusty roof and check on HIS bees.

Over the first few years, Paul gradually completed the bulk of the major landscaping works. A small dry-stone wall around the lawn was the first project, using locally sourced Eltham mud-stone. He then poured a washed aggregate drive, front paths and back courtyard, which led to creating a pebble mosaic and paving.

Hidden down the side of the house are three tanks with 14,000-litre storage capacity and there are three more behind the shed. Plants with similar water requirements are grouped to avoid wasting water on plants that don’t need it. Only an area around the shed and the veggie patch get regular drinks. They constantly add organic matter from the compost to improve the soils’ water holding capacity and are also careful to keep a thick layer of mulch to reduce evaporation. A drip irrigation system is used only through the hottest months. Tank water is also used to flush the toilet and is plumbed to the chickens and to the children’s mud pit.

One of the Mim and Paul’s favourite features of the garden is the adobe pizza oven, built in 2007. It has become a major focus and has been the basis of many fun nights with friends and family. An ornamental grape over a pergola now provides shade on the north side of the house in summer and an impressive autumn display.

Salvias dominated Mim’s early planting. The Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii, Salvia semiatrata, Phlomis fruticosa and many others that are no longer in the garden, made up the first planting. Currently, ornamental productive plants are her focus. She has propagated many plants and many were swapped with gardening friends. Everywhere the owners go they collect plants. Consequently the garden is over planted with many plants dwarfed by excess competition, but that suits the owners – having plants perform a little under their peak allows a few more to be squeezed in. Every month, the garden is different. Even in the middle of winter there is something going on, and Mim has been careful in selecting plants that offer interest in foliage colour and texture as well as performance and productivity.

A list of the trees and permanent plants in the garden

  • Apricot
  • Nectarine (dwarf)
  • Peach (dwarf)
  • Apple trees
  • Pink lady apple tree
  • Lemon
  • Nashi pPear
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Feijoa
  • Fig
  • Strawberry guava
  • Pear
  • Tamarillo
  • Pomegranate
  • Avocado
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Russian garlic
  • Oregano
  • Italian parsley
  • Bronze fennel
  • Coriander
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Vietnamese mint
  • Wasabi
  • Horseradish
  • Kipfler potato
  • Cardamom
  • Dill
  • Tomato
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Carrot
  • Chard
  • Perilla
  • Wild rocket
  • Black tuscan kale
  • Radishes
  • Bay tree
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberry
  • Elderberry
  • Arbutus
  • Osmanthus
  • Violets
  • Nasturtium
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Sambucus
  • Lemon verbena