View Street Garden is such a humble name for this magnificent garden in its magnificent landscape setting alongside the Yarra River, in the inner Melbourne suburb of Alphington.

It’s a garden of the size that can host community events, complete with a large amphitheatre that can seat 250 (with many more people able to utilise the surrounding lawn area). It also has a very appealing decked stage, shown here. In the background, a bronze statue, created by Shona Nunan in 2002 looks out over the dam.

If you’re in Melbourne on 18 March and want to check out such an event, visit the website It looks like a great way to spend an afternoon!

The garden’s owner Kate Herd is pictured here with her new four-wheeled motorbike.

‘The volume of greenwaste from a garden this size is just enormous,’ says Kate, ‘and two ordinary compost bins are not enough. I’ll have a trailer for the bike so I can cart greenwaste to large compost bays down the bottom. I’d like to become more self-sufficient with mulching and not have to bring anything in, and not get rid of any greenwaste either.

‘The other good thing about the bike,’ she adds, ‘is that I’ll have a mounted spray unit too, so I can get at the weeds more frequently. We are surrounded by paddocks and gardens and the amount of English ivy alone that comes in is scary.’

The garden is terraced with beautiful stone walls – carved into quite a steep site that slopes down to the Yarra River flood plain. An existing dam that is fed from a stormwater drain and the runoff from the hill above, not only provides water for parts of the garden that still need it, but Kate is gradually turning it into more of a billabong.

Creating a Great Garden

The entire property is about six acres in size and the house was built in about 1890. In 1980 a group of individuals bought it and formed the Melbourne Country Club. They repaired the very dilapidated house and constructed tennis courts and the dam. The amphitheatre is on the former site of the Club’s carpark.

When Kate and mother Joanna purchased the property in 1994, there was little existing garden – just a sloping lawn around the house and a cypress hedge.

Major earthworks were carried out and landscaper Simon Rigg constructed the stone walls that form the terraces. Annie James, Sue Smart and Kate did the planting.

The top terraces are filled with mainly exotic shrubs and herbaceous perennials, which Kate is gradually replacing with evergreen plants in the hope of reducing garden waste. The garden areas closer to the house and the vegetable garden next to the house are watered twice a week, with the bottom terraces receiving little or no water at all.

The vegetable garden, which is a relatively new addition to the garden, is watered with mains water. Not only is this a productive place filled with vegetables and herbs, but it has the most inspiring view.

Colour themed beds

Kate has established colour themes in different areas of the garden. On the protected southern side of the house, for example, green, white and purple dominate, with oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia), Plectranthus, hellebores, Shasta daisies and Eupatorium.

The dry garden further down the slope follows a mainly blue and yellow colour scheme. The soil here is quite sandy, which has enabled Kate to plant a number of West Australian native plants, such as Alyogyne huegelii (Native Hibiscus), Eremophila glabra, and the rather stunning Eucalyptus ‘Blue Lagoon’ (shown here). As its name suggests, ‘Blue Lagoon’ foliage is a vibrant blue-silver. It’s only the juvenile foliage that has this vibrant colour, so each year the plants have to be cut to the ground to encourage more bushy juvenile foliage to grow.

‘I like experimenting with natives, especially in my design work,’ says Kate, who is now designing other people’s gardens, often in partnership with life partner Phil Stray, owner of landscape construction company Crafted Landscapes.

In fact, as old exotic trees are dying Kate is focusing on replacing them with native trees.

The fescue lawn area around the amphitheatre has suffered in the drought, and Kate is considering replacing with a Buffalo variety or native grass turf, ‘but that’s a late autumn plan’.


The property is not all traditional garden either. Kate is revegetating the dam area, the riverflat and riverbank zones with indigenous plants (provided by VINC, an SGA certified nursery!). This has been done in conjunction with the efforts in adjacent Alphington Park Wetlands. Kate explains that the co-operation from the South Alphington and Fairfield Civic Association and the City of Yarra has been fantastic.

She has gardening assistance one day a week from Nick Power from Dominion Gardenworks, who has worked with Kate for two years.

‘My new goal is to try to reduce the amount of gardening work,’ she laughs. ‘and enjoy the garden even more’.

Photographs from top:

The dam provides the garden with water and it features prominently in Kate’s plans for creating habitat and improving the health of the adjacent river.

The grand old house has been carefully renovated and from the lower levels is a majestic backdrop to the garden.

‘For some strange reason we decided to put in an amphitheatre,’ laughed Kate as we approached this delightful entertainment space.

The deck was designed by Kate and local architect Phil Ryan.

Kate and her new bike tackle greenwaste and weeds!

The beautiful stone walls weave down the slope of the garden, hugged by granitic sand paths. Stone steps provide a more direct route down the garden.

The impressive view from the vegetable garden.

A tasteful garden shed is a back drop to the dry garden, which contains mainly blue and yellow flowering plants and foliage.

Eucalyptus ‘Blue Lagoon’ is a mallee eucalypt cultivar that Kate bought from Goldfields Revegetation Nursery.

Bronze statue of a woman and a horse by Shona Nunan, 2002.

Could you imagine a better spot for an outdoor setting?