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Federation Gardens

Fed Garden styles - slide.jpg

Dr Pauline Payne (SA), Dr David Jones (SA), and Christopher Betteridge (NSW)

Federation Gardens 1890s-1920


Chris Bettereridge writes that Marilyn McBriar in an unpublished thesis (1980) analysed Melbourne gardens of the Federation period, and concluded there were two main styles of Garden design in the Federation Period:

  1.  The old-fashioned Formal style, promoted by renowned author William Robinson (UK) and in Australia by famous designers William Guilfoyle, and Charles Bogue-Luffman.
    (For more information about these people jump to  the section 
    Key Practitioners.)

  2. The Natural, informal or Landscape style favoured by expert Melbourne Arts and Crafts trained architect Walter Butler. and later championed by the famous designer and author Edna Walling
    (Note, all these promoters were  migrants, born in England).


Below: Formal garden design by Australia's favourite society garden landscaper, Paul Bangay

Key characteristics
1. Garden design - formal

Strong division of the garden into a series of geometric or rectilinear spaces, often using trellises, fences, walls, pergolas and hedges as space dividers.
  • Spaces of varying scales according to display function and relationship to the house.

  • Designation of special areas for a kitchen, laundry, orchard, swimming pool, and tennis court.

  • Tended to have straight paths and drives egressing the site from common or separate gates.

  • These early Federation gardens often featured palm trees.

2. Garden design - informal

A natural style stressing the creation of enclosure in the varying garden spaces, with occasional picturesque whimsy in the visual alignment of architectural features.

Characteristics are derived from Arts and Crafts ideas:


  • Paths and drives often curved, and nestled in sweeping lawns.

  • Planting beds were featured flanking or entering into the lawns with varying planting themes.

  • The garden was often totally enclosed by hedges, fences and boundary trees creating a sense of introspection.

  • Gates off-centre to the allotment.

3. Garden design - mixed

This style incorporated elements from both the formal and informal styles resulting in a simple, functional, layout that was easy to maintain.


  • flowing lawns and a series of garden spaces.

  • Mixed style,

    • flowing spaces,

    • curved lawn bedding,

    • specimen trees and planting close to the house.

  • Paths were often ‘S’ in alignment with straight driveways.

  • This style extended into the Edwardian and Inter-War periods in the eastern and southern suburbs of Adelaide.


Circulation design

Formal gardens applied a geometric circulation system with linear paths and drives, using surfaces in

  • shell-grit, 

  • brick,

  • pyrites gravel from the Hills,

  • sands,

  • tessellated tiles,

  • crushed rock,

  • concrete paving slabs,

  • bitumen, and 

  • Willunga slate,
    with edgings being either

    • minimal,

    • with ditches or

    • with plants such as English Box.


Informal garden circulation systems with paths and drives curved in ‘c’ or ‘s’ alignments, that were constructed from 

  • bitumen,

  • tessellated tiles, shellgrit, or

  • crushed rock.


Mixed style gardens often had an

  • ‘s’ shaped pathway and 

  • a straight driveway,

  • curved lawn bedding with little edgings other than ditches or recessed paved areas.


In larger properties separate entry gates, often in wroughtiron, and accompanied by gateway planting or a lych gate feature, were common.


Garden furniture


In all styles,
  • erection of timber or iron tubing arbours 

  • and rosaries to support climbers,

  • with timber slat lattices on walls and sheds.


In larger houses,

  • summerhouses

  • conservatories,

  • gazebos,

  • bush-houses for ferns,
    were erected.

  • Use of terracing to introduce contours and sunken gardens.

  • Little seating, concrete pots and urns for display flowers.

  • Ornaments were not a strong feature of Federation gardens, but

    • seats,

    • sundials, and

    • small water fountains or

    • pools

Seats tended to be slatted hewn timber or rusticated cast iron with straight backs and painted.

  • Seats around trees were popular as also straight, circular and polygon seat forms.


In the informal style
  • low stone walling and

  • use of small fountains,

  • use of Australian flora and fauna motifs in

  • ornaments, terracotta or topiary.

  • Use of small reflective pools and garden stone alcoves.



  • Decorative painted timber paling or picket front fences,
    often with great design variety, or

  • patterned woven wrought-iron fences as in the late Victorian period. 

  • Plain slats with decorative picket tops or champered edges were common.

  • Occasionally a masonry base retaining or front wall,

  • with timber matching the verandah fretwork.

  • Vine-covered side fences,

  • rose covered timber or iron-pipe arbours,

  • timber pergolas inter-connecting garden spaces 

  • and a front gate. 


Planting design

Most planting adhered to a northern hemisphere evergreen and colour theme, including

  • Cypresses,

  • Jacarandas,

  • the use of Englsh Box and Pittosporum for hedges, and 

  • colour in the shape of

    • hydrangeas,

    • pelargoniums,

    • roses, 

    • camellias,

    • rhododendrons,

    • agapanthus.


Fruit, nut and olive trees were still a integral feature of the rear gardens in Adelaide. Many Chinese plant species were introduced into Adelaide nurseries at this time.


The kitchen garden was still important.

Formal Style

Gardens of the formal style tended to have

  • defined lawn spaces,

  • small trees and shrubs as planting features,

  • continued use of part of the succulent, palm and semi-Victorian plant species,

  • use of hedges, 

  • topiary,

  • flowers beds and borders,

  • edgings with plants such as English Box.


The style was neat in form and care, 

  • prolific with roses,

  • often with an absence of Australian vegetation,

  • less Adelaide favourites such as Silky Oaks, Kurrajongs, and similar.

Informal Style

Gardens of the informal style stressed

  • a sense of dense enclosure plantings, colour was important;

  • foundational shrubs were often hydrangeas and pelargoniums.


  • Sweeping lawns with the use of decorative or onamental trees as features.

  • Use of mixed planting themes included

    • herbaceous borders,  

    • shrub gardens,

    • ground covers,

    • some Australian plants, 

  • a remnant or operational orchard, and

  • rustic stone and timber embellishments and features.

Mixed Style
  • Gardens had a tidy appearance;

  • plant shape was allowed to grow irregularly.

  • Sweeping lawns,

  • vine or ornamental covered pergolas,

  • specimen trees


Sombre foliaged trees -

  • Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia),

  • Photinia sp., Mirror Bush (Coprosma repens),

  • Lilly-pillys (Acmena sp.), Eugenia sp.,

  • Hollys (Ilex sp.),

  • Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus),

  • Portuguese Laurel (P. lusitanica),

  • Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis),

  • Willow-myrtle (Agonis flexuosa),

  • Golden Wattle (Acacia saligna),

  • White Cedar (Melia azederach var. australasica),

  • Golden Rain Trees (Koelreuteria paniculata),

  • Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora),

  • Madrone (Arbutus menziesii),

  • Irish Strawberry Tree (A. unedo),

  • Carob (Ceratonia siliqua),

  • Red Flowering Gum (Corymbia ficifolia syn. Eucalyptus ficifolia),

  • Marri (E. calophylla), White Cypress-pine (Callitris columnellaris),

  • Pinus sp., Araucaria sp., Cupressus sp.,

  • Pencil Pines (Cupressus sempervirens var. stricta).

• Deciduous trees -

  • Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia),

  • Prunus sp.,

  • Malus sp., peaches, almonds, birches.

• Colourful foliaged trees -

  • Cedrus sp., Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora),

  • Bronze Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria elegans),

  • Golden Japanese Privet (Ligustrum japonicum)



• Palms, succulents, etc. -

  • Cabbage Tree (Cordyline sp.),

  • Palms (Phoenix sp.),

  • Canary Island Palm (P. canariensis),

  • Aloe sp., Agave sp., Yucca sp.,

  • New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax),

  • Pampas Grass (Cortaderia sp.),

  • Large Honey-flower (Melianthus major).

• Shrubs 
  • Camellia sp., Rhododendron sp., hydrangeas, agapanthus, roses (Rosa sp.).


• Hedges 
  • olive (Olea europaea),

  • Cupressus sp.,

  • English Box (Buxus sempervirens),

  • pittosporum (Pittosporum eugenoides, P. undulatum).

• Flowering perennials & annuals 
  • rosemary, lavendar, pelangoniums,

  • Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata syn. P. capensis),

  • abutilons, mignonettes, violets, lemon verbena, bouvardia, wall flowers, stock,

  • Brown Boronia (Boronia megastigma),

  • carnations, dahlias, chrysanthemums, daffodils, irises, cannas, ericas, azaleas, hybrid teas, lemon thyme, dwarf thrift, Pyrethrum aureum.

Climbers - Wisteria, roses, jasmine.
• Lawns - Buffalo Grass overwhelmingly popular; Couch Grass, Kikuyu.



  • Bitumen or concrete paving,

  • In SA, Carey Gully and Basket Range bluestone and sandstone for walls and low walling, 

  • In SA, Willunga slate, and terra cotta, for drains.

Architectural house style & features



Attention to

  • brick facade details,

  • plain painted timber slats with some fretwork,

  • Art Nouveau’ stain-glass windows

Key practitioners or advocates

  • Walter Bagot (SA),
    • of Forest Lodge, Stirling (pictured right)

    • One of the founders of the large international architectural practice of Woods Bagot,

    • Walter Bagot was ‘one of the most scholarly architects to practise in Australia’

    • He was one of the last great proponents of the traditional school of South Australian architecture, and remained unconvinced by Modernism. 

    • "Forest Lodge" at Stirling was built in the early 1890s as the summer home of architect Walter Bagot.

    • His family  lived at "Forest Lodge". The couple had three children,[4] one being John Hervey Bagot (1910–2008), a prominent lawyer.


  • Walter Richmond Butler (Vic),
    • English-born Walter Butler, born in Somerset, UK, was a Victorian architect and garden architect of great talent, and he not only built some fine Queen Anne houses but he also favoured the Arts and Crafts style, with which he was already familar in earlier UK practice.​

    • From 1889 until 1893 Butler was in partnership with Beverley Ussher. For more detail see the archived page Architect Walter Butler.

    • In 1903 Butler spoke to the Royal Institute of Architects on the "Importance of garden design in relation to Architecture": integrating the design of the garden with that of the house.

    • Butler's garden designs emphasised

      • Regularity of line and

      • Formality of composition,

      • of division of the garden into a series of outdoor rooms of varying character.

    • Garden designs from his office were produced for

      • Bishopscourt, East Melbourne (1903)​

      • Charlton, Hobart (1905)

      • Warrawee, Toorak (1906) ⊗

      • *Thanes, Kooyong (1907)

      • Kamillaroi, Toorak (1907)  ⊗

      • Grong Grong, Toorak (1908) ⊗

      • *Marathon, Mt Eliza (1914-1924)

      • *Eulinya, Toorak (1925)
        * survivng grand houses and gardens and landmarks of Australian Arts and Crafts Architecture;
        see also archived page Architect Walter Butler.
         ⊗ destroyed

    • His ardent admiration for R. N. Shaw is reflected in his eclectic works.

    • Eulinya house and garden, 48-50 Irving Road, Toorak, (illustrated at above right) is of Local (potential State ) significance historically and architecturally:

      • as a superb combination of house and garden design that

      • epitomises the underlying theme of Arts & Crafts architecture where the design of the house is at one with its garden setting and

      • thus is particularly evocative of the architectural firm, W&R Butler's reputation for significant Arts & Crafts architecture and garden design


  • William Robinson (UK),
    • William Robinson (1838 – 1935) was an Irish-born practical gardener and journalist who proposed 'wild gardening'

    • Robinson spurred the movement that led to the popularising of the English cottage garden, a parallel to the search for honest simplicity and vernacular style of the British Arts and Crafts movement.

    • Robinson is credited as an early practitioner of the mixed herbaceous border of hardy perennial plants,

    • a champion too of the "wild garden", 

    • he vanquished the high Victorian pattern garden of planted-out bedding schemes. 

    • Robinson's new approach to gardening gained popularity through his magazines and several books—particularly The Wild Garden, illustrated by Alfred Parsons, and The English Flower Garden.​

  • Gertrude Jekyll (UK),
    • Gertrude Jekyll, (1843—1932), was an English landscape architect who was the most successful advocate of the natural garden and who brought to the theories of her colleague William Robinson a cultivated sensibility he lacked.

    • “Jekyll occupies near-legendary cult status in horticultural circles, with both American and English gardening authorities acknowledging her as a premier influence in garden design.” - Time magazine

    • Born of a prosperous family, Jekyll was educated in music and painting and travelled in the Greek islands, where she studied architecture and history. Jekyll was an artist, craftswoman, writer and gardener.

    • Her chief interest was in painting until 1891, when her sight gave her trouble, and she applied herself wholeheartedly to gardening instead.

    • Her taste was for the simplicity and orderly disorder of cottage gardens.

    • She worked journalistically with Robinson and wrote a number of successful books, but her great contribution to the art was in the gardens she designed in association with the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

    • Her own house was built at Munstead Wood. Edwin Lutyens was the architect. Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens later worked together on other gardens and had perhaps the most famous partnership in English garden history.

    • Together they produced a new type of architectural garden in which the skeleton planned by Lutyens was given softness and an added rhythm by her handling of colour and local forms.


  • William Guilfoyle (Vic),
    • William Robert Guilfoyle (1840 - 1912) was a landscape gardener and botanist in Victoria, Australia, and acknowledged as the architect of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne and responsible for the design of many parks and gardens in Melbourne and regional Victoria.​

    • Guilfoyle was an intrepid ‘plant hunter’ and was responsible for the transformation of Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens into one of the world’s most spectacular botanical landscapes.

    • In his thirty-five years at Melbourne's Botanic Gardens, Guilfoyle amassed a systematic collection of many thousands of plant species from all over the world. 

    • Guilfoyle was a gifted garden designer of course, and Guilfoyle undertook private landscape design work which included 

      • Nellie Melba's Coombe Cottage at Coldstream;

      • Moritz Michaelis's Linden in Acland Street, St Kilda,

      • Mawallok between Skipton and Beaufort for Philip and Mary Russell in 1909 ; 

      • Werribee Park for the Chirnside brothers; and

      • two gardens near Birregurra,

        • "Mooleric" of state and national significance and 

        • "Turkeith" for Mr. And Mrs. Urquhart Ramsay.

His publications included 

  • First Book of Australian Botany (1874), revised and reissued as Australian Botany Especially Designed for the Use of Schools (1878); 

  • The A.B.C. of Botany (1880); 

  • Australian Plants (1911?) and many pamphlets.


  • Charles Bogue-Luffman (Vic),
    • Charles (Bogue) Luffman (1862-1920), horticulturist and writer, was born in England.

    • In his late twenties Luffman spent four years in the dried fruit business in Italy, France and Spain, working for two years as field manager for Delius Bros at Malaga, Spain.

    • During his travels he had met the author Lauretta Lane who encouraged him to write. After returning briefly to England he published A Vagabond in Spain (1895).

    • Luffman's experience led to his appointment by the government of Victoria as advisory instructor on raisin culture at Mildura. Luffman was credited with having re-organized Mildura's dried fruit trade and putting it on a sound footing.

    • In 1897 he became the second principal of the School of Horticulture, Burnley, described as being in a 'state of confusion'.

    • Luffman made the grounds into a school of demonstration, forming paddocks, orchards and ornamental gardens. These provided the basis for his extensive writings on garden design and management, especially in relation to orchards and farms. 

    • He championed 'those gardens which come nearest to the finest expressions of nature'. He saw curving paths and shady glades as vital components of the Australian garden, with the summer garden to the south and east of the site and the winter garden, surrounded by deciduous trees, to the north and west.


  • Robert Haddon (Vic),
    • Haddon was born in London, and training there in the early 1880s, before emigrating to Australia in 1889 when he was 25.

    • After a few years in Melbourne, faced with the crash of the 1890s, he relocated a number of times around southern Australia, including Perth for a while as the Assistant Architect at the Department of Public Works,

    • He finally settled back in Melbourne in 1899, setting up his own practice in 1902.

    • Haddon worked extensively on councils, examining boards and committees, while writing a number of articles in technical magazines, as well as a book (Australian Domestic Architecture) in 1908.

    • He was a major figure in the profession in Victoria, championing the Arts & Crafts in his writing and teaching.

    • He designed some of the most original buildings of the period, featuring restraint, balanced asymmetry and Art Nouveau details.

    • As the head of the architecture school, the Melbourne Technical College from 1902, he taught several generations of students.

    • The principles he espoused are explained in his book “Australian Architecture” published in 1908. 

    • These principles include

      • simplicity,

      • originality,

      • craftsmanship,

      • honesty and

      • national sentiment.

    • Haddon wrote: "The creating of a garden is second only in importance to the building of a house, and the two - the house as a well-balanced structure and the garden as a well laid-out frame​ - should find harmony with each other.... the garden [grows] up in strength and beauty to minister to the household her need of beauty and repose."

  • Edna Walling (VIC)
    • In Australia between the two world wars the name that stands out the most in the gardening world is Edna Walling (1895-1973).

    • Born in England after a few years with her family in New Zealand she arrived aged 17, to study and live in the cool climate of Melbourne, Victoria .

    • The gardens she produced in Melbourne harked back to her days in England. A personal account of her experiences building East Point on the Great Ocean Road near Lorne, Victoria, is fittingly called The happiest days of my life.

    • Today she is remembered for having achieved a synthesis and unity between Australian native plants and the preferred exotics, which still inspires today’s Australian garden designers.

    • Bickleigh Vale was a village she developed on 20 acres or so of land she aquired on the outskirts of Melbourne city, for people prepared to accept designs for cottages and gardens that she designed.

    • ​She wrote ‘for my part I love all the things most gardeners abhor; moss in lawns, lichen on trees; more greenery than ‘colour’… bare branches in winter; and root ridden ground…I like sheets and sheets of forget me nots and anything else that will self-sow and look beautiful.

    • 'I like soft grey green leaves, and blue, mauve and pale yellow flowers, with only the tiniest spot of red. I like white flowers both in the daytime and at night, in the house and in the garden…I like quite a lot of plants for their foliage alone, and never care if they don’t flower’.'

  • Elsie Cornish (SA),
    • Elsie Marion Cornish (1870-1946), landscape gardener, was born at Glenelg.

    • Educated in North Adelaide and self-trained in landscape design, Elsie began her career in the 1910s, progressively attracting a supportive group of clients.

    • Her family residence, which also served as her plant nursery, was in Palmer Place, North Adelaide, and she inherited the property, which had once been occupied by architects Henry Stuckey and Edmund Wright.

    • She drew on the ideas of Gertrude Jekyll and on Mediterranean traditions, including the use of cottage and northern Italian plants, sunken rock gardens, entry porches and walls, which she often planned, built and planted for clients.

    • Adelaide landscape designer Elsie Cornish who mostly worked in an English Arts and Crafts garden style that was interpreted for Australian conditions and the needs of her clientele.

    • Influencing her stylistic designs was a philosophical understanding of the interconnection between house and garden and the need for the space to be designed as an integrated whole.

    • Major elements included a sense of formality and symmetry, features such as statues, terraces and water and a predilection for circular shapes.

    • Following contemporary English practices, her work displayed a respect for the local environment, similar to the ideas of Jocelyn Brown and Edna Walling, and attracted the patronage of the architect Walter Bagot and the friendship of Zara, Lady Hore-Ruthven.

    • Miss Cornish's two significant commissions were the University of Adelaide escarpment (1934-46) and the Pioneer Women's Garden (1938-40) (see right).

    • The exposed, sunny, northerly aspect and poor soils of the former prompted her to plant it with a mixture of tough but flowering succulents and Italian hillside species resulting in 'a blaze of color . . . a real adornment not only to the University but also to Adelaide'.


  • Olive Mellor (Vic),
    • Olive Mellor, nee Holttum (1891-1978), was a pioneer and advocate of women's horticultural and garden design education and professional status.

    • She became one of the first Australian trained professional horticulturist and garden designers, designing over 500 gardens throughout her career.

    • She was a published author, radio broadcaster and wrote prolifically for magazines and newspapers.​

    • Olive developed a love of horticulture, inspired by Florence who was a keen amateur botanist.

    • She migrated to Australia in 1909. Enrolling at the newly established Burnley School of Horticulture in Melbourne in October 1911, she completed her Certificate of Competency in Horticulture in December 1913.

    • Her acceptance into the Diploma of Horticulture course,- previously only open to males - was considered significant enough to be noted in the 1914 Handbook to Victoria she completed her final examinations in 1915.

    • In 1916, she was appointed to the school's staff as 'Instructress in Horticulture', making her the first women instructor at the School.

    • After much campaigning by Holttum, the school opened to women for full-time training on 16 June 1916.

    • Among her first students were Edna Walling and Millie Grassick, who replaced her as instructress in 1918.

Style indicators - formal


  1. Artificial form of garden.

  2. Garden forms a set of outdoor rectangular rooms to the house, often with use of terracing to accentuate the house predominance.

  3. Sense of enclosure through walls, hedges, fences, trellises, pergolas, arches, etc., as spatial dividing design components.

  4. Land manipulation artificial in appearance with straight lines, defined angles, sunken gardens.

  5. Lawns geometrically shaped and clearly defined by edging treatment.

  6. Paths often straight.

  7. Water in a formal treatment.

  8. Flower beds and borders contained within straight or regular lines and curves.

  9. Planting with no large trees close to the house, use of small trees and shrubs, hedges, topiary, rosaries, minimal use of Australian plants, formal row-like planting of trees.

  10. Other features included often a formal orchard.

Style indicators - informal


  1. Garden imitates nature.

  2. Garden embraced or framed the house, coming up to the edge, with terracing often concealed; house given the appearance of being down in the garden.

  3. Sense of seclusion often with concealed variable boundaries.

  4. Garden divided by groupings of plants, with rare use of hedges, terracing on steep slopes, and irregular and asymmetrical garden spaces.

  5. Respect for contours, or on flat sites earth manipulation to create interest.

  6. Lawns irregular in shape, winding, often mysterious with occasional tree planting in the lawns.

  7. Paths generally curved.

  8. Water in an informal treatment.

  9. Irregular shaped, curving, plant beds and borders.

  10. Planting used to frame the house, with few hedges, no  topiary, less emphasis on flowers in deference to specimen plantings, roses in mixed plantings, fruit trees popular in the rear, use of Australian plants, natural growth of plants, herbaceaous borders, a sense of permanency in the plantings.

  11. Informal orchard treatment, with rockeries and fern rooteries.


Elements of Arts and Crafts Garden Design

- from archived page: Arts and Crafts Garden design

1. A Unity of House and Garden

Gertrude Jekyll applied Arts and Crafts principles to garden design.

  • She worked with the English architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, for whose projects she created numerous landscapes, and who designed her home Munstead Wood, near Godalming in Surrey.

  • Jekyll created the gardens for Bishopsbarns, the home of York architect Walter Brierley, an exponent of the Arts and Crafts movement and known as the “Lutyens of the North”.

  • The garden for Brierley’s final project, Goddards in York, was the work of George Dillistone, a gardener who worked with Lutyens and Jekyll at Castle Drogo.

  • At Goddards the garden incorporated a number of features that reflected the arts and crafts style of the house, such as the use of hedges and herbaceous borders to divide the garden into a series of outdoor rooms.

  • Another notable Arts and Crafts garden is Hidcote Manor Garden designed by Lawrence Johnston which is also laid out in a series of outdoor rooms and where, like Goddards, the landscaping becomes less formal further away from the house.

  • Other examples of Arts and Crafts gardens include Hestercombe GardensLytes Cary Manor and the gardens of some of the architectural examples of arts and crafts buildings (listed above).

  • The holistic approach of the Arts and Crafts Movement called for a graceful, gradual transition from House to Garden, often extending to the wild landscape beyond.


Most often the Arts and Crafts approach was that interior spaces opened onto Garden Rooms, defined by arbours, trellis screens, hedges, alleys of trees or more formally by stone or masonry walls (eg Edna Walling)

2. Use local plants and local materials
  • Such as boulders, local stone in fences, and indigenous (native) plants.

  • Designer Gertrude Jekyll (rhymes with ‘treacle’) recommended studying local conditions so the garden design has distinct natural character.

  • Gertrude Jekyll was a British horticulturist, garden designer, artist and writer. She created over 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States

  • Although the science of ecology was unknown in Gertrude Jekyll’s day, Jekyll recognized that underlying rock influenced which plants would successfully grow in a particular area.

  • Jekyll and co-writer Weaver did not suggest that that gardens must be restricted to only regional native plants, but these native plants must be ‘well represented’.

  • An enthusiasm for old-fashioned plants was evident in Arts and Crafts gardens with a nostalgia for for rural garden traditions, represented by hollyhocks, shrub roses, and narcissus, as well as orchards.

3. Freedom of Growth

Arts and Crafts Style rejected earlier Victorian formal and Gardenesque Styles, especially large garish flower displays and extreme hedging styles, which latter date back to the Medieval herb gardens.

  • Instead William Robinson, author of the ‘Wild Garden’ book (1870), embraced the natural growth of plants, without fine clipping.

  • Plants should be allowed to self-seed and naturalize in a garden celebrating the loose and natural flowing of plantings.

  • Gertrude Jekyll promoted the marriage of formal layout and naturalistic plantings,

  • Clipped yew hedges were still approved for the creation of garden rooms, and straight stone walkways were still used.

The garden of Sandra McMahon

Sandra is a well-known Melbourne garden designer


John Patrick visited for the ABC in 2015 and remarks that “It’s native in the front and then there’s a wonderful lush, exotic garden in the back. It’s quite fantastic. You don’t get any hint of this from the front,” he says.

  • “I feel it’s all about mystery and escape,” says Sandra. “I’m always trying to help people lose their orientation a little bit in a garden because I think that that’s very helpful for relaxing in a garden and that’s what a garden should be about.”

  • John says Sandra not only likes design but also loves and knows her plants. “Well, I do emphasise the use of plants for structure in all the gardens that I design, so I use a wide palette of plants.

  • Read more: 
    Arts and Crafts ethos reborn in Kilsyth garden
    Gardening Australia – Fact Sheet: Playing With Plants – ABC

4. Naturalistic Colour Schemes


Arts and Crafts generally embraced the more subtle hues and colour cylcles found in Nature.

  • William Robinson in “The English Flower Garden” wrote that ‘Nature is a good colourist, and if we trust her guidance, we never find wrong colour in wood, meadow or mountain.’

  • Charles Francis Annesley Voysey was an English architect and furniture and textile designer. Voysey’s early work was as a designer of wallpapers, fabrics and furnishings in a simple Arts and Crafts

  • Voysey advocated taking cues direct from nature’s colours and sequence: “…nature never allows her colours to quarrel, (her) harmony is everywhere..”

Natural Designs by CFA Voysey:
Carrick Hill Garden.jpg
5. Outstanding period garden designs in Australia

1. Carrick Hill Garden,  46 Carrick Hill Dr, Springfield, South Australia

The most famous Arts and Craft garden in Australia is at Carrick Hill in the Adelaide foothills of SA.

The 40 hectare manor garden was created by Edward and Ursula Hayward in the 1930’s, modelled on the extensive gardens on the ‘Arts and Crafts’ style that were developed in the 19th Century.

The style emphasises

the use of locally sourced materials from the garden, to create

garden rooms or compartments where different shrubs and plants are grown for different interest.

Plants with ancient histories or folklore were particularly valued.


The Hayward couple lived at Carrick Hill until the 1980’s when the property was then bequeathed to the people of South Australia.

2. Malmsbury Botanic Garden and Lake, Ellesmere Place, Malmsbury, Victoria

Established in the 1850’s the Malmsbury Botanic Gardens is central to Malmsbury off the Calder highway on the way from Melbourne to Bendigo.


It is one of Victoria’s earliest regional botanic gardens encompassing a wonderful collection of trees and shrubs along with a few surprises from its rich past.

Plant collections

The plant and tree collection includes:

  • Bunya Bunya (Araucaria bidwillii)

  • Californian Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) - and 

  • a stand of three large Seqoiadendron giganteum

  • Strawberry Tree (Arbutus)

  • Sugar Gum (Eucalyptus cladocalyx)

  • Cedrus atlantica f. glauca, 

  • West Himalayan spruce (Picea smithiana)

Special features
  • The central focal point of the gardens is the Ornamental Lake with the formed island at its centre.

  • The fountain was built in the 1930’s from bluestone salvaged from a nearby demolished mill.

    • Both the fountain and the lake edges have been restored in recent years

  • Dutch Elms planted at the front of the lake were planted as a memorial to soldiers of the first World War, 1914 – 1918.

3. Five Federation Gardens featured at archive - Great Federation Gardens:

  1. Retford Park NSW, established by Samuel Hordern in 1887.

  2. Markdale NSW: Glorious garden design by Edna Walling

  3. Milton Park NSW, established by Anthony Hordern, in 1910

  4. Banongill Station,Skiption Vic, one of a handful of gardens designed by 19th century landscape designer William Guilfoyle.

  5. Cruden Farm, Victoria, established by late Dame Elisabeth Murdoch within a working farm more than 80 years ago


6. Love of Gardening

The Garden of Lucy Culliton: (From The Planthunter)

Lucy’s garden is wild and abundant. It’s a space to meander through slowly – offering incredibly beautiful vignettes on both macro and micro levels. It’s also, most importantly, a window into the world of Lucy Culliton.

Gardens are expressions, not show-ponies. They only have to suit the hand that nurtures them, and if they do, well, that’s that. Nothing more needs to be said.“I like nurturing,” Lucy tells me when I ask her what draws her to gardening. This is clear, but it’s also clear she likes hard work.

Gardening is a mental exercise which is different to painting. It’s something that’s never finished and I never intend it to be finished. It’s hard work but it pays off – I think it just suits me.”

7. Gates, views and surprises

The Arts and Crafts garden was full of mystery, surprises and light and shade effects.

  • Gates: Moon Gates were installed as exotic inspirations, or a distant gate could open to a new view

  • Keyhole views: surprises and tiny views through windows or gaps

  • Vistas: Walk around a corner on the path and find a surprising view

  • Windows: glimpses of garden views from house windows and the clever use of mirrors in garden design

Recycled window frames used as a garden feature.

  • A frame at the end of the path offers more mystery.

  • Can you find a mirror used here?

Bebeah, Mt Wilson NSW

  • Barry Byrne is a man of vision. When he and his partner, Miguel Alvarez, moved to ‘Bebeah’, a five-hectare garden estate at Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains of NSW, he says there was nothing except a few large trees. That was 30 years ago.

  • While he has a background in interior decorating, Barry had no previous gardening experience before moving to Mount Wilson. He just got stuck into it, using his finely honed spatial design skills to craft the garden. ‘I started at the front gate and designed until the money ran out,’ he tells me.

  • The garden is grand. It’s comprised of a series of formal elements – a sweeping semi-circular azalea walk, avenues flanked with pine, oak, and elm trees, and plenty of hedges.

It’s not, however, a typical formal garden in the sense of a contrived structure imposed on the landscape. It’s more interesting than that.

  • The garden meanders around the site, loosening as it gets further away from the house.

  • The scale is impressive, as is Barry’s eye. Antique sculptures and garden elements frame vistas and provide focal points, enticing visitors to keep on exploring.

Read more:
Barry Byrne and Miguel Alvarez – The Design Files | Australia’s most popular design blog

8. Edna Walling Garden Designs

Edna Walling is still one of Australia’s finest and most influential landscape designers. She was also a popular writer, a talented photographer and a charismatic personality.


Walling’s style changed very little throughout her career, however each garden is unique.

  • She is renowned for her use of stone, especially in low fences or walls and steps, where moss was encouraged to grow.

  • Dense greenery with few flowers, and a naturalness that softens and unites the garden to its house, also identifies Walling’s gardens.

  • Her aim was always to create unity between the house and the garden.


Edna Walling’s basic design principles were based on a set of design ethics:

  • Work with existing landscapes and existing features, such as slopes, rocks and trees

  • Begin by ‘sculpting’ the surface of the land, preferably not levelling it

  • Create a unity between the house and the garden

  • Use architectural principles to structure the garden and soften with dense planting

  • Individually design for each house and garden and the needs of the clients

  • Keep garden maintenance to a minimum.

Edna Walling had a free and easy attitude to garden maintenance and she believed that every window of a house should have a view of the garden, to create the effect of bringing the garden into the house.

Read more: Archived Arts and Crafts Garden design

9. ‘Yin and Yang’

Garden designer Gertrude Jekyll’s plant combinations are legendary: the beauty of two plants carefully juxtaposed shows that one plus one equals far more than two.

  • Gertrude Jekyll combined:
    Discipline + Generosity,
    Harmony + Contrast.

  • She pioneered ‘planting in drifts’ so that plants in flower at any one time built up into colourful compositions.

    • Earlier and later flowering plants fade into the background.

  • Bulbs like jonquils and daffodils were inter-planted with ferns, so the older stems were hidden under the foliage.


English artist Gertrude Jekyll was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement which sought to blend the arts.

She endeavoured to unify the garden with architecture, as did Walling:

"So much money is spent on the house and then it often is left without any connecting link with the land… The garden should be built first, forming the setting for the house which should then be linked up with it."

"It is really rather amazing that we have copies of the English style rather than Spanish and Italian because in this climate, protection from hot winds is essential to civilised living"

Colour wheel with labels
Colour Design Tips for colour wheel
10. Use of complementary colours

Garden Designer Gertrude Jekyll believed in harmonious colour planting, a horticultural ‘theory of relativity’, based upon her training at the Kensington School of Art (UK).

  • There she would have learnt of the colour wheel invented by Isaac Newton and elaborated since by various painters.

  • The saturation of the eye with one colour so that its complementary colour would then be seen in advanced brilliance was the basis of Miss Jekyll’s management of colour contrast.

  • Read more:



11. Harmony and Contrast

Garden Designer Gertrude Jekyll knew that both planting form and texture were as equally important as colour planning.

  • Miss Jekyll understood the need for a prevailing sense of harmony, within which were contrasts in form and texture, to excite the the senses of the visitor.

Keep Reading:

Archived: Arts and Craft Gardens Design


Christopher Betteridge, BSc (Sydney), MSc (Leicester), AMA (London), Director of MUSEcape Pty Ltd, is a qualified botanist with a Master’s degree in museum studies and training in heritage conservation.

He has over thirty years' experience in the investigation, assessment, management and interpretation of the natural and cultural environment.

Chris has lectured and published widely on the conservation of cultural landscapes including historic gardens, parks and cemeteries.


Federation Gardens

Sources of information


  • Betteridge, Christopher, ‘A Meed of Beauty and Repose: The Federation Garden in Australia,’ in Howells, T & Nicholson, M, Towards the Dawn: Federation Architecture in Australia, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney 1993, pp 187-198.

  • Bogue-Luffman, Charles, The Principles of Gardening for Australia, Book Lovers’ Library, Melbourne, 1903.

  • Cielens + Wark et al., Waite Historic Precinct: Landscape Master Plan, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 1996.

  • Evans, Ian, The Federation House: a Restoration Guide, Flannel Flower Press, Glebe NSW, 1986.

  • Fraser, Hugh & Joyce, R, The Federation House, Lansdowne Press, Sydney, 1986.

  • Jones, David ‘Elsie Marion Cornish (1887-1946): a pioneer of contemporary landscape design in Adelaide,’ Landscape Australia 1/98, 1998.

  • McBriar, Marilyn, ‘Gardens of Federation and other Edwardian Houses in Melbourne c.1890-1914,’ unpublished Grad Dip Land Des thesis, RMIT, Melbourne,1980.

  • McDougall, Kate, ‘A Preference for Stone: South Australia,’ in Howells, T & Nicholson, M, Towards the Dawn: Federation Architecture in Australia, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney 1993, pp 128-136.

Keep Reading:
Further Library Reading:
  • Rural Australian Gardens, by Myles Baldwin

  • Private Gardens of Australia 

  • The Great Gardens of Australia by Howard Tanner

  • Under the Spell of Australia: Australian Country Gardens by Trisha Dixon

  • Australia the Beautiful: Great Gardens - Presenting Our Special  Australian Gardens

  • The Great Gardens of Australia by Howard Tanner

  • Australian Country Gardens 

  • Gardens in Australia 

  • Period Gardens by Myles Baldwin

  • Australian Coastal Gardens by Myles Baldwin

  • Gardens in Time: In the footsteps of Edna Walling by Trisha Dixon

  • Rose Gardens of Australia by Susan Irvine

  • The Aust. Country Woman’s Garden 


Federation-House Information

Details about renovating Australia's Own Housing Style - latest: Federation Gardens
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'Whoot' a CFA Voysey original wallpaper