Landscape designer’s eco-conscious Victorian garden

Landscape designer Kathleen Murphy’s own home and studio garden.

Landscape designer Kathleen Murphy’s own garden, known as the ‘Native Retreat,’ is a testament to her creative career and the success of her business – Kathleen Murphy Design.

Located just an hour’s drive north of Melbourne’s CBD and nestled in the Macedon ranges, this garden is designed to be a place where Kathleen’s three children can play and explore in their backyard. With an added functional benefit for her landscape design business, where she can trial new ideas for upcoming projects.

Kathleen Murphy Landscape Design

The Brief

Sixteen years ago Kathleen and her family purchased the property with visions of developing an outdoor area where she could experiment and trial plants, materials and combinations that would benefit her clients. Besides functionality for the business, the garden also needed to serve as a living space for her and her family to enjoy and flourish in.

Amidst the demands of raising her little ones and establishing her business, transforming the outdoor area fell to the back burner. But with the success of the final result of this garden evident, we see living proof of the saying ‘good things take time’.

When the timing was right to develop her outdoor space, Kathleen sought a garden that utilised local materials from her surrounding area. The planting would need to be carefully planned for to ensure it was able to survive in both 40°C heat and frost below -5°C. 

An overarching goal of this project was to demonstrate to clients that it is possible to have a garden that boasts Australian-inspired flora that thrives through all seasons and weather conditions, and also showcases colour and beauty.

The Transformation

The newly fashioned space became Kathleen’s canvas for experimenting with fresh ideas and processes. Among these trials included the process of exploring the technique of earth mounding to create improved drainage on her clay volcanic soil. 

Kathleen was also able to make use of water in the garden with the introduction of an Australian ‘Billabong’. This process was proven to be extremely effective as a design feature as it fostered the garden’s biodiversity, attracting more wildlife like birds, insects, reptiles, and even kangaroos, to the garden. With a harmonious ecosystem in place, the need for spraying for pests and diseases was no longer necessary.

A commitment to an eco-conscious style of living is evident throughout the design of Kathleen’s garden. The garden is irrigated with recycled water that has been processed through a ‘Taylex’ water treatment system. This water is collected from toilets and showers within the home and studio and journeys through a meticulous process of aeration and filtration, similar to commercial water treatment plants. 

The garden embraces plants from around all over the world. To ensure the garden would survive and thrive through the extreme Victorian weather conditions, the plants were sourced from countries and regions with similar climates including California, Italy, Spain and Portugal. These plants have been dispersed amongst the garden with Australian natives to create a seamless blend. 

A notable example of this practice includes the large clusters of Beschorneria Yuccoides (Mexican lily) that have been underplanted with Prostrate Rosemary, Festuca Glauca (blue fescue) and Lomandra ‘Seascape’ – a blended feature along the front of the Kathleen Murphy Design Studio on the property.

The Result

This garden celebrates sustainability, creativity and beauty. 

The garden thrives in the extreme conditions that come with living in this particular region of Australia. It serves a functional purpose as a living space and benefits Kathleen’s business ventures. 

Each element showcases Kathleen’s skill and dedication to innovative landscape design. She has successfully produced a sanctuary for her family, a place for her business to thrive and a home for a vast ecosystem of wildlife.

Key Planting List

  • Scaevola aemula ‘Aussie Salute’
  • Westringia ‘Low Horizon’ (coastal rosemary)
  • Dianella tasmanica ‘Tas Red’ (flax lily)
  • Lomandra ‘Tanika’
  • Olea europaea (olive trees)
  • Ficinia nodosa
  • Acer ‘Crimson Sentry’ (maple)
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Pervoskia (Russian sage)
  • Agastache
  • Correa alba
  • Pycnosorus globosus (Billy buttons)
  • Craspedia variabilis
  • Baloskion pallens (Didgery sticks)
  • Juncus pallidus
  • Myriophyllum variifolium
  • Triglochin procerum

Design your dream garden with Kathleen Murphy

Kathleen’s online course is a self-paced course that guides & teaches you how to layout your garden/landscape & select the right plants suited to your site.