This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Owen Harris

Gardens

The lush rooftop garden of Owen Harris in Melbourne’s Fitzroy is the ultimate inner city oasis. At 44m², it’s small but abundant, with every inch carefully considered.

11th April, 2016

Outdoor lounge area – furniture by TAIT.  Grapevine (Vitis coignetiae) growing on wires above seating area. Ficus elastica ‘variegata’ (tree in far right corner), Creeping rosemary (Rosemarinus prostrata) in bottom left corner. Photo –Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

A rubber plant (Ficus elastica) nestled amongst Creeping rosemary (Rosemarinus prostrata). Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

A tall potted ‘Cabbage tree’ (Cussonia spicata) lends  a sense of scale to the North East corner of the balcony. Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

North East corner of the balcony. To the left, Ficus longifolia ‘Ali’, and in the far corner, Cussonia spicata (tall tree with trunk). Outdoor dining setting by TAIT.  Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

North side of balcony. Gymea Lily (Doryanthes excelsa) is planted along the North wall, with large strappy leaves. Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

The rooftop garden of Owen Harris. Furniture by TAIT. Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

Living room looking out to North part of balcony. Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

Dining table detail. Ficus longifolia ‘Ali’ behind table. Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’) with distinctive purple leaves. Photo – Annette O’Brien for The Design Files.

I used to think that making the move into your first non-share-house home was the ultimate sign of adulthood. I’ve realised, though, that a great garden is surely a more accurate sign of being properly ‘grown up’. After all, anyone can lease a nice house, but cultivating a happy and healthy garden is a much greater commitment, and often says a great deal about a person.

I’ve known Owen Harris for around 15 years, though I hadn’t seen him for a long time until recently. He’s a doctor, which is properly impressive. But it wasn’t until I recently visited his Fitzroy apartment, with its lovingly maintained balcony garden, that something dawned on me. ‘This is so grown up!’ I gushed, somewhat embarassingly. After all, Owen is in his early thirties, with a professional career, a lovely home and a much loved pet (Benjamin, a rescue dog). But it was the garden that conveyed something about Owen I hadn’t seen before.

Owen moved here in late 2013. He was attracted to the apartment, in part, because of its generous balcony, which wraps around the apartment on both the North and East sides, forming a lush backdrop visible from every room.

In the winter of 2014, around six months after moving in, Owen started work on the garden, with the assistance of local landscape designer Matt Dux of I Heart My Garden. ‘Matt was recommended by a friend of a friend, he had his own Fitzroy rooftop garden for seven years, so he knew what would work’ Owen says. ‘We had similar aesthetic and ideas about the textural element of the garden’.

Owen had a pretty good idea of the garden layout and how he wanted the space to function, but Matt’s experience with rooftop gardens in particular proved invaluable. ‘There were a lot of things I hadn’t considered – being a rooftop garden and not having soil, the substrate was a big thing’ Owen recalls. Matt put a lot of effort into prepping the pots and the soil, adding a special mesh in the bottom of each pot for drainage, and adding water retention additives to the soil.

Matt also helped Owen select the perfect plants which would do well in this windy, elevated spot. Key selections included the distinctive Cussonia spicata ‘Cabbage tree’ (the large tree with trunk in the corner of the balcony), and the Vitis coignetiae grapevine growing on wires above the lounge area. The only constraint in plant choice was the span of the lift doors!

The majority of the planting here took just over a week. A watering system went in first, then the pots (mostly lightweight), then all the soil was brought up in bags – taken up in the lift one by one. The largest plants all went in at once, though for many months afterwards Matt would pop past at random times with extra things he decided to add!

Amongst the lush foliage here, Owen has selected outdoor furniture from local manufacturer TAIT, creating a versatile space that is used daily. In the warmer months, the balcony really is an extension of the apartment, and carefully considered outdoor lighting means it is used both day and night. ‘The garden wraps around the whole place, so it forms a backdrop to the living space’ says Owen. ‘Because of the parapet I don’t get a lot of view, and I actually quite like that – it feels private and secluded.’

A great garden speaks volumes about its caretaker. There’s a level of nurturing and responsibility required, that’s a given. But a carefully planned and well maintained garden says more than just ‘I can keep plants alive’. There’s often something calm, assured and fundamentally at ease about people who value and take pride in a garden or outdoor space. To me, Owen’s beautiful garden says ‘I’m settled, I’m staying put for a while’.

View Comments

Similar Stories

Gardens

A Slow And Thoughtful Garden, Designed With Functionality In Mind

Landscape architect Hugh Burnett and Ballast Landscape builders work closely with the long-time owners of this Sydney property to create a s...

Gardens

A Super Swish Suburban Front Garden

Bethany Williamson Landscape Architecture subverts the traditional expectations of a suburban garden project... by transforming the front ya...
Sasha Gattermayr

Gardens

A Sensitive Update For This Grand, 100-Year-Old Garden in Sydney

Numerous landscape designers have tended to this Mosman property over the past century.

This Week

News

An Abstract Art Biennale Celebrating Female Artists From Victoria

See ‘Of Colour and Light’ – an exhibition of 50 emerging and established female artists – on now at West End Art Space.

Homes

Emily Green's Joyous Family Home, Filled With Local Makers’ Work

The fun and colour-filled Reservoir family home of designer and Pinky's store co-owner, Emily Green, and teacher Louis Turner.

Creative People

Behind The Scenes Of 'Rone In Geelong’ – Opening This Weekend!

See a retrospective of artist Rone's work to date at Geelong Gallery from Saturday February 27 to Sunday May 16, 2021.

Shopping

Lockdown-Inspired Woven Outdoor Picnic Mats, From One Of Our Fave Local Stylists!

Stylist Nat Turnbull launches Laze, a new brand of outdoor mats for lounging and picnicking, with designs by Alice Oehr.
Sasha Gattermayr
  8 hours ago

Architecture

A New Melbourne Home That Follows The Sun

This Eaglemont home has been cleverly designed 'to almost disappear', by Architects Eat.

On The Market

This Elegant Victorian With An Eclectic Architect-Designed Extension Is For Sale

Period features meet unique, contemporary design in this Ascot Vale, Melbourne home.
Amelia Barnes
  10 hours ago

News

'Giant' by Evi O Opens At Saint Cloche

Artist Evi O showcases her largest paintings to date in new exhibition Giant, on now at Saint Cloche.

On The Market

An Interior Designer’s Glamorous Victorian Pad Hits The Market!

Chelsea Hing’s apartment in an 1890s Italianate mansion in St Kilda East is up for sale. This is *the one*!

Sustainable Homes

A Former Corner Store Turned Sustainable Family Home

A dilapidated, Federation-era shopfront is transformed into a truly unique, energy efficient home by CplusC Architectural Workshop.

News

Patricia Piccinini And Alpha60 Join Forces On A New Collaboration

The celebrated Australian artist and local fashion legends launch a new series of textiles titled ‘Hugs’, which are now installe...
Sponsored

Family

An Honest Conversation On Single Parenting By Choice + Donor Conception With Takeawei Ceramics Founder, Chela Edmunds

Chela Edmunds of Takeawei ceramics shares her story of becoming a mother to 18-month-old Ocean via sperm donor and IVF.

Interiors

A Social Sydney Home Elevated By Garden Views + On Point Decoration!

Following an architectural renovation by Welsh + Major, celebrated design studio Arent&Pyke elevate this Sydney home with a stunning array o...

Architecture

The Architect-Designed, Prefabricated Tiny House Of The Future

FABPREFAB have teamed up with TRIAS to create Minima – a series of prefabricated, small dwellings suitable as home offices, living spaces,...
Amelia Barnes
  18 hours ago

News

A Group Show Combining Ceramics + Still-Life Under One Roof!

Ceramicist Grace Brown joins artistic forces with figurative artist Margaret Voterakis for a new exhibition at Modern Times, ‘Utopian Purs...
Sasha Aarons

Studio Visit

The Melbourne Artist Creating Ceramics Inspired By Ancient Mesoamerican Culture

From dub music to the Chinese Song Dynasty, the influences of Enrique Tochez Anderson stretch far, wide and into the past.

Similar Stories

Gardens

A Slow And Thoughtful Garden, Designed With Functionality In Mind

Landscape architect Hugh Burnett and Ballast Landscape builders work closely with the long-time owners of this Sydney property to create a s...

Gardens

A Super Swish Suburban Front Garden

Bethany Williamson Landscape Architecture subverts the traditional expectations of a suburban garden project... by transforming the front ya...
Sasha Gattermayr

Gardens

A Sensitive Update For This Grand, 100-Year-Old Garden in Sydney

Numerous landscape designers have tended to this Mosman property over the past century.

The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.