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

The Garden Of A Lifetime

Gardens

Leona Romaniuk has lived on the same property in Brisbane’s Chapel Hill for most of her childhood and adult life.

Recently, she enlisted landscape architect Sidonie Carpenter to help her edit the stunning greenspaces, incorporating a Japanese rock garden originally commissioned by her Ikebana-master mother, and a palm-flanked rainforest walk created by her late husband. And if that wasn’t enough, this exceptional garden surrounds an incredible modernist house by Vitaly Gzell!

 

4th February, 2019

Loose, colourful planting balances the clean lines of the modernist home. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

The void of a large rectangular lawn balances the mass of lush, sub-tropical planting in Leona Romaniuk’s Chapel Hill garden. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

‘In music it’s not just the note that’s played that’s important, it’s the space between the notes. Working with the architects and landscape architects has made me appreciate more and more the space between things’, says Leona. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Much of the existing structure of the garden remains, however, Leona and landscape architect Sidonie Carpenter have augmented/edited the planting. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Leona Romaniuk’s home was designed by architect Vitaly Gzell in the early 1960s. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Layered planting flanks the driveway. Many of the larger plants have been in the garden since the 1960s. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

‘I remember when dad bought the umbrella tree (large multi-stemmed tree in the background) home as a seedling in a tin’, says Leona. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Leona’s garden is very much about the balance between expansive and intimate spaces. Photo – Daniel Shipp.

Georgina Reid
Monday 4th February 2019

‘We didn’t have a plan, and I didn’t want one. I wanted it to develop organically because a garden just does.’ – Leona Romaniuk.

It’s rare these days to live in the same place all your life. See the world, fly the coop, change, move, grow, we’re told. And so we do. Yet, there’s great nourishment on offer when we choose to stay. When we choose to make a life in relation to a place, rather than living a placeless life. Visiting Leona Romaniuk’s home and garden in the Brisbane suburb of Chapel Hill reminds me of this. She’s lived in the same house for most of her years – as a young child, a mother with five children and now as a grandmother. Observing her face as she shows me around her garden illustrates clearly the joy she finds growing from this place.

Leona’s parents bought the property in the early 1960s, and commissioned architect Vitaly Gzell to design the incredible modernist house (which has recently undergone renovations designed by James Russell Architect). In the 1970s, after Leona’s father died, her mother subdivided the property, and the garden shrunk from three acres to one. At that time, the garden became an important place for both Leona and her mother, who was an Ikebana master and grew many plants for her arrangements in the space. ‘I started to appreciate the garden more in the 1970s. The sheer beauty of the garden drew me in’ Leona says.

When Leona and her late husband Kon moved back to the property in the early 1980s, they inherited her parents garden. Big old strelitzias, cordylines, crepe myrtles and umbrella trees planted by her father sat alongside a Japanese rock garden commissioned by her mother. There’s a weightiness to inheriting a garden like this, and Leona and Kon lived with the garden as it was for a number of years.

Soon, though, they began making changes. The pair instigated a palm-flanked rainforest walk weaving through a shady lower area of the garden. ‘Kon was the main driver behind the rainforest. He was a real worker’, Leona says. But, ‘we’d see a plant and we’d plant it. We didn’t really consider things.’

After most of a lifetime spent in this garden, for the last five years, Leona has been looking and editing. ‘I’ve had 60 years to contemplate what to do!’ she says. ‘This is the first time I’ve tried to look at the whole thing and pull it together.’

She engaged landscape architect Sidonie Carpenter to help guide her through the process. The initial structure of the garden didn’t need much tweaking, but the planting was in need of attention. ‘Sidonie and I have worked together for the last five years. She would say ‘let’s do this or that’ and we did it. We didn’t have a plan, and I didn’t want one. I wanted it to develop organically, because a garden just does. It’s been a really lovely process.’

With Sidonie’s help, the garden has been given space to breathe and a new lease on life. Leona is uncompromising in her vision. ‘I want to create a beautiful garden because it gives me such joy. If a plant doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We get rid of it. Life is short. Barry, my gardener, says to me “Oh for goodness sake, Leona, you’re like a Bondi tram”.

Leona loves this garden, this home, this place. And now, after a lifetime, she’s truly made it her own. ‘I love this place so much. I feel like it’s very much my home now. In terms of feel, and spirit.’

This Week

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.

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
  13 hours ago

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...

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.

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.

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.

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
  11 hours ago

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.

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

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

Architecture

A New Melbourne Home That Follows The Sun

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

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.

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.

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
  21 hours ago

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*!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Stays

A New Way To Experience The Garden Of St Erth

The Diggers Club's rambling open garden in Blackwood, just outside Melbourne, now offers glamping!
Georgina Reid

Gardens

A Perfect Family Garden In Camberwell

Not overdone, nor too sparing, tour an outdoor oasis designed by Ian Barker in Camberwell - and it’s only two years old!
Georgina Reid

Roundup

Our Favourite Gardens of 2018

A look back through the most popular gardens we featured in 2018. So lush!

This Week

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

A New Melbourne Home That Follows The Sun

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

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

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
  11 hours ago

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.

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.

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.

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
  21 hours ago

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
  13 hours ago

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*!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Similar Stories

Stays

A New Way To Experience The Garden Of St Erth

The Diggers Club's rambling open garden in Blackwood, just outside Melbourne, now offers glamping!
Georgina Reid

Gardens

A Perfect Family Garden In Camberwell

An outdoor oasis, designed by Ian Barker in Camberwell.
Georgina Reid

Roundup

Our Favourite Gardens of 2018

A look back through the most popular gardens we featured in 2018. So lush!

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.