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

A Plant Collector's Wild And Wonderful Paradise

Gardens

Lyle Filippe is a collector of kerosene lamps, art-deco chandeliers, clocks and, perhaps most obviously, plants. He and his ‘long-suffering’ wife Cheryl run Roraima Nursery in Lara, near Geelong in Victoria.

The nursery specialises in weird, wonderful and collectible plant species.

16th August, 2019

Lyle Filippe, plant collector, nurseryman and gardener at Roraima Nursery. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Roraima Nursery is 4.5 acres of retail nursery and gardens at Lara, just north of Geelong in Victoria. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘If an object has a presence or a shape or something about it that stands out, it appeals to me.’ The gardens, then, are filled not only with plants but also with interesting found objects and sculptures that have caught Lyle’s eye. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Silver torch cactus (Cleistocactus strausii). Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Houseleek (Aeonium spp.) Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Roraima Nursery specialises in ‘unusual, exotic, drought-tolerant and architectural plants’. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Lyle Filippe, a man with a grand green vision, at home in his garden at Roraima Nursery. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

After many years of work, Lyle opened the gardens at Roraima to the public around two years ago. They are a wonderland of sculptural and unusual plants and a great way to showcase the potential of many of the plants for sale in the nursery. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Georgina Reid
Friday 16th August 2019

‘I collect but keep. I’m a hoarder. I like to think I’m hoarding good stuff though, as any hoarder thinks.’ – Lyle Filippe.

It doesn’t matter whether a plant is from the tropics or the desert – if it has an interesting form, shape or story, Lyle Filippe of Roraima Nursery has to have it. This can mean sweet-talking an 80-year-old collector in the hope of an offer of a cutting or a handful of seeds, stalking succulents on eBay, or swerving off the road and knocking on front doors, business card in hand, at the sight of a curious cactus in a front garden. Lyle is obsessed.

In 2001 Lyle and Cheryl bought this 6.5-acre property at Lara and began plotting to create the nursery. The land had previously been used as a plant nursery but ‘it was a mess,’ Lyle says. ‘We shut it down for six months, bulldozed it, and I’ve been building it up ever since.’ This is no understatement. Lyle is a man with a vision (actually, visions), and over the last 18 years, he’s developed not only an extensive retail nursery selling many of the plants from his collection, but also a garden showcasing them. It is, of course, wild and wonderful and slightly mad. The gardens opened a couple of years ago, and their creation was ‘a means of making the nursery more interesting, so it’s not just like a supermarket. There are things to wonder about, to look at. Things you don’t see anymore.’ Lyle is right. A visit to Roraima Nursery and garden is not like a visit to any other. It’s a world of its own. A world conceived in the mind of Lyle, the collector, the gardener.

He was bitten by the bug early. As a 15-year-old he was growing plants on his bedroom windowsill. ‘They were always very unusual things. Not your traditional plants.’ After school he studied resource management, wanting to work in National Parks management, but plants stole his heart. He began working at a nursery, then started propagating his own plants and selling them at markets.

‘I’ve been collecting plants forever – initially it was from other collectors. Wherever I go, if I see something different, I knock on the door, get a cutting, get a piece. Whenever something has been come available in the nursery trade I’ve always bought a couple and stuck them in the ground. There are not many things I don’t know, or haven’t seen before, but I’m always finding new plants.’

I ask him what draws him to certain plants, not others. ‘I’m very interested in shape and texture. With specimen plants, it’s not just about flowers. It’s their form, and how they sit in the landscape. The more unusual a plant is, the more I like it.’ It’s not just about the thrill of the chase for Lyle, it’s also about the way the desired plant might then sit within his larger vision that seems important to him. It’s about gardening. ‘I just like dealing with plants. All of it. Whether it’s propagating, digging holes, planning, ordering plants online, growing. I suppose it’s about the creativity. A garden is essentially an artwork, and it’s always evolving. That’s the beauty of gardens. There’s always something to surprise you.’

Unlike other collectors, Lyle never lets go of a collection. He may stop collecting ‘mainly because there’s nothing else out there – I’ve collected it to death. And then I’ll move on to something else. I collect but keep. I’m a hoarder. I like to think I’m hoarding good stuff though, as any hoarder thinks.’ Lyle is hoarding good stuff. I’ve visited his nursery a few times over the years, and each time I’ve been blindsided by the botanical curiosities he’s gathered together. Things I’ve never seen before or since. I just wish I lived a little closer.

The current nursery and gardens are just the beginning of Lyle’s big green vision. ‘There are some grand ideas I still want to create’, he tells me. ‘I want to build some plant display houses, a small restaurant, more retail expansion and more gardens. There’s a lot of things that have always been in my mind to achieve and I slowly work towards them. It’ll probably be a life-long project, I don’t think it’ll ever be finished.’ A garden never is. Lyle knows this. I have a sense that Lyle has the patience, commitment and vision to keep on growing Roraima into a world that only he can create. ‘If I do the things I have in my mind it’ll double the wow factor of the nursery. I want to make something iconic’.

I have no doubt Lyle Filippe, the gardener, the collector, will get there.

This Week

News

An International Japanese Design Exhibition Opens in Launceston

Explore the work of 58 Japanese architects in this Design Tasmania exhibition.
Amelia Barnes

News

Tamara Dean, Bill Henson + Janet Laurence In Conversation With The Planthunter

Georgina Reid of The Planthunter sits down with artists Tamara Dean, Bill Henson + Janet Laurence in a new conversation series connecting ar...
Amelia Barnes

News

All Are Welcome At North Melbourne School Of Displacement

Learn about and honour the First Nations in this accessible North Melbourne discussion series.
Amelia Barnes

Homes

A Prahran East Atelier Adorned With Layers Of History

Revered Melbourne interior designer Tigger Hall shares her artistic home, filled with objects from all over the globe.

Interiors

Brown Is The New Neutral

Brown is back! Lauren Li gives us the lowdown on how to add warmth and texture to your home, with this somewhat divisive colour.
Lauren Li

News

Join The ‘Garden Party’

A star-studded group exhibition at BSIDE Gallery from August 21-25th of illustration, textiles and ceramics that celebrates growing together...
Miriam McGarry

Art

Balenciaga Comes To Bendigo!

Direct from the Victoria and Albert museum in London, the ground-breaking exhibition ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ arrives at the Bendig...
Miriam McGarry

Gardens

A Factory Rooftop Turned Lush Penthouse Garden

SJB director Adam Haddow’s Sydney apartment opens to a stunning rooftop garden, designed by William Dangar of Dangar Barin Smith.
Amelia Barnes

Interiors

Saying Goodbye To A Local Icon!

After over a decade of operations, the beloved Brooklyn Arts Hotel in Fitzroy is closing - and its iconic building is for sale.

Art

Shifting Time And Space With Jasmine Mansbridge

Explore the artist’s new exhibition ‘Your Time For The Moon’, showing at 19Karen gallery.

News

Up-cycling, With A Global Flair!

Kyoto-based, French designer Clementine Sander is helping you up-cycle Japanese textiles, in collaboration with The Social Studio.
Miriam McGarry

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Seasonal Flavours : Citrus

One of our FAVE foodies, Julia Busuttil-Nishimura joins TDF this month as a columnist! First up, she shares a flavour-packed roasted caulifl...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Travel

A Stylist's Guide To Downtown Los Angeles

Sydney stylist Sarah Ellison shares her guide to all things design in Downtown LA!
Sarah Ellison

Architecture

The Apple Crate Shack On The Apple Isle!

A $60,000 budget goes a long way in this ambitious project in Flowerpot, Tasmania.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A California Bungalow Reconfigured For Light And Practicality

Project 12 Architecture has renovated a Northcote home to overcome its southern orientation and previously disjointed rooms.
Amelia Barnes

View Comments

Similar Stories

Gardens

Lambley Nursery

Artist Criss Canning and her husband David Glenn own Lambley Nursery, an amazing plant nursery in central Victoria, renowned for their incr...
Georgina Reid

Gardens

A Spectacular Riverside Garden in Melbourne

A tour through a volcano-inspired garden on the banks of the Yarra River, with owner Sarah Laidlaw and Eckersley Garden Architecture.
Georgina Reid

Gardens

An Industrial Wasteland Turned Plant Paradise

A tour of Andrea Fitzpatrick's lush city plant shop, Botanick Brisbane.
Georgina Reid

This Week

Gardens

A Factory Rooftop Turned Lush Penthouse Garden

SJB director Adam Haddow’s Sydney apartment opens to a stunning rooftop garden, designed by William Dangar of Dangar Barin Smith.
Amelia Barnes

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Seasonal Flavours : Citrus

One of our FAVE foodies, Julia Busuttil-Nishimura joins TDF this month as a columnist! First up, she shares a flavour-packed roasted caulifl...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Travel

A Stylist's Guide To Downtown Los Angeles

Sydney stylist Sarah Ellison shares her guide to all things design in Downtown LA!
Sarah Ellison

News

Join The ‘Garden Party’

A star-studded group exhibition at BSIDE Gallery from August 21-25th of illustration, textiles and ceramics that celebrates growing together...
Miriam McGarry

Interiors

Brown Is The New Neutral

Brown is back! Lauren Li gives us the lowdown on how to add warmth and texture to your home, with this somewhat divisive colour.
Lauren Li

News

All Are Welcome At North Melbourne School Of Displacement

Learn about and honour the First Nations in this accessible North Melbourne discussion series.
Amelia Barnes

Architecture

The Apple Crate Shack On The Apple Isle!

A $60,000 budget goes a long way in this ambitious project in Flowerpot, Tasmania.
Miriam McGarry

News

An International Japanese Design Exhibition Opens in Launceston

Explore the work of 58 Japanese architects in this Design Tasmania exhibition.
Amelia Barnes

Interiors

Saying Goodbye To A Local Icon!

After over a decade of operations, the beloved Brooklyn Arts Hotel in Fitzroy is closing - and its iconic building is for sale.

Art

Shifting Time And Space With Jasmine Mansbridge

Explore the artist’s new exhibition ‘Your Time For The Moon’, showing at 19Karen gallery.

Homes

A Prahran East Atelier Adorned With Layers Of History

Revered Melbourne interior designer Tigger Hall shares her artistic home, filled with objects from all over the globe.

News

Tamara Dean, Bill Henson + Janet Laurence In Conversation With The Planthunter

Georgina Reid of The Planthunter sits down with artists Tamara Dean, Bill Henson + Janet Laurence in a new conversation series connecting ar...
Amelia Barnes

Architecture

A California Bungalow Reconfigured For Light And Practicality

Project 12 Architecture has renovated a Northcote home to overcome its southern orientation and previously disjointed rooms.
Amelia Barnes

Art

Balenciaga Comes To Bendigo!

Direct from the Victoria and Albert museum in London, the ground-breaking exhibition ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ arrives at the Bendig...
Miriam McGarry

News

Up-cycling, With A Global Flair!

Kyoto-based, French designer Clementine Sander is helping you up-cycle Japanese textiles, in collaboration with The Social Studio.
Miriam McGarry

Similar Stories

Gardens

Lambley Nursery

The idyllic garden and nursery of artist Criss Canning and David Glenn in Ascot.
Georgina Reid

Gardens

A Spectacular Riverside Garden in Melbourne

A tour through a volcano-inspired garden on the banks of the Yarra River.
Georgina Reid

Gardens

An Industrial Wasteland Turned Plant Paradise

A tour of Andrea Fitzpatrick's lush city plant shop, Botanick Brisbane.
Georgina Reid