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An Artist's Blissful Garden Wonderland In Daylesford

The Planthunter

Artist and garden designer Lily Langham tells Georgina Reid she was ‘was born in a garden’. Not literally, but figuratively. Her life began with plants, under the wing of her garden-mad mother, and continues today, in an incredible botanical wonderland embraced by 100 acres of bushland near the Victorian town of Daylesford.

Today, Lily and Georgina guide us through this bountiful, sprawling wonderland, that Lily has intuitively transformed with an artist’s eye over the past 13 years.

10th April, 2020

Lily Langham and Rodney Baker’s home and garden is nestled in bushland near Daylesford, Victoria. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lily Langham and Rodney Baker’s home and garden is nestled in bushland near Daylesford, Victoria. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Artist and garden designer Lily Langham. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lily Langham’s family home and garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Pears harvested from the 100-year-old trees on the property. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Apples! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lily’s garden is gorgeous and ramshackle and wild! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lily is an intuitive gardener. ‘I just have an instinct of how plants go together’, she says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Garden details. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lily’s family home and garden is surrounded by 100 acres of bushland. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Oscar, Lily and Rodney’s son, with chook. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Oscar (9) and Max-Orlando (12) play in the paddock with dogs Scrap and Coco. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The property is part of a larger working farm. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘All of my work – whether art, jewellery, sculpture, garden design – grows from the earth,’ says  Lily. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lily’s dog Daisy rests in the garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Peeking at a pumpkin. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘The garden is so important. Especially for my kids. They can connect to the land – to the animals, plants and insects – and have the opportunity to witness things that are so fascinating.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

A blissful pathway through Lily’s garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

A rogue pumpkin. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Garden details. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Garden details. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Vintage timber wagon. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

It’s never lonely in Lily’s garden! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lily is fascinated by the relationships between plants and insects. ‘I go down to the garden at night to see what moths are pollinating what plant!’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The garden is spectacular at sunset. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Cut leaf daisy (Brachyscombe spp.)Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Some veggie patches. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Lily Langham and Rodney Baker’s home and garden is nestled in bushland near Daylsford, Victoria. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Georgina Reid
Friday 10th April 2020

‘I feel like I’m part of the plants now, part of the garden’ – Lily Langham. 

Lily Langham has been living on her sprawling Daylesford property with her partner Rodney Baker for around 13 years. The land was originally part of Rodney’s family farm, and was gifted to the pair by Rodney’s late grandmother. A small stone building, which is now Lily’s studio, a few very old pear trees, a yellow plum tree and a rose bush were all that existed on the site when Lily and Rodney first arrived. From this framework, Lily began gardening.

‘The first thing I planted was a little garden outside my studio. It was mainly dianthus. Then the sheep got in and ate it all!’ Lily recalls. Then, she moved onto trees. She planted a bunch of oaks (Quercus canariensis), which are now over four metres tall. She now has around 13 different oak species growing on the property. ‘I’m a bit oak obsessed!’

Once Lily had some structure and shelter in place, she began gardening in earnest, guided by intuition and a desire to really listen to the land. ‘Part of making the garden here is really about the connection to the land,’ Lily tells me. ‘The land here, there’s something special about it. I’m always breath taken.’ 

I’m breath taken by her garden. It’s rare to see a garden that sits so gently on the landscape. It’s like it’s having a conversation with the soil; it couldn’t be anywhere else but here. It feels true to exactly where it is. ‘I’ve tried to create an honest garden without ego or expectation’, Lily explains. ‘As it grows, it’s just pure heart-felt joy and a wonderful delight to witness. It’s almost like music singing through my whole being!’ 

Lily studied fine arts and sculpture at university. She’s got no formal training in design or horticulture, but like she said, she’s grown up in the garden. The way she approaches plants and gardening is as an artist – ‘I just have a kind of primal instinct’ she tells me when I ask her about how she gardens. ‘I think about the seasons all the time, I think about the elements all the time. I think about what’s happening in the soil, what’s happening with the weather’. And then she plays – planting, propagating, testing, moving. She lets her garden speak, no matter how wildly. ‘Wild things in the garden make me weak at the knees. There is structure, hidden structure, to help hold it together, but the overall vibe is that it’s been here for ages.’

Our conversation doesn’t go anywhere near design talk or botanical names. No, it exists firmly in the swirling, misty space of experimentation and intuition and connection. It is here where Lily seems most at home. ‘I plant gardens that offer ways to connect with nature, to be involved with it – with the insects, the birds and the bees. It’s about being part of the land.’

Lily Langham has dug herself into this place, this patch of soil on the side of a hill and surrounded by bushland. Her garden is an illustration of her deep connection and sensitivity to place. It certainly couldn’t be anywhere else, and neither, I think, could she. ‘I feel like I’m part of the plants now, part of the garden.’

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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.