Kate Ballis and Tom Blachford’s garden in Ivanhoe East, Melbourne, is a place where imagination can run wild.
From the front, layers of thoughtful planting and gold ‘gem’ sculptures (a Facebook Marketplace find) invite a sense of wonder; a feeling that’s heightened in the backyard where ‘secret garden rooms’ reveal a cosy cedar hot tub, giant metallic mushrooms (ex Eastland shopping centre Christmas decorations, also found on Facebook Marketplace) and whimsical, winding paths.
‘We were drawn to the house and garden because of all its established fruit trees,’ explains Kate. ‘We have mulberry, plums, peaches, nectarines, permission, crab apple and quince, which we love – though I think the possums and cockatoos enjoy the fruits more than us.’
During the second lockdown last year, she and Tom moved 42 rose bushes and two arbours from the front garden to the back yard, to create a trilogy of arbours leading to a blooming rose garden full of antique varieties.
‘41 of the 42 rose bushes survived, but it nearly broke us doing it without any help,’ says Kate.
Despite doing most of the work themselves, the couple did enlist the help of landscaper Logan Armstrong for the larger planting and hardscaping of the front garden, whilst Kate applied a delicate sprinkling of bulbs, seeds and perennials – and a touch of whimsy – in what she describes as ‘painting with flowers’. Kate and Tom also reached out to friend and Garden designer Frances Hale from Peachy Green, who generously passed on lots of ‘advice and cheerleading’!
The couple’s thoughtful planting and planning has created a garden for all seasons. In early spring they enjoyed the ‘short but powerful flowering season’ of 300 tulips and ranunculus, and in late spring, the 41 rose bushes were beginning to bloom. Early summer saw their white Japanese wisteria out in full force and the front garden was a meadow of poppies. Currently, the garden has a more summery feel with the long grasses adding beautiful movement. The pair have also planted 40 dahlias ‘ready for a late summer fiesta if the snails don’t get them all first’. Then, come autumn, Shasta daisies and echinacea will take centre stage.
‘It’s love. It’s my passion,’ Kate says. ‘I even love weeding after the rain! I love the design, the anticipation, the painting with flowers, the pruning and deadheading to generate more growth.’
This passion has filtered through to Kate and Tom’s own creative work, as an artist and photographer respectively. Their latest project together, Influorescence, is a series of large scale, ethereal photographs of the flowers from their garden, shot under nine UV lights.