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 Magical, Layered Melbourne Garden - With Giant Metallic Mushrooms!

Gardens

When artist Kate Ballis and photographer Tom Blachford first came across their Ivanhoe East, Melbourne, home, the backyard was an overgrown, unruly English cottage garden with an impressive array of established fruit trees.

The pair decided this was the perfect base to work off, to create their own whimsical version of an English cottage garden, complete with ‘secret rooms’, winding paths, giant metallic mushrooms (!) and arbours leading to the beds of 41 rose bushes.

The result is something you might expect to see in Alice In Wonderland, with surprises around every corner!

13th December, 2022

The whimsical garden of artist Kate Ballis and photographer Tom Blachford! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Tom and Kate found the mushrooms on Facebook marketplace, they had been used at the Eastland shopping centre as Christmas decorations. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Tom and Kate in the garden with their son Sylvester. Kate says the only garden task she doesn’t love is picking up the dog poo, ‘for obvious reasons.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The mushrooms sit in one of the ‘secret rooms’ in the garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Layered planting ensures there’s something blooming every season. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Kate and Tom moved and repositioned the arbours from the front garden t the back themselves. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The path to the rose garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Tom and Kate have designed planting at the base of each mushroom to give the impression that it too is sprouting from the ground. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Stakes for dahlias to bloom in late summer. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The deck was designed by FIGR Architects and built by Kostas Constructions. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The beautiful garden, as seen from the deck. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Tucked away in one of the garden’s ‘secret rooms’ is the cedar hot tub! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘The Hunter’ was found on Gumtree. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi majus). Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Bright red poppies make an appearance in the front garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Landscaper Logan Armstrong helped with the front garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The front garden is layered and wild with grasses, poppies and perennials dominating the planting. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Tom and Kate found the gold gem sculptures on Facebook Marketplace after they’d been used for Christmas decorations. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Kate has added bulbs, seeds and perennials to the ‘low maintenance’ front garden. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Bea Taylor
Tuesday 13th December 2022

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. 

This Week

Creative People

A Noosa Design Studio's Chic New Office, Inside A Former 80s Club

CLO Studios' have transformed an old music club into their dreamy new office space, and it's filled with eclectic design inspiration!
Christina Karras

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Homes

A Cosy Retro Rental In Melbourne’s North West

Dog lovers Michelle Campbell and Katy Louise share their warm and welcoming rented home in Maidstone.

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Interiors

Before + After: A Dated Brick Home Turned Coastal Holiday Pad

Dark timber and dated tiles have been replaced with light and bright interiors in this Mornington Peninsula beach house.
Christina Karras

Family

Journalist Nas Campanella On Parenting With Blindness + Building Disability Awareness

How ABC journalist Nas Campanella navigates motherhood as a person living with blindness and Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Design Eye

How to Create Fun + Playful Interiors, With Studio Joy’s Kristel Marshall

The Melbourne designer shares how to balance minimalism and maximalism with playful colours and bold furniture – in a way that won't date!...
Christina Karras

Creative People

How Powerhouse Designer, Yuwaalaraay Woman Lucy Simpson Is Making Waves

How the Sydney based designer weaves stories of Country and culture into her collaborations with leading brands, such as JAG and Breville.
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras

On The Market

A Rare Robin Boyd House Is Available To Rent

You could be the next tenant of this house, designed by Australia's most famous architect.

Interiors

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras

Art

10 Emerging, Affordable Artists You Need To Have On Your Watchlist!

From ethereal still lifes to striking ceramic work, and meticulous soft pastel drawings, these are the artists to start collecting now!

Sustainable Homes

How An Architect Turned This 1930s Bungalow Into A Sustainable Family Haven

Architect Emily Sandstrom's warm family home runs off solar power, with a vegetable garden and impressive entertaining area hidden inside!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Dani McKenzie’s Detailed Paintings Look Like Familiar Photographs

The Melbourne artist recreates local streetscapes and everyday scenes, filled with intimate reminders of our own inner-worlds.
Christina Karras

Similar Stories

Creative People

Creating Original, Ever-Changing Gardens With Kep Horticulture’s Andy Kepitis

Kep Horticulture founder Andy Kepitis talks how to create dynamic gardens, and his aversion to 'certain' plant palettes!

Gardens

How This Young Photographer Transformed Her Rambling Coastal Garden In One Week!

With a little help from her friends, photographer Kate Shanasy transformed her jungle of a garden into an entertainer's coastal delight!

Gardens

A Hawthorn Home Enveloped In Dreamy, Layered Gardens

This new family home is brought to life with lush gardens designed by Peachy Green – reminiscent of a flowering ‘woody meadow’!
Christina Karras

This Week

Studio Visit

Dani McKenzie’s Detailed Paintings Look Like Familiar Photographs

The Melbourne artist recreates local streetscapes and everyday scenes, filled with intimate reminders of our own inner-worlds.
Christina Karras

Interiors

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Art

10 Emerging, Affordable Artists You Need To Have On Your Watchlist!

From ethereal still lifes to striking ceramic work, and meticulous soft pastel drawings, these are the artists to start collecting now!

Design Eye

How to Create Fun + Playful Interiors, With Studio Joy’s Kristel Marshall

The Melbourne designer shares how to balance minimalism and maximalism with playful colours and bold furniture – in a way that won't date!...
Christina Karras

Creative People

A Noosa Design Studio's Chic New Office, Inside A Former 80s Club

CLO Studios' have transformed an old music club into their dreamy new office space, and it's filled with eclectic design inspiration!
Christina Karras

Sustainable Homes

How An Architect Turned This 1930s Bungalow Into A Sustainable Family Haven

Architect Emily Sandstrom's warm family home runs off solar power, with a vegetable garden and impressive entertaining area hidden inside!
Christina Karras

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras

Interiors

Before + After: A Dated Brick Home Turned Coastal Holiday Pad

Dark timber and dated tiles have been replaced with light and bright interiors in this Mornington Peninsula beach house.
Christina Karras

On The Market

A Rare Robin Boyd House Is Available To Rent

You could be the next tenant of this house, designed by Australia's most famous architect.

Creative People

How Powerhouse Designer, Yuwaalaraay Woman Lucy Simpson Is Making Waves

How the Sydney based designer weaves stories of Country and culture into her collaborations with leading brands, such as JAG and Breville.
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Family

Journalist Nas Campanella On Parenting With Blindness + Building Disability Awareness

How ABC journalist Nas Campanella navigates motherhood as a person living with blindness and Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

Homes

A Cosy Retro Rental In Melbourne’s North West

Dog lovers Michelle Campbell and Katy Louise share their warm and welcoming rented home in Maidstone.

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Similar Stories

Creative People

Creating Original, Ever-Changing Gardens With Kep Horticulture’s Andy Kepitis

Kep Horticulture founder Andy Kepitis talks how to create dynamic gardens, and his aversion to 'certain' plant palettes!

Gardens

How This Young Photographer Transformed Her Rambling Coastal Garden In One Week!

With a little help from her friends, photographer Kate Shanasy transformed her jungle of a garden into an entertainer's coastal delight!

Gardens

A Hawthorn Home Enveloped In Dreamy, Layered Gardens

This new family home is brought to life with lush gardens designed by Peachy Green – reminiscent of a flowering ‘woody meadow’!
Christina Karras

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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net