A Lush Secret Garden, Inside A Converted Melbourne Church!

It’s hard to imagine many gardens in East Melbourne would have their own lagoon, a natural fish pond and 10m-tall walls covered in ivy.

But in the unconventional home of fashion designer Gregory Ladner and Mark Grenville (who live inside a converted church!) lies an equally surprising garden.

Since building the home in the ‘90s, the couple have enlisted the help of horticulturist and The Plant Runner co-founder Dominic Hooghuis, who’s helped maintain the uniquely lush space – which whisks you into another world the moment you step foot inside!

Christina Karras

This tranquil garden is hidden behind towering church walls in East Melbourne! Photo – Jarrod Barnes

It’s the magical entrance to the church turned home of Mark Grenville and fashion designer Gregory Ladner – who has recently publish a memoir A Boy and his Bear! Photo – Jarrod Barnes

The combination of abundant green ivy and soft ferns create a lush and natural atmosphere. Photo – Jarrod Barnes

There’s also a heated lagoon plunge pool! Photo – Jarrod Barnes

‘The vertical gardens have needed constant upkeep and have at times needed stainless steel cables to reinforce the meandering stems to the 10-metre tall walls,’ Dominic says. Photo – Jarrod Barnes

A large rock slab forms the walkway where the pond finishes and the pool begins, giving the illusion of the pond flowing into the pool. Photo – Jarrod Barnes

A sea of green, rock and water! Photo – Jarrod Barnes

Christina Karras
31st of January 2023

Believe it or not, this spectacular and serene garden is hidden in the inner streets of Melbourne.

The sea of green is the entrance to residence of Mark Grenville and husband Gregory Ladner, a fashion designer whose namesake label has been stocked in David Jones for 50 years. In the 90s, the couple purchased a church in East Melbourne, and converted the property into a one-of-a-kind home, complete with a garden where the congregation used to sit!

While Gregory and Mark originally designed the garden themselves with their personal creative flair, horticulturist and The Plant Runner co-founder Dominic Hooghuis has helped them maintain and update the unique space over the past decade.

‘The garden feels so much bigger than it actually is,’ Dominic says. ‘This is due to the smart use of the walls as vertical gardens. The actual space would be approximately 70-80 square metres, but keep in mind that vertical gardens on the walls are 10-metres tall!’

Blankets of Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidate) and creeping fig (Ficus pumil) covers the surrounding walls, immersing the space in vibrant greenery. A rock slab forms the earthy ground of the garden, complemented by two striking water features: a natural pond featuring a number of Koi fish, opposite a ‘lagoon’ pool!

‘Large natural rocks have been placed to form a creative pathway from the front entrance through to the main residence,’ Dominic says. ‘The heated plunge pool is shaped like a natural lagoon and has a small waterfall to add the calming sound of moving water to the space.’

Amazingly, there’s no man-made materials across the entire landscaping, and no decking or lawn spaces. Instead, the home’s second-floor balconies offer the perfect place to take in the garden views and the water below. All of the rocks had to be craned over the church’s tall walls when it was first created, and more recently, Dominic’s team has bought in elements like mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) as a ground cover that further softens the look of the stone floor.

‘We have introduced many ferns to the garden to create that soft lush feeling,’ he says. ‘And the use of a large robinia tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) slightly offset in the space creates a natural canopy that is not overbearing in any way.’

The resulting space is completely tranquil, with a palette of greenery, stone and water that mimics natural structures of a forest or tropical garden – in the most surprising location!

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