A Spectacular Garden On A Country Farm, Complete With Outdoor 'Rooms'

Illangi Farm is a 64-acre working farm in Barrabool, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne. While most of the property is dedicated for grazing livestock, the family home of textile designer (and passionate gardener) Leesa Cowan is also nestled into the farm.

Woven alongside the steel-framed Sean Godsell-designed residence, you’ll find a series of organic, layered gardens and unique green spaces by Eckersley Garden Architecture.

Lush outdoor ‘rooms’ ensure the garden can be enjoyed rail, hail, or shine, enhancing the sweeping views out to the rolling hills and beyond. This is one unique garden!

Christina Karras

Illangi Farm is a 64 acre working farm in Barrabool, Victoria! Photo – Will Salter

Eckersley Garden Architecture (E-GA) created a beautiful garden surrounding the home. Photo – Will Salter

The brief was for a garden that connected to the home’s rural landscape. Photo – Will Salter

Part of the garden is designed and built under the home’s massive pergola! Photo – Will Salter

The home was designed by Sean Godsell! Photo – Will Salter

The planting in the garden is layered. Photo – Will Salter

E-GA have created a garden wonderland under the home’s large pergola. Photo – Will Salter

‘This area feels like a hanging garden, a cool respite during a hot day with shade-loving plants,’ says Scott Leung, Principal Landscape Designer Eckersley Garden Architecture. Photo – Will Salter

He says Willie Wagtails are also enjoying the space, having set up nests on the crossbeams. Photo – Will Salter

The pergola provides protection for shade-loving plants. Photo – Will Salter

The pergola has levered openings in the roof to filter light through. Photo – Will Salter

The site behind the home is gently sloping. Photo – Will Salter

The property had been primarily used for grazing and was devoid of vegetation, so E-GA looked to re-establish windbreaks and natural contours. Photo – Will Salter

‘It enabled us to create various microclimates and precipitation flow pathways, encouraging a mix and planting layers and naturally leading to the site’s biodiversity in both vegetation and wildlife,’ says Scott. Photo – Will Salter

Colour has also been established around the pool! Photo – Will Salter

The property has no access to town water, so it was important for E-GA that the garden could survive on rain alone. Photo – Will Salter

‘One of the most satisfying parts of garden design is revisiting the garden over a long period to discuss how the spaces have been used and evolve to suit the new conditions and functionality as the family changes too. I am looking forward to the next stage!,’ says Scott. Photo – Will Salter

Christina Karras
20th of April 2023

Work on the intriguing garden at Illangi Farm started back in 2017, when Leesa Cowan, her husband and their two teenage children moved to the Barrabool property from Black Rock. The family hadn’t really intended on becoming farmers, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to enjoy country living so close to the city.

The expansive block had primarily been used for grazing, leaving a clean slate ‘devoid of vegetation’ for Leesa to create her dream garden, designed by Eckersley Garden Architecture.

‘[Our vision] was to work alongside Sean Godsell’s beautiful architecture and the amazing expansive views, in particular the You Yangs in the distance and the rolling hills of Barrabool,’ principal landscape designer Scott Leung says.

‘We wanted the owners to be able to go out into the garden in any weather conditions and still find a comfortable protected position. The brief was to ensure the garden provided connection to the rural landscape and that views to the paddocks and livestock were maintained.’

Looking at the lush garden today, filled with verdant creepers, succulents and native plants suited to the coastal conditions, it’s hard to believe it was just flat land before planting took place in 2018. Scott says the unique design is filled with outdoor ‘rooms’ and organic pathways concentrated around the house, featuring local stone from the site cut and gravels from the Geelong region.

One of these enchanting garden ‘rooms’ is the shaded pergola canopy, located at the entrance of the house, filled with a sea of green ground-covers and Willy Wagtails that soften the steel framework. ‘This area feels like a hanging garden, a cool respite during a hot day with shade loving plants,’ Scott says.

The many structural layers of the landscape design have also successfully re-established windbreaks and natural contours that have helped the garden thrive – despite the area’s high winds, and low annual rainfall.

With endless opportunities for gap filling, and potential new garden spaces, Scott says the garden almost becomes its own ‘nursery’ nestled into the private residence.

‘The owners are passionate about propagating plants and have added production areas into the garden layout, so its evolution will continue.’

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