An Enchantingly Layered Perennial Garden In Regional Victoria

Gardener and designer Tim Pilgrim has transformed this once flat and vacant plot of land into a magically layered garden that blooms and evolves with the seasons.

Take a wander through the clever garden below, or check it out in person at Open Gardens Victoria April 15 – 16!

Bea Taylor

‘Rhonda’s Garden’, designed by Tim Pilgrim. Photo – Martina Gemmola

The garden was a block of land subdivided from the neighbouring house. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Tim has cleverly planted a layered mix of perennials. Photo – Martina Gemmola

‘The style of planting itself is a naturalistic, prairie style look,’ he explains. Photo – Martina Gemmola

It’s a style of planting that works well with modern architecture, says Tim. Photo – Martina Gemmola

In order to overcome the complexities of the skinny garden space, Tim created a winding path to allow more depth to the planting. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Daises and verbena bonariensis. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Autumn is when the garden hits its crescendo, filled with beautiful golden, red and orange hues. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Tall and colourful perennials float above the rest and add height. Once flowering is over, these plants also add movement. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Pyrus salicifolia and Teucrium fruticans repeated throughout the garden add hints of grey and textured from to the planting. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Tuscan topping was laid for the path, which helps with water pooling with big rains and contrasts well against the dark cladding of the house. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Grasses such as Miscanthus transmorrisonensis, pennisetum thunbergii (red buttons), pannicum virgatum (autumn glory) and calamagrostis acutiflora (Karl Forster) are key plants in this natural, perennial garden. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Pannicum virgatum. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Photo – Martina Gemmola

The garden even has an outdoor bath! Photo – Martina Gemmola

‘This garden style is all about imitating a wild planting you might find in nature,’ says Tim. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Tim took inspiration from the Wombat forest in Trentham. Photo – Martina Gemmola

Bea Taylor
11th of April 2023

This beautiful perennial garden in Trentham, Victoria is designed to put on a show in all seasons. 

In spring, evergreen forms of clipped buxus, clouds of deciduous shrubs and established trees grace the stage in emerging hues of mauve, purple, grey and yellow. Summer sees the grasses and late flowering perennials fill the garden as the trees and shrubs come into full, verdant leaf. 

The crescendo hits in Autumn, as a scene of golden hued seed heads, bare stems, oats, and straws take centre stage. 

But, the show isn’t over! Thanks to gardener and designer Tim Pilgrim’s careful selection of plants, come winter those varieties that put on such a performance in autumn manage to keep their structure and form in the colder months to capture the light and harness the wind for a symphony of texture. 

In August, the garden is cut back and clipped to the ground, and then the show starts again. ‘I love the ever-changing seasonal nature of this garden,’ says Tim. ‘It’s diverse and differs from day to day, it’s never static and always evolving.’ 

When first presented with the site – an empty block on a subdivision – it was a relatively flat space with no noteworthy vegetation; ‘A blank canvas’, he says. 

His client, Rhonda, wanted a garden that would settle her new contemporary house into its surroundings with some instant height and volume. Tim chose to take inspiration from the Wombat state forest to create his own version with a canopy, middle and lower story of vegetation to mimic the diversity and excitement of the Wombat. 

‘The style of planting itself is a naturalistic, prairie style look,’ he explains. ‘It’s all about imitating a wild planting you might find in nature.’

One of the most challenging aspects of the design was how long and narrow the space was – more specifically, how to fill it in and give the planting volume whilst keeping it in scale with the home. 

To overcome this, Tim created a winding path to allow more depth in the planting. Then, in the deeper pockets, he piled-up the soil to create small hills, which gave the planting more height. He also chose a varied and layered planting scheme comprising of trees, shrubs, topiary, grasses and perennials with repetition to help draw the eye down the path to the end of the garden. 

Since its conception the garden has flourished. Self sowers have made their way through the planting, giving the garden an even more natural look, and birds, insects and reptiles have also made themselves at home. 

But, Tim says the garden’s success is largely due to the person looking after it. ‘The design and installation are only the first step in growing a garden like this one,’ he explains. ‘Rhonda does an amazing job at making sure the garden is always looking its best throughout the year.’ 

You can visit Rhonda’s garden at Open Gardens Victoria this Saturday 15 April – Sunday 16 April, find tickets here.

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