This Incredible Country Garden Unfolds Like An Enchanting Maze

About 18 years ago, Deborah Hambleton and her husband were looking to buy a renovated house with an established garden in regional Victoria.

They ended up with a ‘somewhat derelict’ bluestone cottage, an empty horse paddock, and an old rose garden in Malmsbury. But over the years, Deborah (a lifelong gardener turned garden designer) has established an incredible landscape around the property.

Towering hedges, stone walls, and garden ‘rooms’ create a sense of wonder as you explore the garden, discovering different spaces lined with productive plants, trees, and a lap pool enveloped in greenery!

Christina Karras

The entrance to Deborah Hambleton’s garden is lined with roses, perennials and grasses, such as Calamagrostis Karl Forester (Feather Reed Grass). Before the gate sits a gravel path and Laurus nobilis (Bay Tree) hedge.

Deborah has been working on the garden since 2005, when it was bare land.

The original rose garden still stands, however, Deborah has now filled it with perennials and grasses, as well as roses. ‘While roses are lovely, the bushes are not particularly attractive. So it’s much prettier mixed with other plants — and very insect attracting,’ she says.

The firepit sits behind the pool, separated by a fence made from railway sleepers.

The top terrace with Cupressus sempervirens (Pencil Pine).

A seat made of repurposed flagstone from the property is positioned under a Mulberry Tree.

‘The property is half an acre,’ explains Deborah. ‘It turned out to be the perfect size for all the elements on our wish list; vegetable garden, chooks, fruit trees, swimming pool, gravel garden, courtyard and perennials.’

The courtyard is ‘one of the best aspects’ of the garden, says Deborah. ‘It is a wonderful enclosed space that creates an indoor garden room, covered in vines over summer with a cooling pond.’

The view from the front pathway. Cupressus sempervirens (Pencil Pine) is planted alongside Elaeagnus x ebbingei (Ebbing’s Silverberry), which Deborah says, ‘is an excellent hedging plant in central Victoria… olive green, inconspicuous very fragrant cream flowers and easy to grow — although it doesn’t like wet feet.’

The swimming pool is surrounded by Baloskion pallens (Didgery Sticks), Carex testacea (Orange Sedge), Cydonia oblonga (Quince Tree), Iris sp (Water Iris), Foeniculum vulgare (Bronze Fennel) and Tamarix ramosissima (Tamarisk).

The view across the pool to the pencil pines on the other side of the pool fence.  Deborah said she wanted the pool to have a ‘pond-like’ feel to it, so she encouraged plants to grow up the the water’s edge.

Miscanthus sinensis ’Flamingo’ (Chinese Silvergrass), Nandina domestica (Sacred Bamboo) and Stipa gigantea (Giant Oat Grass).

Plants around the pool edge include Cydonia oblonga (Quince Tree), Foeniculum vulgare (Bronze Fennel), Miscanthus sinensis ’Flamingo’ (Chinese Silvergrass), Nandina domestica (Sacred Bamboo) and Stipa gigantea (Giant Oat Grass).

Deborah says most of the design was about knowing what parts to ‘reveal’ and what parts to ‘conceal’ at first glance — creating the maze-like layout.

A concealed pool house sits off to the side. ‘Star Jasmine fills the air with a wonderful fragrance when swimming,’ says Deborah.

The pool house was inspired by the haysheds of central Victoria. Deborah has planted Baloskion pallens (Didgery Sticks), Carex buchananii (Leatherleaf Sedge) and Miscanthus sinensis ’Flamingo’ (Chinese Silvergrass).

The pool house was made with corrugated iron from the previous stables, local bush poles and recycled bricks.

The swimming pool pergola is paired with Ligustrum vulgare (Common Privet), which Deborah says is good for hedging — ‘but it’s important to keep it clipped and now allow it to flower as it is weedy.’ Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine) and Vitis vinifera (Grape Vine) also feature.

Succulents sit in pots in the vegetable garden.

The kitchen garden shed, which Deborah uses as as a sitting room and a shed. ‘We love having coffee in the veggie garden with the chooks who like to share some treats,’ she says.

Deborah designed these plant cloches as a way to keep the chooks from snacking on the vegetables in the garden.

The vegetable garden with a view to the pergola and pencil pines beyond.

Christina Karras
18th of March 2024

Potager Designs’ Deborah Hambleton says the magical atmosphere of her garden is down to its rambling design.

She’s been working on the garden since she and her husband purchased a cottage called Melrose, located in Malmsbury — a village in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges — about 18 years ago.

‘We were looking for a renovated house and established garden. We ended up with a somewhat derelict bluestone cottage and a horse paddock,’ Deborah says. ‘There was an old rose garden at the front, a pear tree and an ornamental plum tree.’

Beyond that, the half-acre block around the house was a blank canvas that turned out to be the perfect size for everything the couple had on their wish list: vegetable gardens, chickens, fruit trees, a gravel garden, a courtyard, perennials, and a swimming pool.

Deborah says she’s ‘always been a gardener’ and that the garden began quite intuitively, starting with vertical elements like a pergola, pencil pines and trees for shade. In addition to her love of Mediterranean gardens, she traces her initial inspirations behind Melrose to places from her childhood, like her grandparents’ large vegetable garden in Tasmania, which had masses of fruit trees and berries.

‘My view is that productive plants are also very ornamental — particularly fruit trees,’ Deborah adds. ‘We have a selection of dwarf heritage fruit trees, including apples and quinces, a dozen or so varieties of pomegranate, edible pistachios, citrus, stone fruit, and a fig tree and a persimmon tree.’

Other key plantings include a selection of ‘dry tolerant plants,’ like Salvias, Bergamont, Agastache, Echinops, Grasses and Star Jasmine.

Hedges provide a formal structure around the house, but as you follow the paths it slowly evolves into a more ‘organic landscape’ with soft informal plantings, dotted by delicate flowers and the seasonal colours of the changing fruit trees.

Most of the built elements is made up of recycled materials that were rescued from the old cottage before their renovations. Bluestones below the house and red bricks from a chimney were reused for pathways in the kitchen garden, while Tuscan aggregate also enhances the property’s rustic charm.

‘A visitor once described the style as “wild chic”,’ Deborah notes. ‘A key feature is the use of informal garden rooms, to create a sense of exploration and discovery — you can’t see the whole garden from a single vantage point.’

It’s almost like a serene maze, filled with mystery and surprise. From the idyllic lap pool surrounded by lush plantings as far the eye can see, to the enclosed courtyard covered in vines, every corner of this magical garden offers a total escape.

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