This Multi-Functional Melbourne Garden Hides A 'Mini Food Forest'

The garden of this Melbourne home was originally a fairly ‘classic Brunswick’ backyard: made up of concrete, sunburnt grass, some unwieldy fruit trees, and a lot of weeds.

But 18 years after moving into the property, director Glendyn Ivin and dance instructor Natalie Ivin Poole decided it was time to transform their cottage and its accompanying landscape.

They engaged their long-time friend and garden designer Clea Cregan of Miniscapes to create a French-potager-style garden filled with intermingling vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs, alongside multi-functional spaces to relax

Christina Karras

The backyard features a series of pathways that leads back towards the renovated Brunswick home.

Bluestone steppers break up Dichondra repens (kidney weed).

Echeveria shaviana (Mexican hens), Salvia officinalis (common sage), and Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ (creeping rosemary).

Gleditsia triacanthos (Shademaster) provides dense shade from the western sun. Echinacea hybrida (double scoop raspberry coneflower).

Wisteria Floribunda (pink wisteria) has grown up the pergola.

Owner Glendyn Ivin chats with Clea Cregan in outdoor dining area of the backyard.

An existing fig tree towers over one corner.

‘We divided the garden into different sections: a deck for entertaining and cooking, more informal sitting spaces, a veggie patch, a shed for some storage, and a car space that also doubles as a fire pit area,’ Glendyn says.

Eremophila glabra Blue Horizon (emu bush) is one of the featured ground covers.

Tulbaghia violacea (society garlic). Erigeron karvinskianus (seaside daisy). Xerochrysum bracteatum (daisy fields gold). Chrysocephalum apiculatum (everlasting daisy).

‘I love the interplay of light and colour as you walk down the hallway and the connection between the house and garden,’ Clea says. Cercis canadensis (forest pansy). Poa labillardieri ‘Eskdale’ (tussock grass).

Concrete raised vegetable planters and espaliered fruit trees screen the parking area from view.

Gaura Lindheimeri Belleza White (butterfly bush).

The front of the house combines Stachys lanata (lambs ears), Dietes white tiger (African iris) and Helichrysum petiolare (licorice plant).

A pomegranate tree welcomes you to the front yard.

Christina Karras
21st of May 2024
Garden Design

Brunswick, VIC/Wurundjeri Country

After renovating their Brunswick family home, Glendyn Ivin and Natalie Ivin Poole knew they wanted their garden to feel like an extension of their house.

As one of Australia’s leading directors, Glendyn had initially become friends with Clea Cregan when she also worked in film industry, years before she founded her own landscape design business Miniscape Projects. ‘I knew if we were ever to design a garden, it was always going to be with Clea,’ Glendyn says.

When the time came to turn their concrete backyard into a cottage garden, Glendyn was in the middle of working on a TV series ‘The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart’, where much of the story is set on an Australian flower farm.

‘He had been visiting native flower nurseries and was keen to incorporate some of these flowers into the garden,’ Clea says of the inspirations behind the project. ‘Nat was interested in creating a modern potager French style of garden where intermingled vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs were all growing together.’

This set the tone for the garden’s multi-functional design. While the formal front yard showcases a ‘restrained palette of grey and silver foliage’, the back garden becomes less and less structured from the moment you step onto the large deck and pergola covered in Wisteria floribunda (pink wisteria).

Bluestone steppers beside Dichondra repens ground coverings guide you to a firepit area, that also doubles as car space, alongside a raised vegetable garden bursting with seasonal fresh produce. A mini orchard showcases a mix of dwarf and espaliered apple, cherry, plum, peach, and citrus trees.

‘We’ve been exploring using more edibles in our landscapes to create a mini food forest. Dwarf fruit varieties are perfect for small spaces making maintenance tasks like pruning and harvesting easier. And their small size allows you to grow more varieties for even more food production,’ Clea adds.

The garden features numerous sitting areas, each offering unique views back to the house. A stunning pink Lagerstroemia (crepe myrtle) stands as the central feature, surrounded by beds of native Brachyscome daisies (cut-leaf daisies) and exotic plants like salvias, verbena, and foxglove.

Glendyn says dividing the space into different pockets has allowed them to make the most of their small backyard. ‘It makes our house seem bigger, and I love the way it’s framed,’ he explains. ‘The garden has becomes an ever-evolving, shape-shifting sculpture that is never really finished. The joy is watching it evolve and mature over time.’

And the garden has grown so much in the two years since it was first planted, Clea says. The vibrant flower beds have come into their own, contrasting beautifully alongside the shimmering grasses and the black charred timber of the house itself.

‘Wisteria has grown to top of pergola to provide summer shade, and the plants are now creating a rich tapestry of colour,’ she adds proudly. ‘Something is always flowering!’

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