Don visited Polly and Peter Park at their home in the Canberra suburb of Red Hill, and chatted to them about their amazing garden. The front garden is a formal garden of clipped hedges and a neat lawn. Beyond this facade lies something extraordinary. This is not one garden but six completely different gardens, each inspired by countries and gardens the Parks have seen on their travels. Each garden exists in its own area, separated by walls and screens so each is a world of its own.
English knot garden
First seen is an English knot garden, which has been based on an Elizabethan-era design. It is clipped into patterns that are gradually evolving.
This garden is really just an illusion as it is a garden in miniature. Although it is only 2.5m x 2m (6′ x 8′), it contains most of the traditional elements of a Chinese garden – tiles, rocks, a small water feature and bonsai.
This garden, unlike the Chinese garden, is full size. It incorporates most of the features of a traditional Japanese garden – with the soft water contrasting and balancing the harsh rock. The Japanese azalea, ‘Kirin’, with its masses of small bright pink flowers contrasts with the sombre darkness of the fence. There is a large pond with river stones covering the bottom and larger stones protruding from the water to camouflage the edge. Soft, round bushes surround the pond and a waterfall at one end brings gentle movement to the pond’s surface.
This Italian-inspired garden features a beautiful marble statue from Tuscany. Low box hedges of Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ define the perimeter of the garden, and a planting of Vinca minor adds bulk and geometry to the centre. The stems of English ivy (Hedera helix) have been trained into crosses against the dividing fence, with the ivy foliage forming an elevated hedge on top.
Many garden experts agree the greatest garden designer of the 20th century was Roberto Burle Marx from Brazil. He based his designs on his love of tropical plants and bold artworks. Polly Park spent several days with Marx and was strongly influenced by his knowledge of plants and design. The Parks’ Brazilian garden shows all the trademarks of Marx’s influence – sweeps of free-form colour with modern art, usually abstract, incorporated into the structures.
Pampas grass is used for dramatic effect in this garden. Although widely grown in the past, this pampas grass (Cortaderia selloiana) and the closely related pink pampas (C. jubata) are now considered weeds in most areas of Australia.
They are noxious weeds in NSW, Tasmania, WA and SA (currently pink pampas only) but not in the ACT. To control the spread of pampas grass from gardens into bushland and other areas, remove it from your garden. In the short term, remove the flowering head before seeds form. Cut it down, bag it and put it in the garbage bin. Alternative plants to use would include any of the tall flaxes (Phormium tenax) or tall, non-invasive native grasses.
A lovely fountain bubbles at the end of the Indian garden. A small replica of the Indian god of wisdom, Ganesha, who bestows good fortune on people, is set in a small recess in the wall.
For further information
‘Boxford’ garden is at 21 Scarborough Street, Red Hill, ACT. It is open through spring and autumn on set days (including an opening for Australia’s Open Garden Scheme). The next open days for the AOGS are March 17-19, 10am-4.30pm. The garden will then be open again on September 29 – October 1. Entry fee is $5.30. The garden is open by appointment at other times.
Write to: Peter and Polly Park, ‘Boxford’, PO Box 87, Red Hill, ACT 2603, or phone: (02) 6295 2709.
‘Boxford’ garden is featured in the March issue of the Burke’s Backyard magazine.