Coliban Garden

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Coliban Garden

Don visited Coliban, the home of Beh Kim Un and John Dunham. It is named after the Coliban river, which forms its boundary over more than 2.5 kilometres. In the early 1800s the property was used for sheep and cattle grazing, then after the discovery of gold in 1851 several mine shafts were sunk on the land. More recently it formed part of a Murray Grey cattle stud and later a White Suffolk sheep stud. Kim and John purchased the property in March, 1998. As well as being farmers and gardeners, they are the owners of Melbourne restaurants The Isthmus of Kra (Thai), Madam Fang (Contemporary Australian Asian), and Shakahari (Vegetarian).

The house

Built by architect, Robert McIntyre, the house is a rammed earth and concrete construction on three levels. It is open and spacious, with stylistic references to many different kinds of architecture including Santa Fe and Le Corbusier. John explained that the garden starts with the atrium and roof garden in the house, and extends out to the courtyard garden and into the backyard. He spent many years as a senior lecturer in Indian philosophy and anthropology at Melbourne University, so the interior décor includes many reminders of that important time in his life.

Features of the garden

The herb, vegetable and cut flower beds are organically sustained. Kim showed Don an unusual red eggplant that he is trialling in the garden, for possible use in the restaurants. The original orchard has been renovated and planted with more than thirty varieties of apples, quinces and pears. Three varieties of table olives grow in the recently established olive grove. The garden features ornamental trees such as dogwoods, crabapples, Japanese maples and conifers; as well as nut trees such as walnut, chestnut and pine nut. A collection of trees from south-west China, northern India and Tibet has been started. Impressive modern sculptures by Les Kossatz and Neil Taylor can be seen in the garden, and also beautiful, dry stone walls by Huntly Barton. Chinese brown geese, Muscovy ducks and silky bantam chickens live in their own specially sculpted building.

Further information

Coliban garden is at 91 Shepherds Hill Road, Lauriston, Victoria. It will open for Australia’s Open Garden Scheme on Sunday 14 & Monday 15 October 2001, from 10am-4.30pm. For more details phone 1902 261 026 closer to the opening date. Also see ‘Australia’s Open Garden Scheme Guidebook 2001-2002’, which will be available from bookshops or ABC Shops from August.

Red Eggplant (Solanum melongena ‘Redskin’) seeds are available for spring planting from the Erica Vale seed range, sold through BBC Hardwarehouse and nurseries. They cost $4.15 a packet.