Melford Cottage Garden in Hobart is an inspirational example of what can be done with careful planning and sound horticultural knowledge.
When Danielle moved into her beautiful Edwardian house in Hobart Tasmania with her husband and young family the garden was perfect, it was a blank canvas. Two years on and Melford Cottage garden is a thriving, bustling and beautiful example of a cool climate cottage garden. It’s beds and borders are packed with outstanding annuals and perennials with every specimen carefully chosen to compliment a particular part of the garden. We came across Melford Cottage garden on Instagram at http://instagram.com/melfordcottagegarden and what impressed us was not only the beauty of the garden but also the way Danielle blends pictures of her garden with practical advice and explanations of what she is doing “behind the scenes” to get ready for the coming seasons (something our Horticulture students are always keen to know!)
Melford occupies a sunny gently sloping plot in West Hobart and the garden encompasses around 600 square meters. The back garden borders are planted out with exotic herbaceous plants as well as seasonal tubers, bulbs, annuals and perennials. The front garden features roses as the focal point of what Danielle has transformed into a traditional cottage garden with complimentary plantings aquilegias, irises, spring bulbs, delphiniums, lupins and dahlias.
“It’s is a very heavy clay and when we moved in, was in pretty bad shape – rock hard with massive cracks, very little organic matter and no worms. Since Autumn 2011 we have started trying to improve the soil by annual mulching using layers of composted Autumn leaves and sheep poo. I also mulch vegetable and berry beds as well as the rose garden out the front using sugarcane compost and have a ‘no bare earth policy’ in planting densely in all beds.”
Danielle and her family try to grow as much food as they can in their garden and have incorporated espalier fruit and cherry trees, 2 vegetable beds, a blueberry patch and a raspberry and strawberry patch as well as potted strawberries and tomatoes. Her real interest is heritage varieties and this year she has 15 different varieties of heritage tomato seedlings already underway. An enormous Napoleon pear tree edating back to before the construction of the house in 1908 is a feature of the garden and also a link to the past history of the site. Danielle thinks it is an original orchard tree because of it’s “vase” shaped habit. She says she feels extremely lucky to have inherited the tree and has planned and built the garden around it, always taking care not to do it any harm. It’s not surprising that Danielle loves the character and history the tree brings to her garden. Her background is in architecture, urban design and heritage conservation. Those principles shine through in the planting, design and layout of the garden which is authentic to the Edwardian era of the house.
“I grow a lot of things from seed and cuttings and also like to buy from small local independent nurseries as they have a lot of different plants not offered by the bigger commercial nurseries and are cheaper.”
Being a green thumb seems to run in her family as her siblings are all involved in horticulture in one way or another and she credits her parents and grand parents with inspiring and encouraging her to be interested and active in their gardens from as far back as she can remember. More recent influences are names that most Horticulturalists will know…
“So far as external sources are concerned, I am an avid reader and buy a lot of gardening and horticulture books. I never miss a copy of Gardens Illustrated. I also enjoy the BBC’s Gardener’s World. I also love anything by English authors Christopher Llloyd and Monty Don. Three well known gardeners that I greatly admire are UK gardener/presenter and journalist Monty Don, our own Peter Cundall and the late Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.”
A practical piece of advice that Danielle highly recommends is to keep at least one garden journal (she keeps two). In one she records the weather conditions and daily temperatures along with what has been planted, sown and what is coming into flower or seed. In the other she writes down her plans, ideas and chores to be done over the coming months. It’s a way of keeping track of all of those things we all see and imagine in our own gardens but soon forget. We asked Danielle what she is doing in the garden at this time of year (the end of winter in Tasmania) to prepare for the spring rush of growth.
“Coming out of Winter and into Spring, I am currently writing lists of things to be grown from seed during Spring – flowers, vegetables and also herbs. I have just put my potato crop in (a Scottish heirloom variety called Up to Date) and a few weeks ago I sowed tomato seed. I am somewhat obsessed with tomatoes – this year I have sowed seeds for around 15 varieties of tomato. In September I will start sowing seed in earnest, continue digging weeds out of the lawn and re-sowing lawn patches and dividing dahlia tubers ready for planting out in late October.” As plants like delphiniums start putting out growth, I’ll stake them -usually when they get to about a foot high. I also make sure I keep on top of weeds, keep the lawn neatly clipped as it starts to really grow and have a couple of decent weeding sessions per week. I never ever allow weeds to go to seed which means we are getting to the point where we have hardly any weeds this year.
Danielle also has a keen interest in collecting seed from Melford and sharing it with other keen gardeners. She has somewhat of a surplus and has started an online shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/MelfordCottageGarden If you know of a garden like Melford that inspires you, share it with us. Whether we are horticulture students, professionals or home gardeners, we are all learning and we all appreciate help, advice and inspiration. You can find us on our facebook page and instagram feed and don’t forget to check out http://instagram.com/melfordcottagegarden