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Industry Insider: Julie Crowe Design

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Last year, one of Kilby Park Tree Farm’s favourite customers Julie Crowe Design completed what we believe is a really stunning project which deserves some recognition. Working with Transforming Landscapes, Julie designed a beautiful mid-sized garden packed full of intelligent plant choices and glittering black granite. The choice of polished stone rather than a lawn adds a modern, contemporary vibe to the garden and perfectly compliments the low maintenance but bold aesthetics of the plant choices. Perfect for a young, growing family. Below, Kilby Park Tree Farm asks her a few questions about the garden:


Congratulations on your spectacular design and the team at Transforming Landscapes for making it happen. Can you talk us through the main parts of the design?

The main areas of the design comprise of 3 components. The overall garden is a sensory garden. The centre space is the “sense of arrival” as you enter through the front gate & make your way up the curved stairs. This denotes that you have “arrived”. The destination is here.

To the left is the 2nd area which I see as the “tranquillity” space with the polished black granite wet edge water feature. I chose polished black granite for the dramatic contrast with the plant material but the beautiful reflective quality it gives. The water feature reflects its surroundings – the sky, plant material & natural & artificial light at night. The wall behind is designed at seating height for you to come close & experience the water, feel it, listen to the sounds. 

Thirdly the circular Space with the curved concrete cantilevered bench is a contemplative space. The use of Crushed Granite evokes a more relaxed feel & sound underfoot. The location of the bench seat beneath the pleached Snow Pears (Pyrus novalis) provides a vista across to the water feature & mirrored pleached Snow Pears on to the opposing space. This is very much a framed view to stop, reflect & relax. 


What were your main considerations when designing the project for your client?

Considerations for the space from the client was the access from the street & driveway. An interesting outlook from the front windows of the property were paramount. Relatively low maintenance but interesting foliage/flower contrasts. Preferably no lawn as they live close to the local park & oval.  Interest at night with lighting & the “sparkle” from the water feature. It’s a sense of arrival for visitors & dealing with level change in an interesting way over a short distance.


When designing the landscape, was there a part that was particularly challenging?

The most challenging was dealing with the level changes over short distances, but at the same time meeting the brief criteria that the client set.


Was it your intention to contrast the Cercis Avondale with the polished concrete and the property so vividly? Or did it only become apparent during the construction process?

I was walking through Kilby Nursery on a glorious day with Tanya & saw the Cercis “Avondale”. We had selected the other mass planting species – Teucrium, Viburnum “Emerald Lustre”, Loropetalum “China Pink”. We felt that the vivid pink blossom would contrast dramatically against the polished black water feature & grey tones of the granite. The client & neighbours thought they were stunning. They were the talk of the street!!


Did you have to adjust your design during the build process due to unexpected occurrences? 

We didn’t have any changes during the construction process. The Pin Oak (Quercia palustrus) which is a street tree immediately out from this front garden space has extensive root system within the garden. Transforming Landscapes were fantastic at making this work with the intended design. It is apparent once you start setting out the design that any slight change affects other design elements. Particularly the layout of the garden walls & radial paving. 

You can contact Julie by emailing her at or on Instagram with @juliecrowedesign.

Kilby’s Party in the Park: A Wrap-Up

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  Last week, Kilby Park Tree Farm hosted its annual Party in the Park. It’s our way to thank our customers for their year’s custom, to introduce Kilby’s ten acres to other members of their business and to connect with our clients on a personal level outside of a work capacity. 

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  A miserable Melbourne morning with threats of rain gave way swiftly to clear skies and a mellow sun. The staff, after working so hard creating the party’s installation, were to be found visibly relieved behind the Vietnamese food stand, Shiraz in hand. Straw bale seating, the rustic music stage and the petting zoo all lent Kilby a rural ambience – if it wasn’t for the stunning decorative displays of Kilby’s tree stock you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an agricultural farm in the heart of Kew.

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  This year’s event was grander than the last. Although still aiming to retain an intimate feel, the planning and execution were stepped up compared with last year. DJ’s spun relaxed records in the sun whilst customers ate quality food and enjoyed a Sunday arvo drink. Live bands performed with a green backdrop of grass and saplings. Customers had the opportunity to introduce their families and coworkers Kilby’s stunning grounds.

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The star of the show this year was undoubtedly the petting zoo. A firm favourite with both the adults and children, it was a bustling hub of activity which entertained the children, provided some charming childhood photos and buoyed everyone, adults and kids alike, who came into contact with the infant animals. The gleeful mood of the party was most prominent here, but anywhere you went families and colleagues were lounging on the grass, laughing and drinking.

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This wasn’t just a chance to relax, however. There was a large industry presence at Kilby that day, with stalls and companies selling a range of hardware and clothing options to refresh those Monday morning blues the next day. One of the most rewarding parts of the experience from Kilby Park’s end was observing the networking opportunities opening up on the day: A chance for likeminded industry professionals to meet, socialise and discuss experiences or potential business collaborations. Whether it was a representative from a Melbourne nursery, a team of local landscapers or a landscape architect – connections were being made. It felt as if the industry had a home for the day.

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Towards the end of the afternoon, Kilby Park presented its raffle to guests – a tree of their choice. It wrapped things up well and encapsulated the relaxed, sociable atmosphere of the afternoon and the gratitude Kilby feels towards its regular customers. A lazy afternoon’s entertainment in a beautiful setting with family, colleagues and friends – with noone spending a cent.

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GALLERY: Rotary Garden DesignFest 2016 – A Kilby Perspective

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We walk you through a couple of Kilby Park’s highlights from this year’s Garden DesignFest. 

There were some remarkable gardens exhibited throughout Victoria during Rotary Club’s seventh bi-annual showcase. From Euroa to Carnegie, some of the best names in the industry came together to display the highest benchmark in residential landscaping design and construction. Whilst Rotary have done a fantastic job in regularly organising such an event, a special thanks must be reserved for the residents who kindly open their doors over the course of these two weekends for a great cause.

The weekend before last was devoted to participants located around Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula, and would not have felt conclusive had it not been for the quintessential Melbourne weather to accompany it. Both days started out chilly and temperamental, with Saturday eventually warming to 25c. Sporadic clouds ensured bursts of sunlight and warmth throughout the weekend, but Sunday was not so fortunate. The saving grace was the downpour considerately waiting until 5pm on Sunday, when most enthusiasts were heading home.

Kilby visited heaps of gardens over the course of last weekend, with Tanya especially going above and beyond. Covering over 400km in pursuit of the most beautiful gardens in the state, she visited many dazzling entries from Kilby Park customers, including Eckersley Garden Architecture, Verdigris Design, VDB Gardens, Eugene Gilligan Garden Design and Robert Boyle Landscaping, with a personal highlight being the latter’s Ivanhoe project. We pay tribute to two of our favourite landscapes by visiting the sites, talking to the designers and shooting some photos.

Mark Van den Boom – Mont Albert


Mark Van den Boom delivers the culmination of over fifteen years of landscape design experience to his clients when he designs a garden. For his Mont Albert project, however, things got personal.

This was a family affair for VDB Gardens, the clients being relatives of Mark. Such a situation naturally leads to a level of emotional investment in the landscape that is even more intense than usual. Working for family carries a special significance in designing the perfect landscape.

Because of the close client-designer relationship, it was easier than usual to tease out the requirements of the design. Mark states that his client “has a young family and stipulated the need for a trampoline and basketball/sports area. They also wanted an area for outdoor BBQ’s and entertaining, while still allowing to keep the backyard as open as possible.” Because of the strong family orientation, the landscape needed to place functionality above aesthetics whilst still incorporating beauty – no easy task.

Strolling through the quaint front yard invokes images of a rural English cottage, with painted wooden beams, roughly cut stepping stones and multiple beds edged in with stones of varying proportion. The planting choices also reflect the cottage theme,  packed with perennials. These thoughtfully-chosen beds do have some wildcards however, and contain many wonderful Kilby Park specimens, including our Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ and Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ to add splashes of colour. Note also the Malus ioensis ‘Plena’ peeping through, which looks amazing this time of year and is one of Kilby’s best sellers.


Entering the back yard, the space opens up into a magnificent open-plan, multi-functional space. Complete with basketball court, entertainment area and trampoline flush with the ground, the plants embedded underneath are a thoughtful touch. The most striking feature of the garden is the large and beautiful meandering bed, edged with red bricks and spanning almost the entire fencing area. As the plants mature, the fencing will gradually be shielded it from view. Changing in width and depth and meandering around a large proportion of the site, the bed contains many of Kilby’s best specimens, including an advanced Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ to replace the aging centrepiece.


Whilst working on the project and stripping out the overgrowth, Mark discovered a marvelously mature Acer palmatum which in his words “not only had to remain, but demanded to be highlighted”. His choice to make this a centrepiece to base the main, widened section of the bed around has paid dividends, lending its beauty close to the entertainment area but farther away from the recreational zones. Opposite the maple lies three of Kilby’s advanced Pyrus (Cleveland Select), adding symmetry and grandeaur to the project.



Arguably the best feature of the entire garden, however, is a tiny alcove alongside the conservatory. Rather than trying to mask the strange space, Mark chose to highlight it. Adorning the far wall are clusters of Syzygiums, whilst Vitis vinifera creep up above one’s head and at the back rests a young Magnolia grandiflora ‘Teddy Bear’. Because of its alignment with the conservatory, it was essential to pack the area full of greenery to provide a quiet alcove in an otherwise open and busy garden. What was originally used as a hiding spot for the water heater has now become a tiny secluded rainforest.



Eckersley Garden Architecture – Canterbury

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With three submissions to this year’s Garden DesignFest and a growing national and international reputation, the Richmond-based Eckersley Garden Architecture is becoming somewhat of a Melbourne institution. Their Canterbury project at 21 Rochester Road was arguably this year’s pick of the bunch. Combining rolling gradients with smooth functional plains, this beautiful design drew in many enthusiasts over the weekend thanks to a minute attention-to-detail only found where genuine care, concern, and passion are present.

Walking down the offset driveway, the attention-to-detail is immediately obvious. Nestled in the overhanging tree branches above your head are half a dozen epiphytic Orchidaceae specimens, an act which speaks volumes about Eckersley’s attempt to keep offering the beholder something new and fresh.  Glancing to the right, you are greeted with an open, flowing front yard with parkland semblence and a handsome magnolia specimen as a proud centrepiece.


In reality, the contrast between the front and the back could not be more striking. Whilst the front retains an open and inclusive feel, the back yard combines functionality and privacy for a growing family with dashes of mystery. Emerging from the side access you are confronted with an imposing metallic pergola hidden amongst Parthenocissus quinquefolia. As principal designer Scott Leung explains the relative youth of the garden, and how the project was designed to improve with age, he highlights the light fixtures installed on the pergola. As the foliage starts to mature and grow, they will partially eclipse the lighting fixtures, painting patterned shadows on the patio.


Under the pergola lies an inky postmodern staircase flanked by two spectacularly happy Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ specimens. Ascending the staircase you begin on a journey through the upper terrace of the garden, lined with winding pathways, quiet alcoves and a mammoth Feijoa sellowiana so grand it looks as if two specimens have melded into one. Following the pathway round, you are greeted with a bold Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum atropurpureum’ before descending the terrace via a marvelous corridor of plum and citrus trees, with Santa Rosa and Mariposa standing independent and Mandarin Emporers cleverly weaved into the lattice work.


Emerging from the citrus corridor and turning towards the pergola, a delicate and beautiful orchid wall clings to the brickwork. Easily viewed from the comfort of the house, the wall is literally bubbling up with life and arguably the real personality of the garden with a variety of species nestled inside; everything from Den. Gracillimum to Capriconicum.

Looking beyond the orchids, you find the biggest expanse of space in an otherwise secluded garden. A paved area with Dichondra springing up between the gaps leads out to a striking Gleditsia ‘Sunburst’, the centrepiece of the lower terrace. When Eckersley said they wanted to design the garden so it kept opening up and offering more at every turn, they really meant it.

You can check out the full gallery of photos of both projects below.

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Catching up with Maja, the newest member of Kilby Park

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IMG_3878Thankfully for us, Maja swapped snow for sunshine when she moved to Australia in 2009. With roots originally grown back in Sweden, she’s our team’s newest member.

She’s an absolute hit with the customers, but we have the pleasure of working with her every day. Since starting she’s made a real difference, injecting some youthful energy and creativity down here at the farm. We caught up with her to find out how she’s getting on and what she loves the most about working at Kilby. 

Hi Maja. It seems like you’re a part of the furniture already. How long have you been working at Kilby Park for now?
Oh god! I’m glad you think so. Not too long, I’ve been here four months next week. I Started during winter, so I’m eager for my first summer at the farm!

Where did you work before joining Kilby?
After I got my diploma in horticulture I became self employed, conducting garden maintenance duties. After that I joined The Tree Shop, which is Kilby Park’s retail branch of the business. After working a few months there I transferred to Kilby Park to work in wholesale with trade-only customers! 

How are you finding it, are you settling in OK?
I like to think I’m getting there! Sometimes I tend to get a little confused or overwhelmed, but the lovely Kilby staff and incredible customers make me feel more than welcome and make me realise it’s a very special job.

What does a normal day involve for you?
There’s no strict schedule. It all depends on which face is next through the gates and what they require to complete their different projects. In the morning I’m often found talking to customers on the phone; processing orders; contributing advice and tailoring orders for specific jobs, and making clients feel welcome by having a walk round our site with them and having a chat.

If its quiet, I’m pitching in and helping the guys out with whatever needs to be done. Condensing, weeding, watering, fertilising and transporting stock.. The list is endless and there’s always something to be done!

What is your favourite part of the job?
Wow, that’s a hard question. It’s hard to single out one thing specifically, it’s everything together. I think it’s Kilby’s vibe and atmosphere!

Being involved in a workplace atmosphere which allows you to be surrounded by beautiful plants and amazing workmates would be enough as it is, but working on Kilby’s stunning 10-acre site is truly special. I don’t know if there’s another place in Melbourne like it, especially not this close to the city. It’s truly unique, and on my breaks I get to skirt around the small lake, or get lost amongst the rows of stock. 

And one last question Maja. Why do you think customers choose Kilby?
Haha, well I like to think it’s because of the friendly staff! But I’m sure there are a number of reasons. I’m sure the relationship we have with our customers is a big aspect, but we’re also industry leaders in providing the highest quality stock tailored to industry professionals.

We source all of our stock either locally in Victoria or from the fresh air of northern NSW, and our quality control down here is exceptional. Our customers know we’re not going to sell them shoddy of sub-standard stock. I also think the experience of coming down to Kilby is a big attraction – getting to spend a little slice of your day down here walking around and taking everything in can be a welcome break from work to some!

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Industry Insider – Ben Harris Gardens

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We spoke with up and coming landscape designer and water garden specialist,
Ben Harris of Ben Harris Gardens about what makes him tick.

Ben Harris

Ben Harris

How would you describe your design style?
Natural and elegant simplicity

What’s your design philosophy?
I’m very much inspired by Japanese design principles of balance, simplicity, asymmetry, natural form and curves, taking the best bits nature has to offer and putting it all together to create a unique, informal garden.

What’s the driving force for your designs?
To try and make things better, and give people a reason to believe the world is a nice place to be. More green space is always a good thing!

What do you wish there were more of in Australian gardens?
I’d love to see more homes being built around and ‘grounded’ by gardens;
not the other way around. Aside from that, I’d like to see more greenery, less concrete, and more people getting outside.

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Do you have a favourite project?
A lovely client in Blackburn wanted a native garden that saved water and had a pond. I hadn’t worked with water features before and she was good enough to let me take a shot at it. It was such a great experience, a really collaborative process with the client and we worked on the project together. I came back a few weeks after it was finished and she was busy looking after it, it was great to see them interacting with it and taking care of it.

Where do you see Ben Harris Gardens in 10 years time?
It’s my name on the business, so it’s me who’s going to deliver that garden. I like the idea of creating more but staying small so I can have my own hands on all the work, from conception to construction. I just want to keep creating – doing more native gardens, more cottage gardens and more water do you look to for inspiration?
I recently went to the Grampians and just spent a lot of time looking at the natural flow of all the elements.
I attended a water feature conference on a work trip to Chicago – it’s always great sharing ideas with likeminded people. And I’m hoping to get to Japan as soon as I can.

What do you hope your designs do?
To me, a good garden gives people a reason to go outside and enjoy it. My gardens are designed to be used, connected with and enjoyed. That’s when I know I’ve done my job really well.

Want more info on Ben’s work?
Head to

Screening Plants

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With the warmer weather well and truly on its way, we’re spending more time outdoors in our gardens and backyards. And for most of us, a bit of privacy in these spaces equals more enjoyment and relaxation – not to mention keeping nosey neighbours at bay.

Creating a private retreat for clients with screening plants ticks all the boxes when it comes to privacy and sanctuary. A considered approach is an elegant combination of tall evergreens with deciduous trees and shrubs that sees the plants change with the four seasons for a more characteristic, responsive environment. Think lush foliage, shade and protection in summer, an auburn patina come autumn, the raw beauty of bare branches for winter and burgeoning greens and florals in spring.

Here’s a few inspired examples of screening plants now in stock at Kilby Park Tree Farm.

Waterhousia Floribunda.
The fastest of the advanced growers – a great solution for clients who need a quick result.

Waterhousia Floribunda

Photo: Anthony Wyer & Associates


Photo: DDB Design Development & Building

Photo: DDB Design Development & Building


Waterhousia floribunda

Kilby Park Tree Farm Waterhousia floribunda


Ficus hillii
This versatile, resilient and dense evergreen makes for a beautiful weeping canopy up to 6m high in urban environments.

Ficus Hillii

Photo: Shafer Design Limited


Ficus ‘Flash’
One of the most popular native evergreen hedging plants, loved for its fast growth and lush, dense green foliage. Just add water (and a little love)!

Ficus Flash

Photo: John Wheatley for Nathan Burkett Designs


Kilby Tree Farm - Ficus Flash 20cm

Kilby Tree Farm – Ficus Flash 20cm


Acmena ‘ Sublime’
This lovely mid-sized tree is great for privacy, thanks to dense foliage from top to ground and even easier on the eyes come summer’s white fluffy flowers. Highly tolerant to all seasons and seaside gardens, we love this all round winner.

Acmena Sublime

Photo via

Kilby Park Tree Farm Acmena sublime

Kilby Park Tree Farm Acmena sublime


Syzygium ‘Select’
Bushy, glossy and dark green, this Australian native shrub is a fast grower and responds well to pruning, shaping, for privacy and hedging.

Photo: Danny Kildare Rolling Stone Designs

Photo: Danny Kildare Rolling Stone Designs


Kilby Park Tree Farm Syzygium select

Kilby Park Tree Farm Syzygium select


7 beautiful examples of pleaching

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Pleaching – the intertwining and interlacing of branches, usually to make an arbor or hedge – is a trend that never really fell out. From classic European avenues to modern eco-inspired landscapes, pleaching is a fantastic way to add a whole new level of interest to your garden, and can allow for some interesting additions to any style of landscape.

1. Pleaching is perfect for emphasising angles and levels.

2. Don’t forget the colour combo opportunities – These Copper Beeches are stunning!

3. Pleaching is sometimes referred to as creating ‘Living Walls’ – How about this gorgeous Living Ceiling?!

4. Why not consider a double line of pleached trees, to create a shady sitting spot?

5. Pleaching allows you to show off your architectural choices – we love this modern combination.

6. Don’t limit yourself to a single texture – Consider smaller ground cover plants to add interest.

7. Pleaching is a great option to create a privacy screen with a modern twist.

Call us or drop in to chat about tree options for your next pleaching project.

20 Years of National Tree Day

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This Sunday will mark the 20th anniversary of Planet Ark’s National Tree Day, a fun and inspiring event aimed to get people actively planting trees and plants across the country. Two decades on and three million trees planted later, the effort is still going strong!

Today thousands of local children will be out getting their hands dirty, learning about the importance of planting new trees and looking forward to seeing them grow.

An especially important part of National Tree Day is the restoration of native trees. Creating ‘green corridors’ of local native plant options is not only beautiful but can assist indigenous animals, increase the quality of nearby water supplies, and encourages bird life. We currently have some beautiful natives available – The flowering gums Corymbia ficifolia “Baby Orange” and “wild fire” in particular are stand outs for beautiful blossoms and their contribution to native fauna – Koalas and birds love them!

Corymbia ficifolia “Wild Fire” (Flowering gum)

Find a local event this Sunday to attend here or if you’d like to find out more about ongoing bushland projects, Landcare and Bushcare always love a volunteer.


Happy National Tree Day!


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Visited the farm lately? You might have noticed our bright new addition…

In true Australian style, the boys recently gave our Farm a much needed update with a brand new bridge – totally hand built! And no DIY project is complete without a finishing touch to make it unique. Alex has dubbed the bridge ‘The Senkaki Bridge’ as its radiant red looks just like the gorgeous Senkaki Maple trees.

A little spot of brightness in Winter. What do you think of our handiwork?


The Kilby Team.

Plant of the month: Michelia Figo, the Portwine Magnolia

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As many of our plants ease into their bare winter looks, a little glow of green stands out amongst the greys and bronzes – The beautiful Portwine Magnolia.

Unlike other members of the Magnolicae family, the Michelia Figo is an evergreen and offers glossy leaves all year around. With warm weather, anticipate the beautiful flowers that give it it’s name – A purple-red bloom with a strong heady fragrance. For designs requiring more height, ‘White Caviar’, the hybrid cross of the popular Yunnanensis Magnolia and Michelia Figo, is a narrower option offering the same heady fragrance from a creamy white flower.

What truly makes the Michelia Figo stand out is it’s versatility for design. The figo makes for a beautiful compact stand alone shrub, can be potted and shaped, but we especially like it for the beautiful hedge it creates. With it’s large, brilliant leaves, you can anticipate a hedge that adds vibrance to your landscape no matter what time of year. ‘White Caviar’ can also offer a more interesting screening option.

We currently have stunning Michelia Figos available in three sizes (30cm 40cm and 50cm), so swing by the Farm to experience in person the impact of these gorgeous plants, and how you can use them in your next project.