Design Ideas Archives - Kilby Park Tree Farm

Industry Insider – Ben Harris Gardens

By | Customer Profiles, Design Ideas, Garden Inspiration, Media, Think Tank | No Comments

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.

gallery-japanese-pond gallery-cottage-stream-5 gallery-blackburn-billabong-7 gallery-blackburn-billabong-3

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?
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Screening Plants

By | Design Ideas, Garden Inspiration, Plants | No Comments

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


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 ‘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)


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


Keep Cosy: 10 Greenhouses to love, covet and inspire

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We love being amongst plants, but sometimes the frost of winter is just a little too much. This week we are inspired by the beauty of the humble greenhouse, and the escape from the cold that they also bring. No longer stuck in the realm of daggy old designs, greenhouses can be customised to suit a variety of landscape designs, from rustic to ultra modern. Below, we share our top 10 favourites:

1. The classic potters greenhouse: Part storage, part greenhouse, we love the pop of spearmint on the door.

2. Romantic rustic: This greenhouse creates a stunning focal point for a field of wildflowers. Gorgeous in any season!

3. Classic timber: We think this greenhouse would look only better with age, and love the modern shape.

4. The upcycled space saver: No room? DIY with old windows and furniture pieces!

5. The sunny attachment: We love how this greenhouse is a part of the home, and can be used for storage.

6. The polished finish: This stunning Edwardian style greenhouse goes beautifully with a manicured courtyard.

7. The Dream: An indoor orangery complete with pond? We’d probably never leave.

8. The Convert: Convert your dingy old shed into a cosy space for your plants.

9. The ultra modern: We love the clean lines and Scandinavian vibe of this greenhouse.

10. The Classic: Veggie patch, old tin rainwater catchment and tidy little greenhouse? Perfect.

Do you have a greenhouse in your yard? Show yours off on our Kilby tag on instagram – #kilbyparktreefarm

All images via Pintrest

Little space, big impact: Inspiration for courtyards and tight spots.

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Trees and a tight spot – While the combination might make you feel unsure, we’ve collected some spectacular examples of gardens and courtyards where the two have come together perfectly. The key? Balance, harmony and levels to create depth.

1. This sunny courtyard contrasts bright stone and paint with lush plant choices.

2. Layering and levels creates a modern jungle in this compact courtyard.

3. This maple makes for a stunning focal point, especially in Autumn.

4. Neat borders give this courtyard a luxurious feel without overwhelming the limited space.

5. Stepped levels create interest and allow the trees to be a feature all of their own.

6. This well planned landscape not only looks old euro chic, but adds depth to the yard.

Feeling inspired? Next week we will be sharing our pick of fastigiate breeds – the perfect compact tree for tight spots and high impact.

The Understated Elegance of the Olive Tree

By | Design Ideas, Plant Profiles | No Comments

Favoured of course for it’s fantastic oil bearing fruit, olive trees also make a fantastic statement as a decorative plant.

No longer constrained to Mediterranean villas or humble farms, olive trees offer a modern simplicity to a whole range of landscapes and styles. Given a well drained soil, olive trees will flourish and add their distinct look to a garden for many years to come.

At present, Kilby has a variety of Olive trees on offer to fit the needs of your design, and we thought we’d feature our top 3. All feature the classic thin leathery leaf with a green top and silver bottom, with their own delights added.


Olea. a “kalamata” 

Known of course for it’s delicious fruit, the Kalamata is a smaller variety of the olive tree, growing 6 x 3 at maturity. Kalamata makes for a fantastic informal hedge or grove, and can be potted if well drained.


Olea e. ‘Tolleys Upright’

Mainly fruitless, this larger olive tree (7 x 4 at maturity) is ideal for urban landscaping as it tolerates dryness and pruning fantastically, offering the opportunity for screening. Fantastic for feature trees as well as creating privacy.

Olea europea ‘Nevadillo Blanco’

The Nevadillo Blanco offers you a similar option to the kalamata, with delicious fruit and a 6 x 3 growth at maturity. Leaves are slightly wider with an outwards spread, offering a different texture to the plant.

Consider adding the understated elegance of an olive tree to your next design.

Tanyas Plant of the Month: Luscious® Tristaniopsis

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A hardy tree with stunning features, Luscious® Tristaniopsis is our Plant of the Month for March for a good reason.

Suitable for a wide range of soil types, Luscious® is a fantastic evergreen native sporting wide glossy leaves almost double the size of other tristaniopsis breeds. These large glossy leaves and a beautiful fragrance make it a great alternative to the Magnolia, and suit a variety of styles.

The native status does nothing to detract from Luscious®’ ability to blend into the most contemporary of settings. With a highly decorative bark, it is an ideal tree for pleaching, showing off a slender copper and cream trunk. Growing between 7 – 12 metres, Luscious® offers a wide range of styling options, attractive as both a feature plant and a grouped layout.

 Luscious® Tristaniopsis- A hardy, gorgeous tree that truly lives up to its luscious name and our definite favourite of the month. Find out more here.

Working miracles in small spaces

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For many of us, childhood was associated with large back gardens, mostly lawn, with lots of space to play. Unfortunately, with the pressure on land, many gardens these days are getting smaller and smaller. For designers and landscapers this brings additional challenges to overcome.

Probably the biggest challenge in a small garden is getting the design brief to fit the space. By that I mean clients may see that they have only a small space to work with, but they still want an area that can have multiple uses. Prioritising the uses, and giving a hierarchy to them, will help resolve what are the most important criteria for the design. Hopefully at this point you will be able gently suggest that a better, more effective design will be achieved when there aren’t competing calls on the space.

Small gardens are usually ‘one-take’ affairs. That means that the viewer sees all or most of the garden in one view. From this follows another important design principle – each plant must earn its keep at all times of the year. With no where to hide, all plants have to have 4 seasons of interest.  So consideration of plants means that a brief season of flowers followed by months of drabness or seasonal dormancy might rule them out in favour of something less spectacular, but interesting all year round. As most of the planting will be visible together, simplicity is the key, reducing the number of different plants to as small a number as possible. It is even more important in small gardens to gain the advantage of fluency by planting numbers of the same plant, rather than dotting a riot of different plants in the space. This is often a tricky thing to negotiate with a client, as they may have a list of favourite plants that they want included.

Perimeters become very important in small gardens. It is often tempting to try to maximise floor area by using up most of the available area with hardscaping, relegating the ‘garden’ to a small band of growing space along each boundary. This highlights the smallness of the space, and reinforces the feeling of being constrained. Cutting across the space, using shapes that contrast with the perimeter help break down the feeling of ‘being in a box’. Using the diagonal (the longest line in a small garden), avoiding the square-within-a-square look, and using shapes that push out against the boundaries help overcome the visual constraints.

In a small space it is also crucial to consider the vertical planes, both in the hardscaping and the planting. In smaller spaces the depth of the garden is exaggerated, so changes of levels, both of the hardscaping and the planting, help breakdown the relationship with the boundaries and the ground area. Where possible, vertical planes should be planted. In small gardens this usually means using climbing plants, though recently the craze for vertical gardening has meant that there is an alternative (though for me the jury is still our on the long-term viability of a long of vertical gardens).

Consideration also has to be given to the upkeep of the garden. A small garden usually has little or no space for the storage of gardening equipment, so how much maintenance, and who is going to do it, is an important consideration in the design process. I’ve sometimes seen turf laid is tiny back yards. Where is the lawn mower going to live? In a small space, do you want to lose valuable space to a shed just to keep a lawn mower?

Like everything else, textures are important in small spaces. Using textures to contrast will break up the space and give more visual interest. As most of the hardscaping is going to be space that will be used, thought should be given to using contrasts in texture as well as changes in levels to give an added sense of depth and dynamism to the garden.

Small space garden design is certainly a challenge, but for some designers it is their favoured format. Well designed, a small garden can be an amazing oasis of beauty that belies the physical parameters of the garden and creates an impact out of proportion to is size.


(Photo credit – Spanish landscape architect Alvaro de la Rosa. Photographer unknown)




A classic remodeling of a front garden by Qdos Design

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Heath Lang of Qdos Landscapes is a bit of a stickler for quality. His high standards run right through from purchasing plants and materials to the installation and finishing of his work.

For the front garden of this Edwardian home in Elwood, the owners wanted a simple but elegant design with a definite focal point. Attention to detail was crucial. Heath used the front path as a design feature, forming a Vee shape and drawing the eye to the urn and pedestal. The Murraya hedge will add structure to the garden as it matures, and the specimen planting of Magnolia ‘Kay Parris’ and Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ will give height, colour and seasonal interest, as well as defining the boundaries. Liriope line the edge of the paving, and as they grow and spread they will soften the boundary between the hard and soft elements of the design and connect the various elements.Its nice to see one of my favourite plants, Helleborus orientalis (Winter Rose) used in the urn.

Heath choose Ashlar patterned Bluestone pavers with beveled edges. These are edged with 7mm Seymour pebble. This gives a clean, sophisticated look with the pebble edging offering a defining contrast. The paving is continued down the side of the house where the border has been planed with Betula pedula ‘Fastigiata’, the upright Silver Birch, under-planted with Arthropodium cirhhatum (NZ Rock Lily) . The sheltered position is ideal for growing both the plants, and the beautiful white trunks of the birch will contrast nicely with the mid-green Arthropodium and the dark grey of the paving. As ever, simplicity of design and quality installation are the key to success.


All work was carried out by Qdos Landscape, including construction of the picket fence, paving and installation of the urn and pedestal. All planting was selected and installed by Heath and his team. If you want to contact Heath, you call him on 0425733741 or email


A fruitful new trend

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Modern gardens are all about leisure, but the idea of a garden being a place of recreation for working people is a relatively new idea. In earlier times, only the wealthy could afford to have land filled with ornamental trees. For most a garden was a productive space, devoted to growing fruit, vegetables and herbs. Where flowers were grown they were usually cultivated for medicinal or utilitarian reasons. Even the wealthier families, who could afford pleasure gardens, had kitchen gardens to keep the house supplied with produce.

In the second half of the last century improvements in living standards, the wider availability of food, refrigeration and improved storage techniques and changing eating habits meant that fewer people were including productive areas in their gardens. It now seems that gardens are viewed very differently – rather than being an area of economic value, they are seen more as extensions of the living areas of the house.

Thankfully, we are started to see changes. More and more people are asking that a veggie garden be part of the new design. The dazzling array of produce available in our supermarkets has a hidden cost. Often food is transported long distances, and the resultant impact in terms of pollution is a factor that is troubling more and more people. The bounty in the supermarket is also made possible by the intensive use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Information about the chemical inputs into farming is not widely disseminated, and consumers can be troubled by the largely unknown health risks that combinations of these chemicals may have.  Growing food at home means that much more control can be exercised over the chemical input into the produce.

So how can we add productive elements to the garden? Firstly, we have to be honest about how much time we want to spend actually tending the garden. Growing palatable fruit and veggies takes a lot more time and effort than many people realise. A garden full of tasty veggies and fruit is not only appealing to us, but to a whole host of other animals. Birds, bats and possums can strip a laden fruit tree in the wink of an eye. Succulent salad leaves will stand no chance against a hungry hoard of slugs and snails, caterpillars and grubs. Most fruit and veggies wont crop well if subject to water stress, so irrigation is also a factor.

The easiest entry into food production are herbs, many of which, coming as they do from around the Mediterranean basin, are tough and adaptable. They can also be worked into ornamental gardens without much effort. Rosemary, particular prostrate, is a reliable performer as a ground cover. Care needs to be taken that it is trimmed regularly to avoid woodiness. Bay tree (Laurus nobilis) makes a handsome, if slow growing, hedge. Sage, like Rosemary, is a good choice as long as it is kept regularly trimmed. Low growers like Oregano and Thyme can also be used as groundcovers.

Other plants can be included into ornamental borders and will do double duty being attractive to the eye and useful in the kitchen. Italian and curly parsley can be clumped to provide a soft green foil for other plants. Trim the leaves as you need, and allow a few to go to seed, both because they have attractive flowers and it ensures a supply of seedlings. Coriander can be used in the same way, and even carrots and parsnips can be grown in borders. All part of the same family, they can be cropped as needed or left to flower and spread.  Swiss chard is an easily grown plant that can give a good display of deep green leaves. And don’t forget nasturtiums. Both the leaves and flowers are edible, they cope well with heat and neglect, and the spread rapidly through a garden, but are easily controlled. The various members of the onion family can also be planted amongst ornamentals, some having interesting flowers. Chives makes a great clump, a good alternative to small grasses.

If a dedicated vegetable plot is needed, care should be taken in the siting of the space. Almost all food crops need plenty of sun. Hygiene is also important, so plots should be site away from areas where dropped leaves build up, and where it is easy to erect barriers such a meshing for trees and to avoid possum damage. Container growing of vegetable crops is often a good idea in small spaces, or even in larger gardens where integration into the main garden isnt easy. Growing in containers means that optimal conditions can be created for growing different crops, and when the crops are not looking their best, they can be sited out of the way of important views of the garden.

We can only hope that an upsurge in interest in veggie garden might herald a new trend overall in gardens. Encouraging home owners back into their gardens, as a place where they actively take part in the nurturing and development of the garden ,rather than simply enjoying it passively, has got to be a good thing.



Beauty and formality in a Kew garden

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Amber Biesse, of The Tinshed Group, recently completed a redesign for a large front garden in Kew. Here she talks about the brief, some constraints, and her solution;

The symmetry of the house underpinned the design for this garden.  My design sketches started with a generous central path leading from the street to the front door and a secondary path leading from the driveway to the side entrance – this then created the spaces for planting.  Along with symmetry my main goal was that my garden design needed to look equally good from the outside framing the facade as it did from the inside looking out.

The property had a convenant that the front fence must be no higher than 760mm so I therefore opted to have a hedge of Ficus Flash, which in time will provide a solid screen between the street and house.  For continuity the Ficus Flash is used for all perimeter planting.  The Ficus Flash is also planted between the driveway and main garden.  This again in time will provide a solid screen between the hard surface of the driveway and the outlook from the windows of the two front rooms.  From the front facade the ficus also softens the hard element of the modern black garage box and also successfully ties the modern garage with the period facade through consistent planting.

In the main garden I have then planted a layer of Ornamental Pears as ‘feature’ trees which will grow higher than the Ficus hedge providing further screening and a seasonal difference in the garden.  I particularly love the Autumn colours and Spring blossom.  The pears are underplanted with white flowering Liriope.

A row of Gardenias line the central path and border the grass.

The two garden beds under the two front windows are identical, continuing the symmetry of the garden and provide a lovely outlook for the two front rooms.  A thick hedge of Murraya sits under the windows.  When these are in flower the perfume is incredible and with the front windows open the scent will float through the house, along with providing a lovely perfumed entrance and a lovely lush green outlook from the two front windows.  Little Gem is used as a feature tree in the centre of the remaining garden bed and are bordered by two layers of English Box.  In time the Little Gem will grow taller and provide further scale to the very tall front facade along with ‘sitting’ nicely either side of the entrance.

The overall result is a beautiful, balanced, symmetrical garden that compliments the facade, provides a lovely entrance to the home and softens the hard element of the modern garage box.  The garden also provides privacy from the street and an equally beautiful ‘view’ from the inside looking out from the front rooms.

Amber Biesse

You can contact Amber here