Open garden / Rooms, paths and shade

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WATCHED over by a big fluffy owl that sits in the silver birch at the back, Mark Barber’s Deakin garden is a place to explore and discover, with hidden corners that unfold as you wander, and a mix of vivid colour and evocative scents.

“We tried to get a good mix of colour, with the blue ice conifer, maroon leaves and a wide range of different greens,” says Mark. “The banksia rose has a wonderful perfume, and we have fragrant azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, but my favourite is the little Japanese maple by the house; the colour is amazing.”

Mark’s garden will be open to the public on the weekend of October 11 and 12 as part of Open Gardens Australia.

The path leads around the back of the house to a spectacular liquid amber that offers deep shade in the summer, and past relaxing water features to a series of garden rooms, including a “secret” spot with a peaceful arbour that Mark loves.

“We chose to break the garden up into little areas which maintains the interest as you wander around,” he says. “This way you can make discoveries, when I’m walking around I see different things in flower that I wasn’t expecting, and it’s always a lovely surprise and different all the time.”

The well-established garden has been here for 50 years, with Mark taking over and redesigning it 10 years ago when he retired.

“I worked around the pavers that were already here, and we had some lovely mature trees that we kept, but we reduced the lawn, removing it completely in the front, and created garden rooms,” he says.

“Each part of the garden has a different personality – there’s even my version of a zen garden with raked pebbles.

“Some of the garden is formal, other parts are informal, and that’s because a lot of it has evolved through a series of successes and failures.”

Mark says he hand waters everything himself. “It can get monotonous, but things can go wrong with irrigation systems so I feel happier doing it myself – plus I get to see how everything is doing as I go around,” he says.

“It’s lovely that from the house you can see most of the garden but when you’re down here you can’t see what’s around the corner.

“I like not being able to see everything at once.”

Photos by Gary Schafer

Mark’s garden at 3 Brassey Street, Deakin, open Saturday, October 11, and Sunday, October 12, 10am-4.30pm. Adults $8, children under 18 are free. Funds raised will go to the Gawad Kalinga Organisation in the Philippines and Open Gardens Australia. More information at



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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist with a particular interest in homes and gardens.

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