Elaine Armstrong lives in utopia. At first she thought it was just a garden, but later decided it meant much, much more.
It’s an enchanting place, nestled amidst bushland, with its very own, unique narrative.
Planted and nurtured by Elaine over twenty five years, this subtropical garden is in the hinterland of the Sunshsine Coast, Queensland.
It’s been painted with plants, and adorned with tchotchkes (nicknacks) by a patient and talented woman.
Elaine is an accomplished ceramist, and some of her pieces, as well as items found or bought, are settled in nooks throughout the garden.
Juggler’s act: sinewy arms of a paperbark (Melaleuca) curl out, mid-dance, while a glass sphere is balanced atop.
A loop of pleached ti-tree, (with lower branches trimmed), make an almost ethereal, informal border, and contrast with the shaped shrubs on the right.
Ultimate embrace: a river rock captured by the arms of a magnolia.
She’s shaped murraya and buxus for cloud hedging; and others plants are sculptural features: they’ve been topiaried, entwined, trained and gently tweaked, but not in ordered symmetry; instead each has its own organic form, and rhythm.
Elaine’s patience is evident here with her plaited wisteria coiling around the veranda posts. In warmer climes keeping a rein on this rampant, albeit stunning, climber is a necessity.
Abutilon flowers nod in the breeze.
Elaine’s a quiet achiever, and you get the sense she’s had so much fun playing with this landscape canvas.
Self-seeding primulas appear like a ground hugging mist.
Refreshing colour themes that lift the spirits are repeated around the garden.
Petite finches gather for brunch.
While there are some informal hedges on the perimeter there’s little demarcation, and an easy transition, between the garden and surrounding towering eucalypt bushland.
“The garden gradually filters out into the natural bush and becomes an extenuation of the theme of the expulsion and return to the garden,” Elaine says.
Deciduous trees including magnolias provide seasonal colour; conifers add bold shapes and a varied green/blue palette.
Elaine says there was no grand garden plan although the views from within her home helped her decide what was needed where. The most concentrated section of the garden is on the north/western side of the house and can be seen from her veranda.
Elaine’s rustic home with colourful accents has been constructed using many recycled elements. It’s elevated to capture summer breezes and beautiful, ever-changing garden views.
“It appears ordered and is, when viewed within a small time span, but nature is always in control,” Elaine muses.
Elaine’s written a fable she’s hoping to publish. It’s about humanity’s evolution from playful ‘childman’, through angry complicated man to peaceful ‘adultman’, and a cool cat who saw the reality and managed to fast-forward the process.
Vignettes frequently emerge as you wander along narrow pathways, and if you pause and look back, chances are you’ll see one you’d previously missed.
A delicate native Button orchid (Dockrillia linguiforme) at home on the trunk of a pollarded small-leaved lilly pilly.
Elaine and a friend share gardening lore.
Sometimes in the mornings fog drifts over her garden: “It has a whimsical atmosphere because of the weeping natives, tiny wildfowers and soft grasses,” Elaine says.
Her family loves this precious place; as do wallabies and birds, but “I wish the Noisy Pitta would come out of the gully and feel safe in my garden,” Elaine says.
This would surely be a perfect abode for elves and fairies – despite none being visible when we visited!