The ten-day Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, attracting tens of thousands of visitors, finishes this weekend. Over one week, I had the pleasure of judging the city gardens for The Chronicle Garden Competition, before returning to Toowoomba for the gala awards presentation evening. This is the Competition’s 68th year. It began in 1949 and helped lift post-war spirits, finally morphing into the much-loved Carnival of Flowers.
My choice for Grand Champion was a break with tradition.The Reynolds’ is one of the best natives gardens I’ve ever visited, and a very worthy winner – I’ll bring you images in a future blog.
Meanwhile, this delightful garden belongs to Dorothy and Tony McKeon and is only six years old. It won the ‘Design Concept Award’.
Dorothy, a country woman, was attracted to the house as it had a ‘country feel’ but there wasn’t much of a garden when she arrived. “At the front, some beds were edged in the proverbial quick kerb. There were a few roses but no trees,” she says.
The block was very open, exposed to all the neighbours. She began planting screening trees to create intimate, secluded spaces especially at the back of the block. At the front it’s more open with year-round street appeal.
It seems Dorothy has a fetish for buxus. They’re shaped in pots, grown as neat hedges delineating spaces or bordering the front steps, and used as a foil for exuberant perennials. She loves ‘fiddling around with them’, using several types including Dutch, English and Korean but mostly the dwarf Japanese box, Buxus microphylla ‘Faulkner’.
At the back of the house you’re treated to several surprises. The small space has been cleverly divided into sections. There are shaped shrubs, some potted and others in the ground all adding textural contrast. A wall protruding from the side fence screens the garden shed but also creates a nook with a mirror embraced by trachelopsermum.
Along the back fence a 1m high retaining wall supports a row of Cupressus sempervirens ‘Nitchke’s Needles’ pencil pines that provide privacy, height and a verdant backdrop. “I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from designer Paul Bangay and his use of ‘living walls’,” Dorothy says.