• Gabrielle Stannus

A woody meadow?

I always listened to my teachers at school. However, I would be lying if I said that I followed their words exactly. Take for example, one of our latest garden designs in the northern suburbs of Melbourne where I put a slightly different twist on a 'woody meadow'.


The 'woody meadow' is a local Australian take on the prairie meadow of the New Perennial movement. Think Piet Oudolf. No annuals here please! Instead, the woody meadow is a low-input naturalistic planting design suitable for use in public landscapes, based around Australian plants.


Two of my former teachers at the University of Melbourne were actively involved in designing the first so-called 'woody meadows' in this country; John Rayner and Dr Claire Farrell. Claire Farrell supervised me as I completed my final research project, despite me not having enough credit points left to complete the compulsory statistics subject beforehand (but that is another story!). John Rayner, the Associate Professor and Director of Urban Horticulture within the University of Melbourne’s Green Infrastructure Research Group, was lucky enough to have me as his student in my first ever semester! (Poor John!) I interviewed John on this project for Greenlife Industry Australia. Click here to read my article. John also generously shared his team's Woody Meadow plant list with me.


Let's just say I was paying homage to my teachers in selecting low-maintenance native plants that suited the local climate and context of our client's garden, more specifically the 'Front' section in the plan below. Ostensibly, I had Base, Bump and Emergent layers, although on a greatly reduced scale when compared to the mass plantings my teachers worked on. I wouldn't go as far as calling this a 'woody meadow'. However, I was certainly inspired by the work of my teachers. I hope you will be too.


NB. No garden is ever no maintenance. If any gardener tries to sell you a design as such, don't believe them!

Our take on a woody meadow

Front garden

A variety of native small trees, shrubs and ground covers have been selected to provide flowering interest throughout the year, including winter. These varieties are planted densely so that visitors must use the granitic sand path to access the house, thereby reducing compaction of garden beds.


Plant selection: Anigozanthos 'Bush Gold', Anigozanthos flavidus 'Landscape Lilac', Astartea fascicularis, Banksia spinulosa 'Stumpy Gold', Callistemon pallidus 'Candelabra', Callistemon 'Purple Splendour', Grevillea 'Evelyn's Coronet', Grevillea lanigera 'Prostrate', Hibiscus 'Aussie Pearl', Melaleuca thymifolia 'Pink Lace', Philotheca myoporoides 'Winter Rouge', Prostanthera sieberi 'Minty', Westringia glabra ‘Deep Purple’, Xanthosia rotundifolia


'Perfumed Pocket'

The plants in this bed will release a perfumed scent when passers-by brush past them.


Plant selection: Callistemon pallidus 'Candelabra', Philotheca myoporoides 'Winter Rouge', Prostanthera sieberi 'Minty', Xanthosia rotundifolia.

Xanthosia rotundifolia. Common name Southern Cross (Image: Burnley Plant Guide Online)

'Secret' garden

A ‘secret’ fern garden has been included in front of the master bedroom for its occupants to enjoy.


Plant selection: Asplenium flabellifolium, Asplenium nidus 'Crissie', Calochlaena dubia

Click here to view more details of this design.


A bientôt!


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