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'Alowyn' is a beautiful garden owned and created by Prue and John Van de Linde, of Yarra Glen, who are Gardening Australia's 2008 'Gardener of the Year' winners. The twenty-one hectare property is nestled in the Yarra Valley just outside Melbourne. Prue and John purchased the property eleven years ago when it was a barren horse stud comprising of open paddocks. The soil was very compacted, and there were only three trees on the property with an old Photinia hedge along the driveway.
Prue and John were so excited by what they found that they started planting immediately. Being an empty horse paddock there were no constraints so amongst the thousands of ideas they just started in the middle and worked out a plan. They knew they wanted a strong, geometric design for structure, so they planted very carefully.
The spine of the garden is a hundred metre long rose and wisteria archway. Off the archway one can turn left or right into smaller, separate garden areas, including a birch forest, a traditional European parterre garden, an edible garden and a variety of small courtyard spaces. At the centre of the design is a fountain surrounded by a sunken rose garden. The main parts of the garden include:
*Rose and Wisteria Arbour- The arbour holds the overall garden design together, and it looks fantastic in full flower. The mauve and green curtain effect is quite spectacular. The roses on the archway are also great and help give the arbour a number of 'personalities' during the year and usually continually flower from October through until about April or May.
*Perennial Borders- The first of the smaller gardens at 'Alowyn' is a garden of perennial borders. Through a process of trial and error, John and Prue have developed a palette of plants including strappy leaf plants, grasses, sedums and salvias that are able to tolerate drought and extremes of hot and cold.
*Birch Forest- This was created to develop a microclimate, so the bird life in the valley could come and visit the garden. Five hundred birch trees have been planted very closely together, the trees are planted less than a metre apart, forcing them to grow tall and not follow their usual spreading habit.
*Parterre Garden- A series of geometric designs have been incorporated into the patterns of the parterre. The outside lines are Korean Box and the actual pattern, Dutch Box. The leaf colours of the two varieties are quite different and, as they change during the season, the Dutch Box stays a little darker, whereas the Korean Box is very light in colour.
The climate of the area can be harsh, having very cold winters and hot dry summers. Prue says that when dealing with these conditions the first thing is to "understand your climate and don’t struggle with plants that don’t survive because it can be heartbreaking if your favourites keep dying. Learn to love the plants that enjoy your climate and really work with