Media > Australian House & Garden

'Beauty contest: Chelsea Flower Show 2010'
Australian House & Garden,
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
'Beauty contest: Chelsea Flower Show 2010'
Australian House & Garden,
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

'Mediterranean romance: designer James Towillis, Silver Gilt Medal

A rustic garden in Provence is recreated in London using dry-climate plants, fragrant herbs and reclaimed elements such as terracotta roof tiles and an ancient olive tree.

Used here to line a path, lavender clipped into soft mounds demonstrates traditional Provençal style. The massive, gnarled olive tree was rescued from a building site. Weighing over five tonnes, it is estimated to be more than 400 years old. Olive trees tolerate even the most severe pruning and transplanting.

Artefacts from Provence aid authenticity, including old tools, tiles, windows, shutters and the door. A rustic groundcover was achieved using graded limestone from England as well as chippings left over from making the terraces out of limestone from Provence.

Tip: visit the Mediterranean
In hot, dry Mediterranean climates such as in Adelaide and Perth, the choice of plants is limited but never boring. Choose aromatic and edible plants, such as those featured here, to use in the kitchen as herbal teas, in homemade potpourri and fragrant drawer sachets. Terracotta pots filled with red geraniums, a rustic chair and bunches of cut lavender hung upside-down to dry all add to that special blend of Mediterranean magic.

The soft grey foliage of olive trees and fields of lavender transport us instantly to Provence in this evocative garden. It is filled with the many fragrant and productive plants that thrive in the hot, sunny Mediterranean climate and parts of Australia: lavender, lemon verbena and the cosmetic herb the French call immortelle (Helichrysum italicum) plus fruit-bearing olive, fig, almond and mulberry trees and wild herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, borage and juniper.

“I love the wild terrain of Provence,” says UK designer James Towillis. “I wanted to create a simple, terraced garden that is so typical there. Your five senses are assaulted as you walk through.” James cleverly employed a trick in perspective, using converging rows of lavender that make the garden seem larger than it is.

To recreate the Provençal landscape, massive man-made rocks have been used to build the site up towards the back. Rustic dry-stone walls form terraces, with plants spilling over the top and fragrant thyme tucked into the crevices. A water rill tumbles down the slope in a series of pools, offering respite from the heat. The dominant colours of silver, grey, purple and blue are punctuated by flashes of bright red poppies, orange calendulas and pink peonies.'

Read the rest of the feature here.