In Place

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The garden is home, like a freshly dressed room, the perennials which border the green parterre provide a sense of comfort, an enclosed wall albeit only waist or so in height, the backdrop and foreground for the view from the sitting room like an extended wing of the house beautifully decorated in floral motifs. The rooms of Dorothy Hart’s former garden are of consoling solace in the centre of what is now a bustling commercial district.

For Dorothy the garden was such home, the place where she invested all of her spare time planting and maintaining, designing and living. Most of the original plants came from Dandenong Market, Lintons primarily who are now located at Mount Eliza “I would buy things and he would deliver them on his way home when he finished. He would deliver them up to my gate, alot of my plants, trees, shrubs and things have come from there”. Much alike the comfort one feels within the private walls of a formal living space the garden is hidden from view to prying eyes, this was intentional. The high fence around Benga was a necessity for Dorothy to be able to garden in peace whilst being situated so close to the main thoroughfare of town. Together with husband Ian, the Hart’s built Benga in 1936 employing Ian’s second cousin, architect and associate of Walter Burley Griffin, Fred Ballantyne to design the home which was finished in the Old English style of architecture.

The garden was an extension of the house, just another room to contend with the work within, “I’ll go outside perhaps just to take something down to the rubbish heap and next thing is I find it’s nearly midday and I haven’t even made my bed”. Up a few steps from the grass parterre, the sundial garden elevated as to take in an overview of the garden below idles shaded from the morning sun to the east. The clinker brick path leads from here down the side of Benga, the only separation between the house and the garden, itself being brushed by the encroaching border of allium, foxglove and snowdrops softening the path like a botanical watercolour. The entire garden largely unchanged from its original layout glows in its annual brilliance to put on a show of covetous pastel hue, a lively memoir to Dorothy Hart’s life work.

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Matt.

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