Small but perfectly formed

GemLife Palmwoods residents in alfresco area

Personalising alfresco areas is a breeze


“We’re starting to think about moving into our new home and were wondering about beautifying the outside area,” said Vicki. “We have to consider what and how we can optimise the appearance in a compact space.”

Coinciding with a visit to inspect their home under construction, Vicki and Michael accepted an invitation to visit current homeowner Ursula Leiber.

Ursula has created a tropical oasis at her GemLife Palmwoods home.

“I wasn’t a natural gardener at all,” she said. “But soon after my husband passed away, I wanted to create something beautiful.”

Ursula has gone for a tropical feel with her choice of planting, creating a lovely sunny location to enjoy a morning cup of tea.

“I’m going to install cafe blinds, so I can enjoy this spot all year around,” she says. “I already have chairs, a table and a comfortable place to sit.

“I can see palms outside my kitchen window, I’ve planted ornamental ginger which has beautiful flowers, and elephant’s ears.”

To create a big, bold splash of tropical colour, Ursula has planted two varieties of Mandevillas – a red and a pink. Mandevillas, originally from Brazil, come in a number of different colours including white and yellow. These plants are easy to grow but do need a permanent structure to climb.

Despite how lovely the garden looks now, Ursula has more plans, including planting a lemon tree, some chilli as well as fresh herbs.

Lynn and Gordon Ray at GemLife Woodend have turned their garden into a year-long feast for the senses. And their alfresco area has plenty of cosy and comfortable seating for entertaining as well as to enjoy a cup of tea in the sunshine.

“The first thing I asked as soon as we moved in was, ‘where’s north?’,” said Lynne. “Because once I knew that I could choose the right plants for the aspect.

“We originally come from Gisborne in Victoria, which is not too far away from Woodend, so we had a good idea what would grow well, however, the environment is a little bit different. We lost one plant and went, ‘okay, that’s not going to do well here’.”

When setting out their garden Lynne had one stipulation.

“I have to see flowers all year around,” she said. “So, we’ve planted flowering annuals in pots and have different varieties of camellias planted along the back wall so when one plant finishes flowering, there is another one in bloom.”

Having a compact space doesn’t have to mean limiting yourself to potted plants. Lynne and Gordon’s garden also features a Japanese maple, clumping bamboo as well as a mini lemon tree.

“I was pleasantly surprised how well the bamboo is doing,” said Lynne. “Gordon pruned back some of the canes for me. I’ve used some as planting stakes and others I am drying around the side of the house for my daughter who will be able to use them for her craft.”

In addition to delightful ornamentals, Lynne has two small sections for vegetables.

“To my surprise, we’ve been able to grow lettuce all year around and currently we’re enjoying peas and beetroot.”