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Mark Browning Landscape Design

Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show Winner 2014 & 2015

Presented by Bamstone, designed by Mark Browning Landscape Design, site managed by Dan Foreman, constructed by Kiama Landscapes and Pools, supporting Dementia Australia “Aud” is our show garden for the 2020 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

Economists and financier know “AUD” as the Australian Dollar, some folk may confuse it with “ordinary”. Our garden will be neither and is named “Aud” as a shortening of Audrey, a lady who succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease a couple of years ago as many people do. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia affecting not only 30 percent of people over 85 years but people of all ages as well. Although Audrey died from this disease and other ailments, Alzheimer’s never defined her. Audrey was a competent and enthusiastic gardener, a golf champion in younger years, and most of all a loving family woman, loyal and warm to everyone around her right up to the time of entering permanent care eight years before passing. During those eight years she slowly yet relentlessly suffered memory loss with her most recent recollections vanishing first, those close to her understood once she got back to zero it would end her confusion and frustration.

As a gardener Audrey rewrote the book on how its done. Born a Queenslander her ideas on cool climate gardening were nil when she moved to Melbourne in 1959. She mixed ferns with gardenias, bergonias with primulas, rhododendrons with banksias on the quarter acre in Syndal. Her garden thrived like it was always meant to be, even her homage to her home state, the Avocado fruited. Syndal came and went, her gardens in East Malvern, Bonnie Doon, Malua Bay and Lake Nillahcootie were the same. All proving that a love of plants is almost all it takes…

Audrey would have her life partner husband Graham build the hard landscape structures. Usually from left over building products, he built fernery after fernery to house the numerous ferns she “rehomed” from the Strathbogie Ranges. Little order seemed to be in play yet it all worked, even the broken concrete crazing paving buckled under the huge Jacaranda in Syndal. Graham adored her and did exactly what she wanted outside.

Our “Aud” is a testament to her gardening prowess, somewhat a fusion of otherwise confused mixed and varies plantings and off beat structural landscape ideas.

Central to “Aud” is a humble pavilion, the sort of thing she’d have a cup of tee in mid-morning. Set amid plantings that otherwise defy 60s and 70s Melbourne, stone mushrooms and shards of sawn blue stone and steppers intersperse the space a bit like the sort of paraphernalia that adorned Audrey’s gardens. Raised planting areas surround with yet more eclectic plantings, the walls are natural finish (earth encrusted) bluestone offcuts not indifferent to the materials salvaged by Graham from all those building sites over many decades – off cuts from the quarrying process, never intended for use.

Visual access to “Aud” is deliberated compromised to just a couple of locations to enhance the mystery that Audrey was to horticulture and structure. Audrey’s gardens were always to be enjoyed from within and she had a strong indifference to showing them off, they were hers and never intended as an ego statement.

“Aud” possibly fails the show garden pub test as it is a tribute to a woman with no design or horticultural qualifications. What Audrey did possess are somethings often absent in landscape design: personality, possibility and a wildly experimental spirit.

As a side note, to the day she left us she never consciously knew that Graham died 5 years earlier, such is the agony of Alzheimer’s. No one will never know if she wondered why he stopped visiting daily.

By the way, Audrey was and remains my mum. Forgive my bias but to this day she continues my primary role model in my profession.

Rest in Peace mum.

See Mark Browning Landscape Design, as well as several other Best In Show designers all coming together for the 25th Anniversary of the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show.

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