The Artful Gardener


In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift towards more natural gardening styles, where aesthetics and artistry align with mimicking natural plant systems.

This trend was prominently showcased at both the Melbourne and Chelsea shows in 2024, reflecting a growing movement toward sustainable and ecologically mindful gardening.

Phillip Withers and Fiona Brockhoff’s award-winning garden, ‘SaltBush,’ has garnered significant attention for its celebration of Victoria’s coastal environments and its focus on resilience and sustainability amidst climate change concerns. As joint winners of the Melbourne Gold Show Garden Award, their design raises essential questions about contemporary gardening practices, emphasizing biodiversity and the environmental impacts of our choices.

A key aspect of the ‘SaltBush’ garden is its emphasis on waste minimization. After the show’s conclusion, the garden will be repurposed in Geelong and Bellarine, ensuring that its materials and plants continue to serve an ecological purpose. This approach addresses the significant issue of waste in the construction and landscaping industry, which contributes approximately 27 million tonnes of waste annually in Australia.

‘SaltBush’ is more than just a garden; it is an immersive experience that encourages humans to coexist harmoniously with nature. The journey through the garden begins in the salt coastal dunes, moves through rocky hinterlands and wetlands, and culminates in an inland bush setting. Along the way, visitors encounter a diverse range of Victorian indigenous plants, providing habitats for local wildlife and promoting a deep connection to the natural environment.

The garden’s construction utilized recycled and local materials, with many elements sourced from within Victoria. For instance, the bluestone rocks were reclaimed from earthworks in Geelong. Upcycled telegraph poles and wharf steps were used for the timber wall and steps, respectively, while shell grit, a by-product from a local salt quarry, was incorporated into the garden beds.

With features such as a small plunge pool, seating area, and wood-fired pizza oven, ‘SaltBush’ covers a compact 250 square meters yet offers a profound message. As Phillip Withers stated, “We want SaltBush to be a chance to help us reconnect with the earth, with plants, with insects, with water, and with each other.” This garden serves as an inspiration for sustainable gardening practices that can be applied to any setting, urban or rural.

Next month I will talk about honey flora. In the meantime, happy gardening. 

Visit Clark+Granger at or phone 0456111120 to find out more