Believe it or not, this spectacular and serene garden is hidden in the inner streets of Melbourne.

The sea of green is the entrance to residence of Mark Grenville and husband Gregory Ladner, a fashion designer whose namesake label has been stocked in David Jones for 50 years. In the 90s, the couple purchased a church in East Melbourne, and converted the property into a one-of-a-kind home, complete with a garden where the congregation used to sit!

While Gregory and Mark originally designed the garden themselves with their personal creative flair, horticulturist and The Plant Runner co-founder Dominic Hooghuis has helped them maintain and update the unique space over the past decade.

‘The garden feels so much bigger than it actually is,’ Dominic says. ‘This is due to the smart use of the walls as vertical gardens. The actual space would be approximately 70-80 square metres, but keep in mind that vertical gardens on the walls are 10-metres tall!’

Blankets of Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidate) and creeping fig (Ficus pumil) covers the surrounding walls, immersing the space in vibrant greenery. A rock slab forms the earthy ground of the garden, complemented by two striking water features: a natural pond featuring a number of Koi fish, opposite a ‘lagoon’ pool!

‘Large natural rocks have been placed to form a creative pathway from the front entrance through to the main residence,’ Dominic says. ‘The heated plunge pool is shaped like a natural lagoon and has a small waterfall to add the calming sound of moving water to the space.’

Amazingly, there’s no man-made materials across the entire landscaping, and no decking or lawn spaces. Instead, the home’s second-floor balconies offer the perfect place to take in the garden views and the water below. All of the rocks had to be craned over the church’s tall walls when it was first created, and more recently, Dominic’s team has bought in elements like mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) as a ground cover that further softens the look of the stone floor.

‘We have introduced many ferns to the garden to create that soft lush feeling,’ he says. ‘And the use of a large robinia tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) slightly offset in the space creates a natural canopy that is not overbearing in any way.’

The resulting space is completely tranquil, with a palette of greenery, stone and water that mimics natural structures of a forest or tropical garden – in the most surprising location!

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