Using happy memories to create a happy garden? It actually works

Hazel is not someone to do things by halves. When he makes compost he incorporates 100 cubic metres of horse manure and vast quantities of grape marc – the solid remains of grapes after pressing – turns it with his digger and lets it decay for a year. When he grows seedlings for Ferguson to plant, he imports seeds direct from Germany. He also keeps bees.

When planning the garden, Ferguson says she spent a lot of time thinking about what both she and Hazel “really loved”. “I said to Simon, ‘where do you feel the most joy?’ He said, ‘when I see bees on flowers’. When I asked myself, I said being in grasslands. When I was little I would sit in the grasslands on the foreshore at Merricks Beach.”

She married the two answers into a space that is grassy and floral and that is a haven for birds and bees and “all sentient beings”. Their two sons have also had a hand in some of the planting choices.

“Gardens can bring people closer to who they actually are,” Ferguson says. “They are the place where you can be yourself. It’s about a felt sense to a garden, it’s not just visual.” She says some of her best gardening comes from getting into a sense of “flow”. “It’s almost like being guided, it’s freeing yourself up, a letting go.”

She encourages everyone making a garden to think about their happiest memories. “Where did you feel most whole? Where did you go when you were sad? What plant or plant communities give you a sense of joy? What are your favourite colours? Try to bring elements of that into your garden, it is important.”

Ferguson says she is inspired by pinks, blues and lemon yellow as well as a smattering of purple (“not too much”). She likes the colour in a garden to be “suffused with foliage”. “I am looking for that fuzzy blur rather than that plant here and that plant there. The grasses do that blurring at the edges.”


Right now swathes of flowering Stipa gigantea are forming gauzy golden veils all through her patch. Through this Golden Oats Grass, and lots of other plants as well, there are long views in every direction, including over Bass Strait from the front of the house.

At the back, a curving wall of salvaged terracotta agricultural drains provides a sculptural focal point, protection from the wind and glimpses of both the garden and wider landscape beyond.

It’s this sense of spaciousness that Ferguson encourages. She sees it as a way of connecting to nature. “Indigenous cultures valued nature as the most important thing. It’s not an infinite resource. We need to value it like they do.”

Gardens like this are a way to do it.

‘The Family Garden’, 2351 Flinders – Mornington Road, Flinders is open on Saturday 21 January and Sunday 22 January, 10am to 4.30pm, $10/$6 students. Go to for more information.

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