Open Gardens Victoria features Wattle Glen bush garden

Words by Kate Anderson

Landscape designer Sam Cox’s beautiful bushland home garden in Wattle Glen will open to the public on the weekend 25-26 November. Mentored by local pioneering Australian landscape designer Gordon Ford, Sam’s garden is created in the Australian natural style. 

Sam and his wife Lisa Hatfield bought the 1.5 acre property nearly 25 years ago, when it was simply grassy paddocks with a few remnant Red Box and Yellow Gums. From the beginning, Sam’s vision was to create a bushland haven reflecting the enduring, understated beauty of a naturalistic bush garden. The landscaping is based on carefully honed techniques of rock placement, earth shaping, and layered native plantings. 

These guiding principles embody Sam’s dedication to the naturalistic style of landscape design, which he learned while working closely for three and a half years with his mentor and employer, Gordon Ford. Trained in the early 1950s by the father of Australian bush garden design, Ellis Stones, Ford was at the forefront of the Australian natural style of gardening for over five decades. Sam Cox was Ford’s last apprentice. 

Photos by Lisa Hatfield

“Gordon Ford taught me everything I know about gardening,” says Sam. With a remnant bushland backdrop, Sam’s extensive garden demonstrates how traditional natives, indigenous plants, and considered design can create a unified sense of place. 

Balance and contrast are achieved in the ‘mass’ of themed plantings, while mounds and basalt boulder outcrops open up to the ‘voids’ of pathways, ponds, and low planted areas. 

A watercourse opens to a deep waterhole with basalt boulders, river pebbles, and aquatic plants providing habitat for insects, frogs, snakes, lizards, and birds. The cooling effect of water spilling over rocks in the pond offers sensory relief to humans and wildlife alike. The pond and waterfall on the west wall of the house are central to the design of the home and garden, bringing reflection, movement, and sound into the family lounge room. 

You can enjoy Sam and Lisa’s home garden at 12 Lorimer Road, Wattle Glen; open: Saturday and Sunday 25 and 26 November. Sam will be running Q&A sessions at 11am and 2.30 pm on both days. See: for details including ticketing or pay at the gate – adults $10, students $6 (with ID card), under 18 free. Open Gardens Victoria (OGV) is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation that promotes the benefits of gardens and gardening for all Victorians. Kate Anderson is their media person.