Where Nature Settles – Bunyip Gippsland

The ripples of an agitated pond and the sound of flowing water is the soundtrack to the garden at Frog Crossing. The water, and the bushland which frames the garden are also a haven

and inspiration to artist Janis Palmer Pascoe. Frog Crossing sits behind a tall cypress hedge and bluestone gateway, and the intriguing American ‘Salt Box’ style house is concealed from the roadside – just the way Janis and partner Neil like it.

Frog Crossing provides a tonic to their busy lives and for Janis it has a special appeal. Janis recalls as a child, playing in the very bushland which now frames the house and garden and sets it within a unique setting. Peppered among the dark grey trunks of the Eucalypts are large deciduous specimens giving splashes of golden and bronze colour. The garden meanders around about five acres.

“I really love this land, it would be very hard to let it go,” said Janis. The large gum tree has stood in the exact place since the 1950s and she remembers playing beneath its protective canopy. “I was born here – well near here. I had a relatively solitary childhood, but being alone was not a problem in my memory. I spent a

great deal of time happily playing in the natural bush land in which our house was built, with my imaginary friends and my real four legged pals.”

The house was designed and built by the couple in 1989 and it features a striking façade laden with a deciduous Virginia Creeper. The garden began with no plan and has evolved as required over the years.

“It was such a learning curve. Unfortunately we didn’t realize that gum trees do not cope well when their immediate environment is altered, and by taking down some trees, (even though only as few as was necessary to clear the site), and the added rain gained from the roof when the house was completed, were sufficieint to prove fatal to a number nearer the house. And where they fell, we made a garden bed. Not a lot of planning or thought was taken initially.”

These days the couple divide their time between the Bunyip property, an apartment in Collingwood and a 15th century limestone house in the Doyden in France. Being away for on avera

ge six months of the year has thrown up extra challenges in looking after the garden. “Initially I made the mistake of attempting to plant the emerging beds in the style of an English cottage garden. We only had tank water and in the summer months it proved a case of us or them, and we had to watch them expire. It was both sad and very frustrating. Obviously we had to change our approach and our expectations.” Water is an important element in the garden and there are several ponds which are home to a number of frog species. “We now have fish: a number of different frog species, water snails, butterfly types, bandicoots and hares, bats and of course rabbits. W

e have nesting herons, and tawny frogmouths, and many different bird species. Nature as it was intended.” The trees were mainly gifts from

friends and include Pin Oaks, Liquid Amber and Golden Ash.  “There are so many memories here.” Janis’ mother (now passed) lived in the cottage adjoining the main house. “I sometimes have the door open and I will look to see if she is going to be coming in.” A number of sculptures by Laurie Collins dot the grounds and the lawn spreads out among pathways and meandering garden beds.

Copper Beech trees line the Boulles field and at the end is a curved blue stone water wall. Also at the bottom of the garden is a camellia walk and plantings of Native grasses and a recent addition of a Lilly Pilly hedge. At the rear of the home is a more formal precinct with clipped hedging, stone paved pathways and a pond close by to the house filled with fish. This section of the garden was shaped to mirror the rippling curves of water.

“I don’t have a lot of variation or a lot

of different things. It is not a garden with an abundance of flowers, or carefully laid out garden beds.” The garden and 27.5 acres provides solice for Janis and a base for her to work on her art.

Her studio sits above the garage and is a perch to enjoy the treetop views of the garden. As in the garden, water plays an important role in her artwork. “I paint things I find beautiful, such as water. I did a series on water lilies and I adore reflection and the peace that water brings.”

Her studio is a calm and thoughtful place and like her home is filled with momentos of travel and family. Janis said she has always painted but became more serious in 1996 and tends to paint in a slow and detailed way.

So to, the garden has developed slowly over the past few decades. “The garden has evolved over the years, as we gained knowledge from bitter experience of what will survive here and what will not.”And, in the process it has become a haven for humans and animals alike staying true to the general concept of letting it evolve naturally within the setting and to encourage nature to settle.

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