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Archives for September 8, 2014

Appearances, hospitality important for businesses

Driving around Helena, I’ve seen both the good and the not-so-good appearances of the exterior and interior of businesses. It may not seem a big deal, but really, it is a big deal to the customers and even in the pride of the employees.

Number one is to be neat and clean! Nothing makes me less likely to patronize or more likely to leave quickly from a business than a dirty, dingy entrance or interior. This is obviously very important for a restaurant, grocery store or food outlet. But every business should have the impression that the owner care about how their business looks and appeals to the customer. The new look of the Western States building on Cedar now occupied by Dowl HKM Engineers is a perfect example of making an older building look new, modern and inviting. Even a new coat of paint, such as on the building where The Floral Cottage is located on Last Chance Gulch near Stephanos looks more inviting.

I would encourage business owners to enlist the help (and opinion) of a friend or customer to evaluate their impression of the exterior and interior areas of their business. Getting an outside opinion helps to see your business through someone else’s eyes. Seeing your business every day, you tend to overlook the obvious. Get your employees to give you input. They may have great ideas that will make your place of work more attractive, more efficient and possibly a better place to work.

Most businesses in Helena have a great sense of at least keeping their businesses neat and clean. Sometimes I’ve noticed that parking lots/areas in front of stores get neglected. If your landscaping looks unattended and full of weeds, what does that say about your business? If there is garbage strewn around the lot (even if it came blowing in from the lot next door), it needs to be constantly attended to.

And while we are working to make your business more attractive to customers, attention also greatly needs to be given to the customer service your business provides. Hospitality can make or break a business. Here again, an outsider’s opinion can be very helpful in establishing a culture of good service within your business.

Here’s a look at some common mistakes made in customer service:

  • Not greeting customers, making them feel welcome and asking if you can assist them. If people have to look all over your store for a specific item, they may leave without it.
  • Employees not having good knowledge of your inventory, products and services. Staff should be able to answer most questions, and if they do not know the answer, they should have a go-to person to ask. Remember, your attitude and attention to customers as the boss/owner is emulated by your staff — be a good example for them!
  • Not being kid-friendly. Even if your product/service is geared towards adults (barring alcohol-serving businesses), you should have your staff be friendly and accommodating — parents of those children are potential good customers!
  • “Waiting” on people instead of “selling” to people. A knowledgeable staff can not only be helpful and find products for customers, but can help your business by selling the product — knowing the difference in different models or brands of the product. If you leave it totally up to customers (just show them the aisle where the product is….), they may just buy the cheapest one on the shelf instead of a better model that they will be happier with or will suit their needs better. Remember, a happy customer is a repeat customer.
  • Recognizing mistakes and solving issues immediately. Mistakes are inevitable, especially with newer staff members. However, when a mistake is realized, immediately and appropriately addressing the problem with the customer can help alleviate angry situations or total dissatisfaction. Remember the rule: a happy customer tells about five to seven people about your business, but an unhappy person tells 12 to 15 people! (And with social media now, a negative posting on Facebook and/or Yelp can reach hundreds of people or even more!)

Hopefully with the start of fall, area businesses will make an extra effort to spruce up their locations (inside and out) and work hard to ensure that customers have a pleasant experience while supporting our Helena area businesses.

Cathy Burwell is president/CEO of the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce.

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Woodward & Maple: Your success assures mine as well

Working as a consultant means wearing many hats, often at the same time. I’m an educator and a motivator. I can be a patient coach one moment and an unbending task master the next. I’ll play the role of chief strategist and will join clients in the trenches. Less an adjunct to their business, I’m an integral part of their success, and a key component of the solution when times are challenging. I don’t consider myself an outsider but instead a natural part of their operations. It’s an “all for one” approach that has served me and, most important, my clients well.

This united front becomes that much stronger, even more forceful, greater in its ability to achieve success – especially in the retail trade and most crucially during the upcoming fall and holiday selling seasons – when other retailers are brought into the fold.

Where’s the esprit de corps?

Business owners hire consultants to be an extra set of eyes and ears as attending to the often all-consuming day-to-day tasks can prevent even the most efficient merchant from taking an objective look at his or her operation.

In downtown Birmingham, and in business districts throughout the metro area, retailers and restaurateurs are also fortunate to have commercial associations charged with marketing and landscaping, snow removal and event planning, initiatives business owners can remove from, or at least move to the bottom of, their to-do lists.

Yet these organizations, whether chambers of commerce, downtown development authorities or, in the case of Birmingham, the Principal Shopping District, are of greatest benefit when the entire retail community participates.

Consider the tendency merchants have to operate in a bubble, to think their voices aren’t being heard, to never meet the store owner next door or across the street, to dismiss the importance of that unified front, whether synchronizing store hours to knowing where to refer a customer looking for a specific item.

Of course it’s your store. But beyond thinking solely about your enterprise, it can be a good idea to shift the mindset. Indeed, every store is part of your downtown and it’s a vibrant downtown that is so vital to the health of your – our – community.

Naturally businesses compete with one another for customers and even what goods to sell. However, competitors can inspire us or be a source of new business. In fact, a competitor’s greatest asset is playing the role of compatriot.

Get out from behind the counter

I often tell retailers they and their staffs are their stores’ best advertisements. Their messages reach a greater audience when they step out from behind the counter and onto the sidewalk. It puzzles me when I hear business owners say they didn’t know a store opened, or when they express incredulity upon learning of its closure. My response is to ask when they last took a walking tour of downtown or simply their block.

When I hear business owners grousing about the types of events planned or advertising program being introduced I don’t hesitate to inquire when they – or a reliable staff member – last attended a PSD meeting, visited its office in city hall, or participated in the block captain program spearheaded last year by Julie Grippo, owner of Bec Sam’s children’s boutique.

What’s most curious is when apparel retailers or jewelers, or their employees, aren’t wearing what they sell, even if it’s simply donning an item – tags artfully tucked out of sight – when making a bank deposit. Again, advertising is beyond social media posts and colorful ads in magazines.

And, hopefully, on their way to or from the bank they’ll welcome the new store owner or manager around the corner, stop by the PSD office for a schedule of upcoming meetings, even invite a competitor for coffee to brainstorm ideas.

Mostly, though, I hope they’ll support one another in big ways and small.

Ed Nakfoor is a Birmingham-based retail and public relations consultant. He is also a Birmingham resident. Contact him at

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Feng Shui leads to better landscaping

Regular readers of this column know that we are hard-headed realists when it comes to landscape design. “Form follows function” is our guiding principle. “Less is more” is equally important. So is “paint with the big brush first.” These are well-known design clichés that help us decide what to do (and not to do) in landscaping. We believe that if you focus on practical, common-sense solutions, beauty will fall into place almost automatically.

So, it might surprise you that over the years we’ve adopted many principles and ideas from the ancient oriental discipline of Feng Shui.

Wikipedia defines feng shui (pronounced “fung shway”) as “a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment. The term feng shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English.” Feng shui explains “invisible forces” that bind the universe, earth, and humanity together. A goal of feng shui in design is to harness positive life force called Qi, (“chi” in English). Feng shui ideas in landscape design help create a peaceful and serene place where positive chi will flow freely.

Historically, feng shui was widely used to decide where and how to place buildings in the most favorable way, based on local features such as bodies of water, stars, or a compass. For example, feng shui might suggest placing a home on a sunny south-facing slope with a hill behind it for protection from the north wind.

Using feng shui helps balance natural elements such as wood, water, metal, fire and earth in your overall landscape design. In your garden, the five elements of feng shui are represented by various plants and objects. Earth; soil, rocks and boulders, pottery. Wood; arbors, planting boxes, benches. Water; fountains, birdbaths, ponds and waterfalls. Fire; lights, lanterns, fire pits. Metal; wind chimes, arbors, and planters.

Feng shui gardens must be free of clutter so positive chi can circulate freely. Everything should have a specific purpose and place. Each tree, plant and object is there to balance the five feng shui elements. Disorder, disarray and clutter disrupt the flow of chi and lower the energy level of the area.

Our favorite feng shui concept is focusing your landscape on the main entrance door of your home. We use landscaping to direct attention to the front door, thus “funneling” positive energy into your home. Feng shui holds that directing attention to the entrance will bring prosperity into your home, and we’ve actually seen it work. Entrances that are hidden from the street, driveway or parking area actually block chi, depriving the home of positive energy.

Using plants and paving creatively to frame the entrance is just one way to harness the ancient discipline of feng shui to improve your mood and make your home more welcoming. Entering your home should uplift and inspire you with positive energy, and should have the same effect on your guests. Just a brief look into feng shui as a design tool will quickly open your eyes to many ways that positive and negative energy can affect your living space.

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Arboretum encourages use of Nebraska plants in landscaping

Nebraska is home to the only statewide arboretum in the country, with nearly 100 affiliate arboretums, historic landscapes and other public gardens located in 50 host communities from Falls City to Chadron.

For more than 30 years, the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum has been working to introduce native plants in landscapes to trial and demonstrate at our affiliated arboretum sites. Because the climate varies tremendously across the state, it makes sense to take the arboretum to the people, making it both accessible and relevant to the citizens of that community or region.

With more than 99 percent of the original tallgrass prairie in Nebraska gone, little habitat remains for a number of native prairie plant species. The trees and shrubs that make up our native woodlands are reduced to mostly scattered remnant populations on bluffs near rivers and streams.

Native plants used in landscapes can provide food, shelter and nesting cover for songbirds, beneficial insects and other critters that conventional landscapes cannot. We need to recognize the importance of suburban gardens for the preservation of our natural heritage. Our gardens can play a role in creating habitat by using a wide variety of native prairie plants, trees and shrubs.

The arboretum has worked to introduce a number of native ornamental plants into commercial nursery production to meet the challenging growing conditions of Nebraska and the Great Plains region through the GreatPlants program.

In far Southeast Nebraska grows a unique population of oaks known as dwarf chinkapin oak. Preserving this species’ native habitat is essential because it is dwindling in much of its native range. It is listed as imperiled in eight states and vulnerable in five more. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum collects acorns from these plants for nursery production. Dwarf chinkapin oak can be used as a unique, small specimen tree in the landscape or in wildlife plantings and shelterbelts.

The birch tree has always been a popular landscape tree due to its beautiful bark and graceful branches. The paper birch is known for its snow-white exfoliating bark, quality dark green foliage and excellent golden-yellow fall color. The paper birch’s natural range extends from Canada south to the far northern edge of Nebraska, in the Niobrara River valley. Trees growing in landscapes from the native Nebraska seed source have performed well.

Another birch that deserves to be planted in the landscape is native to the northwestern corner of the state. A western species of birch often called mountain birch grows naturally along streams in canyons throughout the Rocky Mountains. There is a small native population in north of Harrison in Sioux County growing along Monroe Creek. This tree has cherry-like bark and with coarsely toothed leaves that turn golden yellow in fall. This birch is more like a large, multistemmed shrub. It grows 15 to 20 feet high and 15 feet wide.

Here in Nebraska we have isolated pockets of native quaking aspens, leftovers from glacial times and a colder climate. One small, isolated pocket was originally found growing in a pasture in east-central Nebraska. The statewide arboretum released this native selection into the nursery trade nearly a decade ago, calling it “Prairie Gold.” According to nursery owner Todd Faller, “It can be grown where no aspen has gone before. They are growing very successfully not only in Nebraska, but in Kansas and Oklahoma.”

The arboretum has introduced a number of rare native wildflowers to the nursery trade, including several that occur naturally in isolated pockets only in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. Fremont’s clematis was named in honor of John C. Fremont, the famous explorer of the American West and the first to catalog the plant in the 1840s. This clematis has thick, leathery leaves that emerge in early spring, followed by attractive urn-shaped flowers blooming in May. The dwarf spiderwort has narrow, hairy leaves that emerge in early spring along with flowers, hued from blue to purple to rose to pink. Finally, the dwarf blue indigo has gray-green leaves, with spikes of pea-like, rich blue flowers in spring and grows 2 to 3 feet high. It is slow to establish but will live many years.

Instead of imitating other places, you can learning which plants are native to Nebraska and the Great Plains and include them in your home landscape. Visit local arboretums and parks that have native plants, and encouraging the use of native plants in public places like corporate and educational campuses.

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Garden Society performs a labor of landscaping

For the past three years, the Muskingum Valley Garden Society has spent countless volunteer hours and thousands of dollars making downtown Zanesville more beautiful with the thousands of flowers members plant in more than 100 locations.

A few hours every week are dedicated to the care of those flowers, volunteer coordinator Darlene Turner said, during which about eight volunteers weed, fertilize, prune and water the planters. Those steps are important, he said, to keep the flowers looking their best for as long as possible, and volunteers are needed so as not to fall behind on the labor-intensive maintenance.

“It’s really a group project this year,” Turner said.

Funding also is an important aspect of what the garden society does. The cost of planting flowers in the 104 pots is about $11,500 annually, garden society president Kathy Mohlersaid, in addition to the one-time cost of purchasing the pots at $200 each.

Many of the pots were donated by local businesses and government entities that are located nearby, Thompson said, but the remaining cost is still a lot to handle for the group. Luckily, grant money, donations and funds raised at an annual gardening symposium cover the rest of the cost of the flowers, pots and gardening supplies.

The garden society begins preparations for the planting season in the winter, choosing a combination of flowers to be planted that is not only striking but hearty enough to withstand the sun, rain and wind brought about by an Ohio spring and summer.

This year’s floral scheme of yellow canna, magenta angelonia, purple petunias, multicolor Lantana and green dichondra is sure to turn heads, Mohler said.

In less than 30 minutes of pruning the flowers, passers-by stopped volunteers four times to thank them for their service and ask them questions about the flowers.

“There’s not a day we don’t have people coming down and telling us how beautiful they are,” garden society volunteer Ken Houston said. “I mean, if you come off of Fifth Street and come down Main Street, it just takes your breath away.”

While pruning their own planters downtown, the volunteers can’t help but beautify other areas, often weeding and caring for public gardens and planters as well.

“You can say we’re just passionate gardeners,” Turner said, laughing as volunteer Gayle Steil picked a stray weed in front of the Muskingum County Courthouse.

Come October, the garden society volunteers will remove the remains of the flowers and clean up the pots. In November, the volunteers will plant more greenery, at the center of which will be placed a large bow in honor of the holidays. Moving forward in December, they hope to adorn the Y Bridge with decorated evergreens for the holiday season.

“It’s an all-summer project, but it’s not just the summer,” Mohler said. “We’re constantly working on the symposium, the speakers as well as what we can do next year with the planters.”

Next year, they hope to line Sixth Street and Fourth Street with their flowers. They are in talks with the Zanesville-Muskingum County Chamber of Commerce to discuss the possibilities.

“I think that all of us feel that downtown has had a lot to offer in the past,” Turner said. “We want to show that it still can.”


Twitter: @AnnaRumerZTR

About the series

The Times Recorder is profiling local people who make a difference in their communities through volunteer work. The features will appear each Monday.

The articles will highlight people in Muskingum, Perry and Morgan counties who participate in volunteer efforts that are not part of their jobs.

To submit suggestions for outstanding volunteers, email

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Beautiful gardens celebrated in 2014 Westlake in Bloom gardening and … – The Plain Dealer

Westlake resident George Woyansky describes his hobby of gardening as “all self-induced pain.” But the pain paid off when his landscaped yard took a first-place award in the 2014 Westlake in Bloom gardening and landscaping awards.

Woyansky’s garden of amaryllis, Shasta daisies, irises, azaleas, rhododendrons and other flowers won first place in the “Residential Landscaping – Medium Size – Entire Yard” category. It was Woyansky’s sixth first-place finish in the awards.

“I didn’t expect to win this year,” said Woyansky, 71, because of the winter damage that his yard suffered.

Woyansky’s property on Donna Drive was among the 70 entrants who entered 23 categories in this year’s competition, said Westlake in Bloom organizer Jean Smith. The contest is open to residents and businesses in Westlake, and is one of the largest community gardening awards programs in Northeast Ohio.

In addition to the 70 entrants, flower boxes on Hilliard Boulevard, Evergreen Cemetery Fence Gardens and Adopt-a-Bed Gardens were automatically entered and judged. The Hilliard Boulevard Flower Boxes were sponsored and planted by residents and businesses in Westlake. Many boxes are planted in memory of loved ones. The Evergreen Cemetery Fence Gardens, which run alongside the cemetery fence, are sponsored and planted by residents who have loved ones buried in the cemetery.

Entries were evaluated by a panel of 10 judges made up of Master Gardeners of Cuyahoga County, a Westlake in Bloom past winner and two avid gardeners, Smith said.

See all the first-place winners in the photo gallery attached to this story, and read a list of the first-place winners in a related story in

The top award was the Lu Walter Award, which is selected from all of the first-place winners. This year’s Lu Walter Award recipient was Holly Kaye Tomkalski, 14, who started gardening as part of a Girl Scout project at age 8. She has entered her family’s patio garden in the Westlake in Bloom contest for several years.

“I didn’t believe it,” Holly said about her reaction to her first-place win in the “Patio Garden – Single Family” category and her Lu Walter Award. Her patio garden on Bradley Road includes coleus, orchids, petunias, Boston and asparagus ferns and tomatoes. “I like to see stuff grow,” said Holly, who will be a freshman at Westlake High School this fall.

The Lu Walter Award commemorates the late floral designer and Westlake in Bloom supporter Lu Walter. Judy McNamara, a master gardener who coordinated the judging this year, selected Holly’s garden and presented the award. Holly’s garden has evolved from some simple containers to a beautifully balanced area of lush plantings, McNamara said at the awards ceremony.

The Westlake in Bloom Awards, sponsored by the city of Westlake, included Distinction Awards to recognize residents, organizations and businesses who are doing an exceptional job in maintaining their properties or who have made notable contributions to the community. This year, the judges recognized organizations in the categories of community involvement, floral displays and heritage preservation.

Westlake Community Garden won the Award of Distinction for Community Involvement. The Westlake Center for Community Services, St. John Medical Center, The Herb Guild and the Westlake Garden Club were all involved in the two-year planning process for the community garden, Smith said.

Crocker Park won the Award of Distinction for Floral Displays, and Dr. William Bennett won the Award of Distinction for Heritage Preservation. Bennett was recognized for his efforts to preserve the historic “1820 House” on Center Ridge Road.

“Westlake in Bloom is an incentive for residents, businesses and organizations to take a real interest in their landscaping and gardens, which in turn makes the City of Westlake a more desirable place to live and work,” Smith said.

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Garden designer Paul Bangay at home

Acclaimed landscape designer Paul Bangay shares his rural property in Central Victoria.

  • The entry to Stonefields is ordered and balanced. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • Celebrated landscape designer Paul Bangay and Timber at Stonefields. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • Timber and Paul Bangay in the garden at Stonefields in Central Victoria. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • Clipped hedges and ordered garden beds are a classic signature of Paul Bangay at his Central Victorian property, Stonefields. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • Paul Bangay drew inspiration from France and Italy in designing the property. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • The landscape designer Paul Bangay at work in his studio at Stonefields. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • The sweeping drive leads through the gatehouse that hosts Paul Bangay’s studio at Stonefields in Central Victoria. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • The pool at Stonefields overlooks Kyneton and Malmsbury towards Bendigo. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • Timber and Paul Bangay overlook the pool at Stonefields. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • Paul Bangay inside one of two pavillions at Stonefields that offer sweeping views of the property. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • A love of the outdoors continues to inspire Paul Bangay. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography

  • One of many relaxing spaces to stop and take in the gardens at Stonefields. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

  • Paul Bangay at Stonefields in Central Victoria. Photo: Brayden Reeves Mojo Professional Photography.

Paul Bangay is a celebrated landscape designer with his skills in demand in Australia and abroad. He opens the doors to his property in Central Victoria and talks about his design philosophy and influences. Video: Leigh Sharp.

“Do you have an affinity with your home?” he asks. His question is not inquisitive but rather a way to evoke feeling as he explains the impact his home and garden, the impressive Stonefields in Central Victoria, has on his life.

‘He’ is celebrated landscape designer and author Paul Bangay, whose skills are in demand in Australia and abroad. On meeting you quickly discover he is as keen to know if others love their home and garden as much as he does.

“I fell in love with this land the first time I visited it,” says Paul, surveying Stonefields. “I drove to where the house now stands and took in the view. Even now I get excited when I come down that driveway and know I have a few days here in which to relax and unwind. It’s an extremely beautiful part of the world.” 

Stonefields, at Denver, east of Daylesford, has been Paul’s “patch of paradise” for about eight years. In that time he has placed his signature style of precise clipped hedges, oak-lined driveways, symmetrical parterre plantings and carefully manicured lawns and water features on what was previously a vacant paddock of nearly 20 hectares. With its magnificent rural views, Stonefields has since become one of the most iconic gardens in the country.

In designing the rural property, Paul has drawn heavily on the influence of his much-loved travels to Italy and France. Like the garden, the house is rich in detail, impressive and grand in its proportions and designed in sections. But grandness aside, the home is welcoming and relaxing. A true reflection of its owner, who doesn’t like the stuffiness of fashion and prefers to dress casually on any given day. He could easily be mistaken for one of the gardeners on the massive property as he effortlessly joins in their banter and prunes a few trees.

With its expansive open spaces, large windows and abundant French doors offer sweeping views of the gardens overflowing with herbaceous perennials, oak trees and tall hedges. All that’s missing are the Italian cypresses dotting the horizon.

The main door of the Tuscan-style villa leads into the living area with its oversized comfortable arm chairs and sofas, walls of bookcases and tables filled with magazines and books and an open fireplace.

Antiques, artifacts, statues, including Roman busts, and artworks fill the room and are reminders to Paul of his extensive travels abroad. At last count he has designed more than 2100 gardens around the world, including New York, St Tropez, Positano, Jamaica, New Zealand and The Cook Islands. Despite the demand and praise for his work, it still amazes him, he says, that the phone keeps ringing with people wanting him to design their garden.

“I sometimes stop and think maybe my time has come and gone, but the phone still rings,” he says, laughing. Perhaps, it’s because classic simplicity never goes out of style.

A large kitchen, laundry and mudroom complete one wing of the home, with Paul’s own bedroom suite completing the other downstairs wing. Access to the bedroom is via a door disguised as part of the bookcase that covers one wall of the living room.

An unassuming staircase in a corner leads to the guest quarters and sweeping views across the rear garden and Macedon Ranges towards Malmsbury, Bendigo and Kyneton – no doubt, an added pleasurable bonus for guests. The exterior is completed in a Porter’s limewash of Mocha Chocolate, which blends beautifully with the rolling greenery.

Paul shares Stonefields with his partner Barry. The couple, who met through friends in Sydney about two years ago, were married in a civil ceremony in the UK in June.

“I am very happy,” says Paul. “Hopefully, changes will happen here to allow others to do so.”

Timber the labrador and Ruby the spaniel puppy complete the family, both happy to follow Paul throughout the garden.

Paul says he loves nothing more than pottering in his garden or creating a new design in his studio, with Timber regularly at his side; although he confesses he is “better on the design side than the technical side of gardening.” He was always inspired by gardens, he says, thanks to his mother’s love of the outdoors; today he finds inspiration in traditional English and European gardens.

The pool in the rear garden appears to float into the horizon and is flanked by soon-to-be completed day beds set mid-way along the garden beds filled with those lush perennials.

As spring beckons, blossoms, dogwood, oak, roses and apple trees are slowly awakening from their winter slumber in the parterres, but the grounds are no less striking in the cooler months.

“The architecture is there,” Paul says. “And you can see how the plantings frame the property.”

Masses of red tulips are starting to bloom and a traditional potager, or French kitchen garden, will soon supply summer fruit and vegetables.

Coiled bronze brown snakes make dramatic water features in the central grey-stoned stepped paved entry area.

“I had to have something more native to blend in with the ruralness,” Paul says of the native water features.

Balls of box and stone orbs dot the pathway leading from the front walled garden to the front door. Two pavilions offer a quiet place for relaxation and to take in the views of the gardens. The roofs are of stacked slate, built by a local stonemason, he says proudly.

When you design a garden you must think about the water supply, it’s not endless. – Paul Bangay, landscape designer

Paul still speaks fondly of his previous home of nine years St Ambrose, an old school house he renovated in Woodend, but he says Stonefields offers a more rural lifestyle and still inspires him every day.

“Woodend was developing too much for me,” he says. “I much prefer the laid-back style of here.”

Trying to drought-proof his property as much as possible was another reason for moving, he says, having been “caught out in the drought” at St Ambrose about a decade ago.

“When you design a garden you must think about the water supply, it’s not endless. Here we have natural spring-fed dams and we built in massive water tanks which gives us a little more security considering the garden uses a lot of water.”

On designing Stonefields, Paul he says he knew exactly what he had to do. He says he has an inherent ability to visit a garden and know exactly what to do with the space. He says it’s “his thing”, a gift and is never lost for words or inspiration when creating a garden vision.

“I don’t know why but I never seem to get designer’s block, as writers sometimes do,” he says, proudly surveying nearly a decade of work on his rural property.

While he is known as the landscape gardener to the rich and famous Paul opens Stonefields to the public a few times a year, in particular to raise money for the not-for-profit Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, of which he is a board member. He says it’s important to encourage a paddock-to-plate lifestyle of healthy eating with children.

Paul has penned nine garden books, including The Garden at Stonefields, which follows his journey in building and designing the property.

“I kept a diary on when I started here,” he says, clearly proud of what he has created.

“I also like showing people around the garden, it makes me happy to see that they are enjoying it as much as I do,” he says. Likewise, when his signature style is “copied” across Australian suburbs.

“I like the clean and simple lines in a garden – so if people like to replicate that that is fine, It’s nice to think that I have had an influence on how people design their gardens.”

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north garden house by y+M design office boasts rooftop views

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