Melbourne Landscape designer Renata Fairhall is a graduate of design and horticulture who has been designing gardens since 1999. As the director and a landscape designer at Renata Fairhall Garden Designs, she composes her gardens with the principles of sustainability and minimising water consumption. We chatted to Renata to find out more about her love for creating gardens and all things related to nature.
Renata is passionate about creating beautiful outdoor spaces that connect with her clients. The ability to connect people to nature is a huge reason why Renata is so enthusiastic about garden designs. This was made even more evident when I asked Renata why she decided to become a landscape designer. “To be able to draw people outside where they can see, hear, smell and feel the natural world is rewarding and worthwhile. And that outdoor experience need only be a balcony. Once outside ones senses come alive to different elements. You notice the smell of the air, the feel of the sun or the wind, the sound of birds, the movement of a bee foraging in flowers. It’s beautiful. My work also satisfies the artist in me. I see every window of a house as a canvas. I get to ‘paint’ that window for my clients with a landscape of plants.” Wow- what a picture Renata paints.
The attention to detail in creating such meaningful gardens is highlighted in the collaborative and consultative approach Renata takes in her design process. “Early in the design process I like to understand my client’s taste in gardens. I’m a big believer in designing towards their taste to ensure they have a garden that resonates with them. Concurrently, I can find myself designing a ‘New-Perennial’ style of garden full of abundant flowers and ornamental grasses, while at the same time designing a pared back minimalist garden with only two or three plant species. Once I understand my client’s style, I work up a concept with proposed plants and materials that I present in person. Changes are made if required prior to drawing up final plans.”
The ‘New Perennial’ style garden Renata is currently working on features one of her favourite current garden trends ornamental grasses mixed with flowers. “I’ve loved this look for years but 10-15 years ago few people were open to this style of garden. I’m so pleased to see it get wider appeal and it now forms the bulk of my design work. Personally, I find long flowering perennials and ornamental grasses some of the most satisfying plants to grow. They’re forever changing through the seasons and they grow so fast that only a few months after planting a garden can be transformed. I’m keen to experiment more with perennials and grasses in pots. “
When it comes to picking pots for the garden Renata can not go past our ‘Straight Up’ with its combination of a curved base and straight sides. The straight sides allow her to push them close together in clusters and it’s an efficient shape for maximising root growth. This is an important consideration when choosing pots. We asked Renata the biggest mistake people make when choosing pots for their gardens. “They choose a pot that’s too small. I rarely choose a pot smaller than 40cm in diameter. The most common combination I work with is a cluster of 60cm, 50cm and 40cm in diameter. A small pot not only looks pokey in the landscape, it rarely gives a plant enough root room for a prolonged stay in the pot. Go large every time.” We could not agree more!
When it comes to travelling Renata is not one to laze around by a pool and read. A holiday combining travel and sport is a winner in her books. “Windsurfing in Maui, or skiing in Verbier. The island of Maui in Hawaii is a place everyone should visit – especially if you love plants. It’s a land of huge contrasts. On the east end of the island, copious amounts of water are dumped daily, and you can see Monsteras and Philodendrons winding themselves up tall trees so thickly that that the trunk is completely covered. The centre of the island is a rain shadow from the volcano and the vegetation is one of cactuses, tough grasses and acacias and not what most people expect on a tropical island. The soil is so new and nutrient rich compared to Australia’s, just look at the current volcanic activity on Hawaii’s Big Island where over a kilometre of new island has been created in the last few months, that the concept of enriching soil with manure and compost would be unheard of there!”
We ended by asking Renata what about the best advice she ever received and sums Renata up perfectly. “Life is not about the pursuit of happiness but the happiness of pursuit.” I’m always at my happiest when pursing new activities. It’s another reason I love my work. Every job presents a new challenge and something to learn.”
Renata Fairhall Garden Designs
A 203 Page St, Middle Park VIC 3206
P 0403 818 044