Ian Barker Gardens is an award winning landscape design and construction service based in Canterbury, Victoria. Founded by Ian Barker in 1993, the Ian Barker Gardens teams come with a wealth of experience and knowledge, offering you a level of professionalism that is unsurpassed in the landscaping industry.
Ian Barker (Director, Ian Barker Gardens)
What sparked your career in landscape design?
At 13, I helped my older brother at his landscaping summer job. That was it. I was hooked. I immediately wanted to leave school and work with my brother – I knew this was my calling. It wasn’t until I finished year 11 that I undertook a gardener apprenticeship at the Austin Hospital. I quickly learned that maintenance wasn’t my thing, so I went on to do a landscaping apprenticeship and loved it. But still, I really wanted to build my own stuff – this led me to study design at Melbourne University.
What fuels your creative process?
My early travels had a huge impact on me – memories of the ancient, meticulously planned towns and gardens of Egypt and Libya still resonate. I worked in Europe for three years and during this time saw Italy’s renaissance gardens, the overly rigid gardens of northern France, and appreciated the fluid beauty of gardens in the south. These are produce-based rural gardens designed for actual use, not just for show. For me, this echoes the Australian focus on functionality for our gardens.
Apart from travel, we tap into Instagram and virtually visit the world’s garden shows for inspiration. When we see a landscape designer doing something different but in a timeless way, we’ll follow their work to keep creative ideas flowing.
Our portfolio/design approach
My work in England taught me that gardens there exist purely for their aesthetic enjoyment. In Australia, gardens are created for the sole purpose of serving a function (entertaining area, lawn for kids to play, perhaps a swimming pool). We pay attention to both the functional and visual aspects of a garden, simultaneously designing for usability and plenty of green.
Our hardscape is always a contemporary layout – we’ve worked really hard not to get pigeon-holed into a singular style. We’re becoming known as the classic garden creators, but each garden remains unique. Our finished gardens might have a classic feel, but they’re always executed in a very modern way. Materials like bluestone or cobblestone are often worked into a contemporary form – it’s a beautiful blending. Very soft plantings are used to juxtapose the hardscaped lines.
Why do you think people come to Ian Barker Gardens to create their garden?
We’ve been at this for a number of years now – long enough to have clients come back to us (more than once!) to create a garden for their next home. The attraction I think lies in the integrity and timelessness of our designs, along with our focus on strong collaborative relationships with clients. It’s especially rewarding to see clients who initially weren’t ‘garden people’ become very involved and hands-on in their garden design over time.
Describe your design process. Is it client led, or do you endeavour to include your own style?
It’s always a collaborative process, but we do guide clients towards achieving the optimum balance between their functional requirements for the garden and the aesthetic qualities to create a stunning result.
Do you have favourite go-to plants?
Our go-to pallet consists of approximately 400 plants, and these will vary depending on the local climate. (We’ve built deer-proof gardens in Connecticut, snow-covered gardens in Oxford, and a fully indigenous garden locally, in Blairgowrie).
Ninety per cent of our gardens have got a weeping maple. I love stachys for ground cover, and calamagrostis is a species I’ve relied on for the last few years as it’s a tall grass that stays thin and stands strong and upright – it’s great for anchoring the garden to the ground).
While we’re on favourites, do you have a favourite Martin Kellock Pots and Planters pot?
Tips for linking an exterior space with the interiors of a home?
Quite often we put the entertainment area beyond the garden, away from the house to ensure the view out to the garden is not interrupted by outdoor furniture.
Many clients appreciate being reminded that their garden is looked at from inside the house for around nine months of the year! It’s important to ensure the garden looks gorgeous from the inside out. This will also subconsciously invite you into the garden and you’ll use it more.