MIFGS Feature: Gina Robertson

Hi I’m Gina

By Gina Robertson

Photo by Bernard Romerona

Hi I’m Gina! I have always loved plants and being outdoors as long as I can remember.  My family are from the Western district of Victoria where I spent my childhood exploring productive kitchen gardens and paddocks, volcanic grasslands, coastal dunes and dry woodlands.

Later, I moved to tropical north Queensland, then coastal scrublands of South Australia and then settled in Melbourne. Living in these places, I learned about seasons, soils, and weather. I discovered new plants and had fun growing them. It wasn’t until much later, when I was working long hours managing projects in an office that I realised that I was longing to be outside in the parks and gardens.  I decided to make a career change.

I studied Horticulture at Melbourne Polytechnic’s Fairfield campus with heritage gardens and nearby Yarra River parklands. I was inspired by the passionate teachers and found my place among the plants in the nursery. Since completing my Certificate IV in Horticulture, I enrolled in Certificate IV in Landscape Design to expand my design and landscape knowledge.  I also spent time working as a nursery hand and later I managed a retail nursery. Last year I started my business New Foliage Garden Design specialising in residential gardens and I’m loving it!

In 2019, when I was studying Horticulture, I won a student design competition and was offered a place in the Achievable Garden Competition at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2020. Eventually the show went ahead in March 2022, and I was ecstatic to win 3 awards; First Place, Best Use of Plant Life and People’s Choice.

The design I brought to life for the garden show was a modern Australian outdoor garden entitled ‘Balance by Nature’. It was designed to entice you into a relaxed garden to reconnect with nature and imagine remote places. The curved and sculptural red earth coloured walls redefined the shape of the 5 x 4 metre garden and concealed elevated planter boxes. Building the seemingly continuous wall was a construction feat.

Walls aside, this garden was all about the plants. I wanted to use a selection of Australian native plants that were not typically used in most gardens would attract wildlife. They had to be suitable for a small, sunny moderately dry, Melbourne garden, provide year-round seasonal interest and not outgrow the space.  I carefully chose plants that would draw your eye around the garden while keeping the balance between mass and void within such a small space.

Like many designers, I bought and borrowed many plants for the show, but I was thrilled to propagate Myoporum parvifolium, Chrysocephalum apiculatum and tiles of Dichondra repens at Melb Poly’s nursery.  I also set up a mini nursery in my backyard containing plants that I purchased in 2019. 

Meeting plant growers and visiting nurseries across Melbourne to choose plants was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process. There were a lot of tough choices to be made, and I had to have backup choices in case their stock failed. It was a great experience preparing my garden and exhibiting at the show. I have met so many passionate ‘plant and garden’ people who have welcomed me into the hort community.


My links





My sponsors

All Green Nursery

Habitat Program, Hobsons Bay City Council

Newport Lakes Native Nursery

OzWater Plants

Humphris Nursery

Melbourne Polytechnic

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