You saw it on Better Homes and Gardens, now, here’s your chance to see this gorgeous tropical garden in the flesh. Come with me on Ross Garden Tours trip to Tropical North Queensland in August 2017 to visit Tabu, one of the best gardens you will see in the Cairns region.
Words & images – Paul Urquhart
The thing that strikes me most about tropical gardens is how lush, how verdant and how changeable they are. Tabu is exactly in that vein.
The creation is a joint enterprise between garden designer, Mark Vowles and his partner, interior designer, Fairley Kerr. Together they have shaped a symphony of foliage, structure carefully craft plants with interior and exterior design. Fairley’s choice of deep charcoal finish to the house together with the crisp white windows and doors are a great foil for the foliage that surrounds.
The first thing you will notice is the verdant verge with exquisitely placed tropical soft-perennials against a dramatic deep charcoal painted house. The sharp white trims add to the effect setting off the green and variegated foliage shapes and tones beautifully. If we glance up we see a forest of enticing rainforest trees framing the house and garden as perfectly as it is possible to achieve.
Some of these trees have been here for about forty years when a few, as a large Bowen mango, lychee and fragrant ylang ylang (Cananga odorata). Mark believes these were planted by a previous owner, an Italian man with a passion for gardening. These trees formed the bones of the garden but everything else has been revamped over a period of about 8 years. From an overgrown mess, mostly a tangled web of white ginger, a plant that knows no bounds, Mark hacked back the undergrowth to form a new layout of winding paths and open spaces between the canopy, installed a plunge pool and added a cabana for guests.
What to look out for
Water – Mark has positioned water bowls in all shapes and forms throughout the garden. Theses are a magnet for local birds particularly the striking yellow and iridescent blue sunbird.
Seating – Balinese teak benches and simple solo chairs allow the visitor to sit and take in the scene. These are dotted throughout the garden.
Focal points – These are important to signal and signpost direction both for exploring and for visual appreciation. Decorative items can be simply pots filled with bromeliads set on pedestals to rustic candleholders. They add interest and grab the eye. This all serves to make the garden seem much bigger than it is.
Creating a sense of space – The garden is not huge. It is constructed on a sloping site with a densely planted hill forming the backdrop. By creating meandering paths through the planted areas, the surrounding rainforest trees both contain and expand the garden. By marking the already limiting natural boundaries Mark has created the illusion that the more level areas close to the house are much bigger than they really are.
Steps and paths – Mostly made of stone, the paths that link are covered with gravel and occasionally, in level areas, lush baby’s tears creep over the gravel. The garden becomes a journey where you want to delve into every nook and cranny and find the little gems that Mark has planted throughout . The paths meander and at points are hidden beckoning us to explore and find new vistas.
Foliage texture – Foliage is the heartbeat of a good tropical garden. It provides most of the colour because you can find intricately patterned leaves, unusual dark colours and vivid greens and variegations, all valuable to set of the flowers from gingers, heliconias, costus and frangipanis. Many of these have dramatic but fleeting flowers and foliage helps to set them off.
And now is your last chance to reserve your seat on this fantastic winter getaway.
Come along and join in the adventure. The Far North Queensland tour leaves August 14, and and only a few seats remain available, so call Royce or Roslyn at Ross Tours on 1300 233 200 before the we sell out.