Plant/Life: Mariana Garcia-Katz & Family

Words by
Georgina Reid
Images by
Eve Wilson
| February 17, 2015

I’ve spent much of the last decade designing gardens. I love the creative process, and I think design is a really important tool in helping people connect with their outdoor spaces, or any space for that matter. However, I had a realisation about design and gardens a while back and I think it’s worth mentioning now (humour my self indulgence people!) It’s this – Most of the gardens I love best are not designed at all. As a designer who thinks too much, this was/is cause for much pondering.

Cut down 44-gallon drums house young lettuce seedlings, high enough to escape the chickens.
Cut down 44-gallon drums house young lettuce seedlings, high enough to escape the chickens.
Mariana outside the studio.
Mariana outside the studio.

Mariana Garcia-Katz’s garden is a great example of exactly the kind of space I find myself coming back to again and again. It’s creative, unique, has a strong sense of place, and most importantly, it’s loved. It’s not designed in the traditional ‘drawing on a piece of paper’ sense, but rather it’s an evolution and a response to the site and the changing needs of her family. A real garden.

Mariana owns M2Matiz, a Melbourne-based design and photography studio, and shares her Thornbury house with her husband Mark, children Josh and Madeline, Charley the dog, Friday the cat and six chickens. They have lived in the house for eight years.

The north facing aspect of the garden was a strong selling point of the property, and Mariana and Mark wasted no time getting stuck into the garden soon after purchasing it. It has evolved over many years of backbreaking work, through a process of trial and error, rather than following an overarching design.

The garden consists of a collection of raised corrugated iron vegetable gardens, a five star chook house (initially built years ago by Mariana’s dad as a cubby house for her young children!), a small garden studio, a bunch of tough plants, and a vast collection of found objects housing an array of interesting pots and plants.

Mariana is a self-confessed ‘long time roadside collector!’ – all her favourite items in the garden are ones she has found on her neighbourhood walks, such as old fly screen door frames, iron gates, ladders etcetera. ‘I really enjoy creating vignettes in the garden and these quirky objects are perfect’, she says.

It follows, then, that the CERES Community Environmental Park has been a huge source of inspiration for Mariana and Mark – they visit regularly. ‘I love their use of recycled/reclaimed objects and the free flowing nature of the grounds. It’s constantly evolving.’ Sound familiar?!

The gardens I love most are created by gardeners who embrace the ongoing evolution of their garden, like this one. The garden becomes, as Mariana suggests, an extension of a person, rather than an object. This kind of garden evolves and grows and changes over time, and results in a space with a depth of feeling impossible to attain through design alone. This is my kind of garden.

This story was produced in collaboration with The Design Files.

Happy chickens! The cast iron stove is one of Mariana’s favourite salvaged treasures in the garden ‘It weighs a tonne but we’ve managed to drag it all around the backyard. Mark is happy it’s finally at its resting place!‘ she says.
Happy chickens! The cast iron stove is one of Mariana’s favourite salvaged treasures in the garden ‘It weighs a tonne but we’ve managed to drag it all around the backyard. Mark is happy it’s finally at its resting place!‘ she says.
Looking back at the house from the studio.  The dwarf ghost gum was selected by Mariana because she loves it’s shape and pendulous form. Agapanthus bloom in the foreground, creating bursts of colour.
Looking back at the house from the studio. The dwarf ghost gum was selected by Mariana because she loves it’s shape and pendulous form. Agapanthus bloom in the foreground, creating bursts of colour.
Mariana’s much loved pup Charley rests on the front porch of the chook house.
Mariana’s much loved pup Charley rests on the front porch of the chook house.
Thyme grows amongst old bluestone stepping stones in front of the corrugated iron vegetable beds.
Thyme grows amongst old bluestone stepping stones in front of the corrugated iron vegetable beds.
One of Mariana’s roadside delights! An old timber ladder holds a variety of old pots, plants and found objects.
One of Mariana’s roadside delights! An old timber ladder holds a variety of old pots, plants and found objects.

LIKE WHAT YOU'RE READING? SIGN UP FOR MORE