Plant / Life: Artist Lily Langham’s Incredible Country Garden

Artist and garden designer Lily Langham tells me she was ‘was born in a garden’. Not literally, but figuratively. Her life began with plants, under the wing of her garden-mad mother, and continues today in an incredible botanical wonderland embraced by 100 acres of bushland near the Victorian town of Daylesford.

Lily has been living on her sprawling Daylesford property with her partner Rodney Baker for around 13 years. The land was originally part of Rodney’s family farm, and was gifted to the pair by Rodney’s late grandmother. A small stone building, which is now Lily’s studio, a few very old pear trees, a yellow plum tree and a rose bush were all that existed on the site when Lily and Rodney first arrived. From this framework, Lily began gardening.

Lily Langham and Rodney Baker’s home and garden is nestled in bushland near Daylesford, Victoria. Image: Amelia Stanwix

I’ve tried to create an honest garden without ego or expectation.

Lily langham
Lily Langham and Coco. Image: Amelia Stanwix

‘The first thing I planted was a little garden outside my studio. It was mainly dianthus. Then the sheep got in and ate it all!’ Lily recalls. Then, she moved onto trees. She planted a bunch of oaks (Quercus canariensis), which are now over four metres tall. She now has around 13 different oak species growing on the property. ‘I’m a bit oak obsessed!’

Once Lily had some structure and shelter in place, she began gardening in earnest, guided by intuition and a desire to really listen to the land. ‘Part of making the garden here is really about the connection to the land,’ Lily tells me. ‘The land here, there’s something special about it. I’m always breath taken.’ 

Lily is an intuitive gardener. ‘I just have an instinct of how plants go together’, she says. Image: Amelia Stanwix

I’m breath taken by her garden. It’s rare to see a garden that sits so gently on the landscape. It’s like it’s having a conversation with the soil; it couldn’t be anywhere else but here. It feels true to exactly where it is. ‘I’ve tried to create an honest garden without ego or expectation’, Lily explains. ‘As it grows, it’s just pure heart-felt joy and a wonderful delight to witness. It’s almost like music singing through my whole being!’ 

Lily studied fine arts and sculpture at university, and undertook horticulture courses in the years that followed. She worked for her aunt, a garden designer, whilst studying for her degree, and tells me that much of her knowledge has been absorbed from the garden. 

Lily’s garden is gorgeous and ramshackle and wild! Image: Amelia Stanwix

The way Lily approaches plants and gardening, seems to me to be primarily as an artist – ‘I just have a kind of primal instinct. I think about the seasons all the time, I think about the elements all the time. I think about what’s happening in the soil, what’s happening with the weather’. And then she plays – planting, propagating, testing, moving. She lets her garden speak, no matter how wildly. ‘Wild things in the garden make me weak at the knees. There is structure, hidden structure, to help hold it together, but the overall vibe is that it’s been here for ages.’

Our conversation doesn’t go anywhere near design speak or botanical names. No, it exists firmly in the swirling, misty space of experimentation and intuition and connection. It is here where Lily seems most at home. ‘I plant gardens that offer ways to connect with nature, to be involved with it – with the insects, the birds and the bees. It’s about being part of the land.’

Lily Langham has dug herself into this place, this patch of soil on the side of a hill and surrounded by bushland. Her garden is an illustration of her deep connection and sensitivity to place. It certainly couldn’t be anywhere else, and neither, I think, could she. ‘I feel like I’m part of the plants now, part of the garden.’

Gorgeous faded tones and feathery textures.
Image: Amelia Stanwix
‘All of my work – whether art, jewellery, sculpture, garden design – grows from the earth.’ – Lily Langham. Image: Amelia Stanwix
Lily’s garden is surrounded by bushland. Image: Amelia Stanwix
Lily and Rodney’s sons Max-Orlando (12) and Oscar (9) with dogs Scrap and Coco. Image: Amelia Stanwix
Lily’s dog Daisy rests in the garden. Image: Amelia Stanwix

‘The garden is so important. Especially for my kids. They can connect to the land – to the animals, plants and insects – and have the opportunity to witness things that are so fascinating.’ Image: Amelia Stanwix
‘I’m always learning and always discovering. I often trial areas in the garden, to see how plants perform in different places.’ – Lily Langham. Image: Amelia Stanwix