Seattle artist Bridget Beth Collins

While most people trudge off to the office each day, Bridget ventures into the garden. This is where she spends her days, foraging for flowers, seed pods, berries, stems and leaves that she can reincarnate as artworks. Bridget's delicate and awe-inspiring artworks are composed from deconstructed blooms sourced from her garden, rambles through her neighbourhood and her mother's sprawling "secret garden". But, for Bridget, the garden is more than just her work and she describes her little patch in Seattle as "her everything". She and her husband stumbled upon the magical courtyard hideaway, complete with lilacs and dogwoods, in the middle of the busy city. Bridget has since discovered slate stones and stone garden beds beneath the weeds. She has created a "fleur de lawn", replacing the grass with low-growing wildflowers, and planted window boxes, ensuring pretty blooms are on hand for her breathtaking work throughout the year.

Bridget and son Oliver forage for treasures. Photography: Jamie Spiro
One of Bridget's floral artworks for her business Flora Forager.
What is the story of your garden? 
My husband had always wanted to live in the city, so a couple of years ago we set out looking for a house.  My one requirement was that I could still have a secluded garden. In an area where many houses use the strip of land in front of their house for their garden because houses are so jampacked together, it seemed nearly impossible to fulfill this dream. (As an aside I also said I had to have a rounded door like a hobbit hole, but that was a joke.) We searched and searched, but we could not find the right house. One morning, feeling bedraggled, my husband showed me a picture of a cute little house with red rounded door. We got in the car and rushed to see it. The very first thing I did was wander around to the back yard. There, I found a small overgrown courtyard with a perfect grove of lilacs and dogwoods. I sat down and, though the busy city was all around, I could hear bird song and felt at peace. Before I stepped foot into the house, I knew this secret garden was my very own. 

The pretty facade and front garden of Bridget's home. Photography: Bridget Collins
What changes have you made to it?
The first thing I did was pull back all of the overgrown ivy and periwinkle vines. I couldn't believe it! There were sandstone raised beds and slate stones underneath. The bones were exactly what I wanted. I had a shed made with the old round door from the house, and I put in a winding path. I planted my favorite roses from our last house, a few perennials, and a tiny herb patch. 

Any big challenges?
I had to hire someone to come and shape the trees for me. I had to cut some way back and that was heartbreaking.  It's taken a couple of years for some of the lilacs to bloom again.

The glorious back yard that Bridget has restored. Photography: Bridget Collins
A sweet herb patch gets an artistic makeover. Photography: Bridget Collins
Bridget replaced the lawn with wildflowers. Photography: Bridget Collins
Your favourite feature?
I have a little stone dragon.  It's as kitschy and silly as can be but I adore it.

How do you like to spend time in your garden?
During the summer it's another room to the house. I drink my coffee in it, have people over for dinner alfresco, and picnic and play in it. 

The stone dragon that won Bridget's heart. Photography: Bridget Collins
A window box brimming with blooms. Photography: Bridget Collins
The Leopard, created from flower petals for Flora Forager.
How does your garden inspire you? 
It is my everything. I have a business called Flora Forager where I use its flowers to create art.  It is my sanctuary when I need a moment to myself. And when everything in life feels cluttered, there's nothing like pulling weeds and organizing my plants to make me feel more aligned. 

What are your must-haves for a garden?

I must have roses, always and always. I love hostas. Thyme is my favorite herb. And I love everything to be really rambling and full. 

For more details on Bridget or Flora Forager, see floraforager.com

A climbing clematis in bloom. Photography: Bridget Collins
The Firebird, an artwork by Bridget for Flora Forager.


Designer/photographer Mariana Garcia-Katz

Mariana runs her photography and design studio M2Matiz from the backyard studio. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
An inviting place to take a break. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
Take an inner-city Melbourne back yard and a designer/photographer with a passion for gardening (and a love of hard rubbish), and you have one quirky, artistic and inspiring garden.
When Mariana Garcia-Katz and her husband bought their home 10 years ago, the back garden consisted of a grass patch with a concrete path straight down the middle.
"We've completely changed the overall look of it," Mariana says. "Apart from the larger established trees, our back yard has been given a huge overhaul ... a lot of hard work, and trial and error."
Mariana says they started working on the garden when Melbourne was in the middle of water restrictions, which is why "we thought it best not to have grassed areas".
Although she occasionally misses the lawn, Mariana finds great joy in tending her bountiful veggie patch, along with her chickens and seedlings.

Mariana has an eye for creating pretty vignettes. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
This enticing backyard was once a patch of lawn with a concrete path down the middle. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
Mariana's beloved pooch, Charley, is a huge fan of the garden. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
A sweet collection of pots. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
How do you like to spend time in your garden?
I love tending to the vegetables in our patches, preparing the soil, planting new seedlings, patiently waiting. Sitting in a deck chair under the feijoa tree is also time well spent. We also have chickens and I could watch them for hours but I think I mostly love looking onto our backyard from our kitchen and dining room. It brings me such a sense of calm.

How does your garden inspire you?
It inspires me to look, really look, at nature's beautiful details (it changes with every season), to be patient and appreciate what nature has to offer.

Happy chickens potter in the run. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
The bountiful veggie patch. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz. 
Pots of herbs with ceramic markers. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
Pretty details add interest and colour. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
The impressive hen house was once a cubby. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
What are your must-haves for a garden?
Having come from a house with a small courtyard, if/when the time came to buy another house, it had to have a bigger back yard. I wanted chickens, vegetable patches, a smoke bush and a gum tree. And I'm happy to say we now have them. CERES Environmental Park has inspired us for many years. I love their use of recycled/reclaimed objects dotted about the place, the 'organic free-flowing' nature of its grounds has inspired me to collect found objects and incorporate them in our garden: old ladders, rusted car rims, old metal gates and frames, for example. All of which, I think, add so much character and make a garden unique.

You can find Mariana's work at m2matiz.com.

Pots are dotted throughout the backyard. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
A rustic lantern finds a home among the mint. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
Mariana is drawn to the rusty, weathered beauty of found objects. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
Old 44-gallon drums make fabulous planters. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.
The perfect place for a long lunch. Photography: Mariana Garcia-Katz.