Sweet Gigs

A real life enchanted garden - Inside Petrina Burrill’s leafy home garden in Melbourne's north-east

Join us on an adventure to a leafy gem in north-east Melbourne, where we're bursting with excitement to show you the dazzling home garden of florist Petrina Burrill—a true explosion of colour and flowers. 

For over a decade, Petrina has lovingly transformed her family's backyard into a year-round spectacle of beauty, with thousands of bulbs and seeds blooming throughout the seasons. Petrina's love for gardening is deeply rooted in her childhood memories, where she spent countless hours in her grandma's charming cottage garden. 

Fast forward to today, gardening has taught Petrina to appreciate life's fleeting beauty, reconnect with the earth, and find joy in simplicity. Keep reading to dive deeper into Petrina's enchanting Slow Flower garden, discover her winter growing secrets, and learn how to add the perfect finishing touch to your winter tablescape with in-season blooms!

Hi Petrina, let’s start with a little bit about you - how did you end up with this incredible enchanted garden in suburban Melbourne?

We lived in a great little house in Northcote but we needed more room with my second, Adelaide-Rose on the way. We bought the house for the garden, 12 years ago. It had the bones, north facing backyard, beautiful established trees along the boundaries. I put in a lawn for the kids to play yet each year, I’ve reclaimed more and more of it and created flowerbeds. It wasn’t until Spring I realised I’d inherited the most magnificent Wisteria; her walls of purple petals shower the garden - she truly is a sight to behold. 

I love beauty and Mother Nature. Flowers bring me so much joy so each year I plant around 10,000 bulbs and seeds for Spring. I end up with a magical fairytale, under a canopy of Japanese cherry blossoms. Celebrating seasons, I ensure my garden delights all year round. Come Summer she is a jungle of green, with a mass of garden roses, foxgloves, and hollyhocks then Autumn the dahlias welcome you followed by a sea of golden leaves. Winter is when you find her sleeping quietly as my outdoor fire pit keeps me warm. Winter is a very busy time in the garden - the scent of daphne keeps me company while cutting back, pruning, cleaning up. I love being out in the garden on a wild Winter’s day. I used to live in Dubai where it was just hot. I’m so grateful to live in Melbourne where I can feel all the seasons and watch nature grow.

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What can you tell us about your history with gardening? What are your early memories of gardens and has this always been a dream of yours? 

I’ve always had a love affair with the garden and flowers. In my grade 6 diary it reads, ‘I want to be a florist when I grow up.’ I used to grow carnations and nasturtiums from seeds in primary school and practice making wedding bouquets with my little sister. 

I remember when I was around four or five walking through my great nan’s cottage garden in country Mathoura, NSW, peering up to the sky with delphiniums, larkspur, foxgloves above. There were butterflies and the scent of garden roses all around. I thought I was in a real fairy tail. Looking back, I realise I have created these memories on mass. The love of gardening has been passed down through generations in my family from both sides. 

I have had many lives, from air hostess to office career, yet my relationship to the garden and flowers has always been my constant source of life. It brings me joy, which I can readily share and give away. My kids are both gardeners. My son loves veges and my daughter, Ady Rose has her own flower plot she grows and cuts from. We run in to tell each other when a new flower is awake! There’s something about getting your hands in the earth; I find it really grounding. 

For those planning a cosy, wintery dinner party or brunch, what flowers and natives would you suggest to compliment the time of the year? 

One of my favourite things to do is to make a beautiful table for friends and family to sit around. Use Mother Nature and what she is offering each season: I’ll often find beautiful coloured leaves fallen from trees and sprinkle them on the table or use the larger ones as coasters. Simple is very effective- scattering bud vases with one or two sprigs of saliva or Winter blooms like proteas, grevilleas and leucadendron always looks great. I recently used my Winter virgina creeper and wisteria vines to make small wreaths for the dishes, wine, bread basket to sit on. I added little birds’ nests I’d found in my garden and sat little ornamental birds in them. It really looked sweet. I’ll always have the outdoor fire pit burning off to the side in Winter when entertaining. It offers a beautiful atmosphere. We eat in my garden all through the year; my friends know to bring a coat and beanie when lunch is on.

Growing flowers is challenging, especially in winter! What tips do you have for anyone trying to grow their own blooms for the cooler months? 

I sow my flowers in the warmer days of Autumn when the seeds can germinate so I see Winter as a time to tend to the baby seedlings. Make sure the snails don’t eat them by covering them with jars to give them a good start. If you’ve missed the time to sow you can always buy some poppy seedlings, foxgloves or pansies to name a few, from a garden centre and pop them in pots or garden beds for Spring blooms. Grow what you love, then you will tend and care for them more. In 10 -12 weeks you will have your own blooms to pick, add to your table setting or to give to friends.

Not only does your garden look beautiful, but it is also grown with love, patience and kindness, ensuring our precious planet is put first. In what ways is your garden sustainable and how can we make ours more eco-friendly?

I belong to the Slow Flower movement, a philosophy that puts the earth first. We grow our flowers mindfully, with no chemicals or nasties. We work with the seasons. It encourages people to think about where their flowers come from and how they are grown. It’s much better for our planet if we can grow our own flowers rather than get them flown from the other side of the world. Although fresh-cut garden flowers may not last as long as the ones grown in hot houses with chemicals, my flowers come with perfume and ladybugs – they are flowers you can’t buy in the stores. Think bendy stems, perfumed sweet peas, garden roses with rain drop petals, violets.

The Slow Flower movement practises no waste. My waste goes back into the compost heap that turns into golden soil. I use organic methods like bi-carb and vinegar sprays to keep the pests at bay. I keep my grass long most of the year round to welcome insects and pollinators. The bees love my garden. I grow natives on my hill which brings the local birds each season. I’ve created my own micro-climate where all of nature’s little creatures are welcome. Little changes make a big difference. You can safely pick my pansies and put them in your salad or drink it’s a happy place my garden where everyone is welcome.

Your infectious personality left us smiling from ear to ear after visiting your home! What life lessons has gardening taught you? 

Growing a garden reminds you of how fleeting and precious life is. I’m grateful for each day I have here so I aim to have as much fun as I can and bring joy to others along the way. Gardening helps me disconnect from the worries of life- we are all so busy now; when I have my hands in the earth, I feel grounded, I slow down, I’m more connected. Same goes when I’m creating with my blooms- I feel I’m living. 

If I found out I had a year to live, I’d just want to plant more flowers- then give them all away. I’m grateful gardening has taught me to enjoy the little things in life. I honestly believe it’s life’s best kept secret- this and cake, of course!