Imagine the challenge of creating a garden for a shopping centre. Natalie Bayly is putting the garden back into Garden City.

Natalie Bayly says she feels like Alice in Wonderland. The senior interior designer at Westfield is commissioned with putting the garden back into Garden City and in her words “we have to supersize everything. The ceilings are so high that it is an enormous space to fill.”

Bayly grew up on the land and is no stranger to cultivating fruit trees, ferns and vegetables, but designing a shopping centre garden has its challenges.

“We want to bring back community space,” Bayly says. “This ambient space with its relaxing green hues will soften the exciting ‘chaos’ of the shopping centre.”
Internally, 160 trees, a mixture of palms, bamboo and ground cover will adorn the food court and shoppers will be directed through the centre by separate colour cues to identify different zones for shopping, dining and leisure areas.

“Getting versatility and variety in our plants is important,” she says. “Externally it is about offering shade; we’ve created a beautiful oasis—a sub-tropical oasis including water features, 300 new trees in the streetscape, 17,500 shrubs and ground cover which provides habitat for wildlife as well.

“I wanted to have herbs and flowering plants, but there’s risks with that,” Bayly points out. Aside from the difficult indoor conditions, “we can’t have plants that drop their leaves because that can be slippery and a safety hazard.
“We’ve got a limited palate of what we can use—with limited light and constant air conditioning, we need plants that can survive in this climate, that are durable and hardy. We also need to be sure that the garden design we pick and the team that take over the care of it match.”

Bayly says Garden City has invested in grow lights which are used at night because they give a lot of heat. All the glazing is designed to draw heat down to the plants and rainwater tanks will be used for sustainable watering. Local nurseries have been involved in providing plants along with nurseries from central and north Queensland that specialise in palms.

One of the most exciting internal features that Garden City shoppers can look forward to is the green wall, that is, a lush living wall similar to a vertical garden.

“It is about 90 square metres—19 metres long by 5.5 metres tall—a green wall filled with individual potted plants,” Bayly says. “In essence, a living wall! The living wall is fully irrigated and on a sensor. Alarms will let us know is something is not working. It will be pruned and maintained monthly and a pot can be replaced if need be.”

Westfield Garden City’s $400 million redevelopment will open in October and Bayly’s work will be at full speed just before then.

“We’ll be putting the plants in as late as possible to minimise impact,” she says. “I’m looking forward to doing the installation and hanging out with the plants.”