Ellis Stones

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Ellis Stones
Ellis Andrew Stones

(1895-10-01)1 October 1895
Wodonga, Australia
Died9 April 1975(1975-04-09) (aged 79)
Alma materMoonee Ponds West Primary School
Known for
  • Thomas James Stones (father)
  • Hannah May, née Downs (mother)

Ellis Andrew Stones (1 October 1895 – 9 April 1975) was an Australian landscape architect of private and public gardens—many displaying naturalistic rockwork—and a conservationist whose work and ideas influenced approaches to public landscaping in Australia.[1][2] Based in Melbourne, Australia, he was an early proponent of the use of Australian native plants[3] and one of the founding fathers of the Australian landscaping style.[2][4]

Early years and family life[edit]

Ellis Stones was born in Wodonga, Victoria. His father was Thomas James Stones a customs officer, born in Victoria. His mother was Hannah May, née Downs, also born in Victoria. He grew up in Essendon, Victoria. After attending Moonee Ponds West Primary School he worked with the Victorian Railways as an apprentice carriage builder. He married Olive Doyle in 1922. They had a son who died in his first year, and three daughters.[1][2]

War years (1914–1918 and 1939–1945)[edit]

On 25 April 1915 he was a rower in the first boat of the second wave of the landing in the Gallipoli Campaign.[5] He took a bullet in his left knee,[6] an injury which was to cause him lifelong pain.[2]

During World War II Stones worked in the Volunteer Defence Corps and the Civil Constructional Corps.[2]


After WWI he returned to work as a carpenter and, later, a builder, eventually living and working at Avenel in country Victoria. The Depression brought him and his family back to Melbourne, where he took on whatever work he could find (including repairing broken window glass), and eventually settled in Ivanhoe. Working on a house in Heidelberg in 1934-35, he volunteered to build a stone wall for its landscape designer Edna Walling.[2] Impressed by his natural aptitude she employed him again on many other jobs as he gradually established his own practice as a constructor and designer of gardens.[7]

Landscape architecture[edit]

Stones collaborated for many years with Edna Walling, constructing many of the rock outcrops, walls and ponds in the gardens she designed.[2] Among the gardens in which he did rock work for Walling were:

  • the Donaldson, Anderson and Marshall gardens in Heidelberg
  • the Beattie, Darling and Anderson gardens in Toorak
  • the Lewis garden in Malvern
  • 'Kildrummie', the Carnegie garden in Holbrook, New South Wales
  • the 'Hillsborough' or 'Silver Birches' garden in Balwyn
  • gardens in Benalla, Skipton and Olinda[2][8]

In Australian Home Beautiful of December 1938 Walling wrote:

"It is a rare thing this gift for placing stones and strange that a man possessing it should bear the name Stones... Lovely as formal gardens can be, it is these informal schemes, in which boulders form so important a part, that appeal so tremendously... they give us the atmosphere of the country, and the refreshment of mind derived from such".[2]: 35 

Stones' inspiration for garden landscaping came from the natural world.[3] He writes in the introduction to his book Australian Landscape Design,[9]

" ... more can be learnt by observing nature than through any other form of teaching. When you see pleasing contours with perhaps an attractive grouping of trees, ask yourself why they please you. It may be their texture or perhaps their shape, or a wandering track which may give special interest to the landscape. Look for the reason. It may be that the track winds around a tree which casts shadows on the path, or past an outcrop of boulders."[9]: 10 

In her foreword to The Ellis Stones Garden Book published in 1976[10] shortly after his death, Thistle Harris elaborates

"Ellis Stones abhorred geometrical patterns as much as does nature on a grand scale, and straight paths, trimmed borders and serried ranks of plants are never to be found in his gardens. Curving paths leading to forever; informal clumps of plants, bending intimately towards each other; lichen-covered rocks of geological antiquity—these things distinguish his designs."[10]: 8 

The second principle which guided Stones' work was the idea that gardens must be designed for the people who use them. This struck a chord with writer Anne Latreille as she researched his life and work for her book ‘The Natural Garden’ (1990).[2] She noted how he would start by considering the owners' way of life including likely changing needs over time. He tried to include private, sheltered spaces to sit outdoors. And he was cognisant of providing beautiful outlooks from indoors as well as particular spots in the garden.[3]

In addition to creating many hundreds of gardens throughout Melbourne, through his writings (for instance as an occasional then regular contributor to Australian Home Beautiful and later with his books), Stones must have influenced hundreds of thousands of home gardeners. His 1950s plant nursery in Lower Heidelberg Road helped to make native plants more available to the general public, and allowed him to provide brief advice to a large number of customers who had admired his work in others' gardens or who read his articles but could not afford to engage him.[2]: 96–7 

Stones' specific advice on the design of home gardens has been distilled as follows:

  • "Think of a courtyard as a room without a ceiling.
  • Use timber for its beauty as well as its utility.
  • No garden is too small to have water in it.
  • When placing rocks, bury more underground than you will see above ground.
  • A garden should always have a sitting spot."[11]: 177 

His employees also recall him frequently commenting, "when in doubt, plant spiraea!"[11]: 168 

Stones inspired a whole generation of younger garden designers.[12] He was a foundation lecturer in the landscape design course at RMIT. His employees Bob Grant and David Leech went on to develop successful landscape businesses. Leech practised in Far North Queensland but his work lives on in beautiful parks and gardens in the Eltham area.[12]: 105  NSW landscaper designer Michael Bligh's career in design was prompted by coming across Stones' book while looking for something to read on his way home on the train.[12]: 104  While not formally trained himself, Stones supported the establishment of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, becoming one of its first affiliate members, and receiving a fellowship in 1975. Among others, he trained landscape designer, Bev Hanson[13] and pioneer of the bush garden concept,[14] Gordon Ford. Ford's influence lives on into the 21st century through the work of his former employee, contemporary landscape architect, Sam Cox.[15] Stones was also a major influence on John Fenton, one of Australia's foremost ecological farmers.[16]


As noted, over his long and busy working life, Stones was involved in creating several hundred gardens around Melbourne and beyond. Beginning with smaller specific elements such as rock outcrops and pools (especially for Edna Walling) his body of work includes the following:

Year Name of garden Suburb References
1935 Rockwork for Edna Walling designed Darling garden Toorak [2]: 34–5, 66, 95 
1933 to 1939 Side garden at Ringland Anderson’s Walling-designed ‘Churston’ garden Toorak [2]: 59–60, 132 
1938 & late 1940s/early 1950s Detail work 'Miegunyah' Grimwade garden Toorak [2]: 41 
1938 ~ Flack garden South Yarra [2]: 87 
1945 Walters garden Malvern [2]: 97 
1946 'Strathfieldsaye' Gippsland [2]: 53 
1949 Thornthwaite garden Ocean Grove [2]: 43 
1949 to 1954 Bush garden around Downing/LeGallienne mud brick house by Alistair Knox (with Gordon Ford) Eltham [2]: 91 
1949 Walters garden Narre Warren [2]: 97 
1940s, late 'Culraven' Ringland Anderson country-house Olinda [2]: 73 
1940s, late garden Heathmont [2]: 73 
1940s, late garden for AV Jennings[17] house Balwyn [2]: 73 
1950 'Padthaway' Lawson garden Keith, South Australia [2]: 75 
1951 'Mt Pleasant' Eltham [2]: 406 [18]
1952 'Stella Park' Pyke sisters' gardens Templestowe [2]: 95 
1953-54 Hawthorne garden Lilydale [2]: 147 
1953-54 'Netherplace' Landdale family garden Riverina District [2]: 125 
1953-54 'Bridge House' (by Robin Boyd) Toorak, in a creek valley [2]: 110 
1954 Rundle garden Eltham [2]: 116 
1950s, mid 'Schubert Nursery' Noble Park [2]: 42, 85 
1956 to 1958 Stone garden (house by Robin Boyd) Ivanhoe, near Lower Heidelberg Road cutting [2]: 110 
1957 'Glenara' Rundle garden near Deep Creek Bulla [2]: 116 
1957 garden around houses by Alistair Knox on subdivision of Grassick's 'Appledore' Eaglemont [2]: 115 
1957 rockwork and paving for Bates Smart McCutcheon headquarters (for John Stephens[19]) Melbourne, St Kilda Road [2]: 123 
1958 Zelman Cowen garden Kew [2]: 127 
1959 Hawthorne garden South Yarra [2]: 147 
1959 Clemson garden (house by Robin Boyd) Kew [2]: 245 
1950s, late forecourts ICI House and Hume House (designed by John Stevens[19]) East Melbourne [2]: 123 
1959-60 Mason Firth McCutcheon (office building by Bob Eggleston) Moorabbin [2]: 142 
1960-61 Garden house designed by Robin Boyd) Berwick [2]: 144 
1960-61 Watsonia Army Camp Watsonia [2]: 142 
1960-61 Judge Book Memorial Village Eltham [2]: 142 
1961 Cox garden (house by Peter Hooks)[20] Fairfield [2]: 139 
1961 to 1964 Baitz garden Canterbury [2]: 156 
1960s, early Osborne garden, Jepp garden Warrandyte [2]: 156 & 159, 158 
1961 Dickie garden, Fairview St, with Mervyn Davis Hawthorn [2][21]
1961 Dellas Avenue (Yarragunyah) Templestowe [2]: 145 [22][23]
? forecourt Hume House, designed by John Stevens[19] Melbourne, William Street [2]: 123 
1962 garden for former employee Louise McDonald, née Landale Millicent, South Australia [2]: 177 
1963 pool at Chris Cross garden supplies outlet Deepdene [2]: 176 
1963 Hawthorne garden Hawthorn [2]: 148 
1965 landscaping above underground laboratory housing CSIRO's division of physical chemistry Monash University [2]: 176 
1965 Rockpool garden at historic Como House South Yarra [2]: 175 
1965 Garden (house by Peter Hooks)[20] Pascoe Vale South [2]: 245 
1965 McIlwraith garden Violet Town [2]: 179 
1967 'Mogolimby' (house designed by Graeme Gunn) Euroa [2]: 179 
1967 Michael McCoy memorial playground Footscray [2]: 207–9 
1968 Lady and Sir Ian McLennan garden Narre Warren [2]: 193 
1968 Merchant Builders housing, Yuille Street Brighton [24]
1968 playgrounds for disabled children at Churinga and Yooralla Greensborough and Balwyn [2]: 194 
1968 wooden playground, Wilson Park Ivanhoe [25]
1969 BHP research laboratories Clayton [2]: 193 
1969-70 Molesworth St townhouses [26] (by Graeme Gunn) Kew [10]: 20, 21 
1970 playground, Travancore Children's home Flemington [2]: 196 
1970 'Elliston' housing Rosanna [27]
1971 Carnegie courtyard garden Malvern [2]: 164 
1971 playground, North Richmond Housing Estate, for (then) Housing Commission of Victoria Richmond [2]: 196–9 
1972 Garden for 'Saintonge' Molesworth Street (by Charles Duncan) Kew [28][29]
1972 Landscaping, Karwarra native plant nursery Kalorama [30]
1973 Rock garden University of Melbourne, Parkville [2]: 197, 224 [11]: 177 [31]
1970s, early Townhouses by Graeme Gunn townhouses, Kensington Rd South Yarra [32][33]
1970 to 1974 Winter Park development Doncaster [34][35]

Other commissions included a garden in Balwyn for Alan Blazey, chairman of garden products firm Hortico in the mid-1950s,[2]: 223  a garden in Strathmore[36] and playgrounds and gardens at Invercargill in New Zealand.[2]: 195–6 

Association with Merchant Builders; the Elliston Estate[edit]

Merchant Builders Pty Ltd was an initiative of Melbourne businessman David Yencken. After discussions with prominent Melbourne architect Robin Boyd and his young employee Graeme Gunn, Yencken (with timber merchant John Ridge) established the company with the vision of providing architect-designed houses at project home prices.[2][37] Graeme Gunn was architect-in-charge, and Ellis Stones – then aged 71 – took on its landscape and garden design.Eventually Merchant Builders assembled a team of architects to design 50 basic house plans. The architects consulted included:

Ellis Stones was commissioned to undertake landscaping in many of the Merchant home developments.

Elliston Estate was one of the best-known Merchant Builders home developments, named after Ellis Stones himself. Swamped by protests from local residents when the Rosanna Golf Club was to be subdivided for housing, Heidelberg City Council agreed to buy the golf course, retain half of it for a park and sell the rest to Merchant Builders for on-selling to the public. Ellis Stones advised on landscaping the park and developing the streetscapes and gardens so that 'gardens streets and park' would 'flow into and through each other'.[9]: 193  Elliston includes the following streets: Bachli, Cremin, Ferrier, Pickworth, Hartley, Nagle and Devlin Courts; Stanton, Crampton, Phillips and Von Nida Crescents; the west side of Finlayson Street; and Thompson Drive (all in Rosanna).[27]


Ellis Stones was deeply concerned about the destruction of the Australian landscape. In the introduction to his book Australian Garden Design, published in 1971,[9] he writes "Before the commencement of any major project that encroaches on the landscape there should be formed a panel consisting of persons representing every profession concerned with the project, to discuss and advise on the best means of carrying out the project with the least damage to the landscape. A landscape architect should certainly be included in any such panel, as he is in other countries which are deeply concerned about the preservation of their natural flora and fauna." He goes on to say, "The ideal way to design a garden is in consultation with the architect or builder, before operations have commenced, so that the building may be sited in a way that will give plenty of scope for the garden, preserve some of the existing trees if the area is a wooded one, or emphasise any other strong features that may be evident in the natural contours."[9]: 8, 12 

Stones had a major influence on the landscaping of public places in Australia.[38] In 1964 he assisted the Blackburn Tree Preservation Society[39] to develop a proposal for staggered planting of clumps of Australian plants both within the median strip and either side of Springvale Road.[2]: 182–3  The Nunawading Council, though initially resistant to the proposal, was eventually persuaded. Newsletters from the Society document that planting undertaken in 1965 in a trial stretch from Whitehorse Road to Canterbury Road was later extended south to Waverley Road. In 1974, Stones designed a section of the median strip in Canterbury Road from east of View Road, Vermont to the intersection of Boronia and Mitcham Roads. This landscape project used rock outcrops and low bluestone walls and is still visible when driving west along Canterbury Road before the intersection with Mitcham and Boronia Roads.[39][40] The retention and supplementation of native vegetation championed by Stones and the Blackburn Tree Preservation Society has become the norm for median strips and roadside planting throughout Victoria.[2]: 182–3 

Stones was an outspoken critic of the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW), lamenting the destruction and degradation of the Yarra River environs and creeks throughout suburban Melbourne.[41] He was the first president of the Ivanhoe River Parklands Protection League established in 1955 to prevent the destruction of Chelsworth Park.[2] He served as a committee member for the Save the Yarra League and also assisted the Yarra Valley Freeway Action Group.[2]: 119  For the Tullamarine Freeway he wrote to Lord Mayor Ron Walker late in 1974 suggesting "the whole length... as a beautiful bushland setting, with the statuesque river red gums a main feature... to welcome visitors to Australia."[2]: 246 

The very last job undertaken by Ellis Stones, in 1975, was landscaping Salt Creek in the Rosanna Parklands, a job approved by his former adversary the MMBW.[42] As Anne Latreille describes it "Peter Glass visited Ellis on site the day before he died and found him 'leaping around those rocks like an antelope'. He came home for dinner on the night of 9 April, tired and happy. 'Oh I've had a good day' he said to (wife) Olive. 'There's a boy on the job who really understands what I'm talking about.' He went for a short lie-down before the evening meal and did not wake. He died in harness, quickly and quietly, as he wished it."[2] : 247–8  Not long after his death, the MMBW preserved a large amount of land along the Yarra Valley in a series of metropolitan parks, landscaped with native vegetation exactly as he would have wanted.[2]: 119 

Awards and recognition[edit]

Stones posthumously received the Royal Australian Institute of Architect's Robin Boyd environmental medal.[11]: 169 

A memorial plaque honouring his work[43] can be found in a rock garden in Chelsworth Park near his former home in Ivanhoe.[44]

The rock garden he designed near the staff car park at The University of Melbourne bears another memorial plaque.[45]

The Ellis Stones rockery in Burnley Gardens was created to honour his contribution to landscape design in Australia.[46]

The Ellis Stones Memorial Award is offered biennially to a landscape student for an outstanding piece of research.[2]: 249 


  • Stones, Ellis, 1971, Australian Garden Design, South Melbourne, with photographs by Ted Rotherham
  • Stones, Ellis, 1976, The Ellis Stones Garden Book, Nelson Australia, West Melbourne
  • Stones, Ellis, unpublished manuscript "Priority Landscaping[11]
  • Latreille, Anne, 1990, The Natural Garden – Ellis Stones: His Life and Work, Penguin Australia, Ringwood, Melbourne
  • Latreille, Anne, 2013, Garden Voices Australian Designers – their stories, Bloomings Books, Melbourne, Australia
  • Saniga, Andrew 2012, Making Landscape Architecture in Australia, UNSW Press, Sydney
  • Vale, Anne, 2013, Exceptional Australian Garden Makers Lothian, Middle Park, Melbourne

Peer reviewed academic literature[edit]


  1. ^ a b Latreille, Anne. "Stones, Ellis Andrew (1895–1975)". Ellis Stones. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 10 April 2015. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx Latreille, Anne (1990). The Natural Garden Ellis Stones: His Life and Work. Melbourne: Viking O'Neil, Penguin Books Australia Ltd. ISBN 0670902357.
  3. ^ a b c Pipitone, Shirley. "Ellis Stones. landscape architect". Australian plants on line. reprinting article in newsletter for the Australian Societies for Growing Australian Plants. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  4. ^ Turner, John (1975). "A tribute". National Trust Newsletter. 3 (11): NLA MS 5188.
  5. ^ Martin, Rod. "Private Ellis Andrew Stones". The Empire Called and I Answered: the Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington. pbworks.com. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  6. ^ McMullin, Ross (2008). Pompey Elliott. Melbourne: Scribe. ISBN 9781921372018.
  7. ^ Walling, Edna. "Edna Walling". Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  8. ^ MacDonald, Alix (29 March 1982). "Berries grow amidst history". The Age. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e Stones, Ellis (1971). Australian Garden Design. South Melbourne: Macmillan. p. 200. ISBN 0333139348.
  10. ^ a b c Harris, Thistle (1976). The Ellis Stones Garden Book. West Melbourne: Thomas Nelson (Australia) Ltd. p. 112. ISBN 0170051137.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Latreille, Anne (2013). Garden Voices Australian designers - their stories. Bloomings Books. ISBN 9780646905204.
  12. ^ a b c Vale, Anne (2013). Exceptional Garden Makers. Middle Park: Lothian Custom Publishing. ISBN 9781921737114.
  13. ^ King, Melissa (8 March 2002). "Fact Sheet: Conservation Trust". Australian Broadcasting Commission. Gardening Australia. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  14. ^ Ford, Gordon Ford with Gwen (1999). Gordon Ford : the natural Australian garden. Hawthorn, Vic.: Bloomings Books. ISBN 9781876473099.
  15. ^ Cox, Sam. "Sam Cox landscape". Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  16. ^ Fenton, John (2010). The Untrained Environmentalist: How an Australian Grazier Brought His Barren Property Back to Life. Allen and Unwin.
  17. ^ "A.V. Jennings, Home Builder". Collections themes. Museum Victoria. Archived from the original on 23 July 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  18. ^ "Mt Pleasant Rd, Eltham for sale in 1971".
  19. ^ a b c Latreille, Anne. "John Stevens AM, Landscape consultant". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  20. ^ a b Reeves, S. "Peter Hooks". Dictionary of Unsung Architects. Built Heritage. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  21. ^ "Fairview St, Hawthorn for sale in 1971".
  22. ^ "Dellas Avenue, Templestowe for sale".
  23. ^ "29-31 Dellas Avenue, Templestowe - statement of significance".
  24. ^ "Display home of week features cluster Housing". The Age. 27 September 1968. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  25. ^ Saniga, Andrew (2012). Making Landscape Architecture in Australia. ISBN 9781742246079.
  26. ^ "Graeme Gunn". Studley Park Modern. SPM. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  27. ^ a b Bayule City Council (28 October 2011). "little more about elliston estate rosanna".
  28. ^ "Artistic vision in the Studley Park precinct". Hocking Stuart Real Estate. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  29. ^ Bang, Maureen (22 August 1973). "Ideal Home for a housework hater' House of the Week, Molesworth St, Studley Park, designed by Charles Duncan". Australian Women's Weekly. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  30. ^ "Natives as a form of art". The Age. 4 May 1982. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  31. ^ "Ellis Stones Garden: Looking towards the Baillieu Library (Melbourne University)". Flickr. 14 November 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  32. ^ "Kensington Rd, South Yarra for sale in 1974".
  33. ^ "Kensington Rd, South Yarra for sale in 1977".
  34. ^ "Timber Ridge, Doncaster for sale in 1976".
  35. ^ Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure. "Winter Park, Doncaster". A pioneering estate in native landscape. Government of Victoria. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  36. ^ Latreille, Anne (21 November 1989). "Landscape awards". The Age. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  37. ^ Crafti, Stephen (28 July 2013). "The benefits of living in the past". The Age. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  38. ^ Saniga, Andrew John (2012). Landscape architecture in Australia. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing. ISBN 9781742233550.
  39. ^ a b "Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society Inc". Environmental Advocacy Group. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  40. ^ "Information provided by Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society Inc".
  41. ^ Stones, Ellis (17 October 1972). "Vandals in grey flannel suits". Herald.
  42. ^ Knox, Alistair. "We are what we stand on. A personal history of the Eltham community". Alistair Knox. org. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  43. ^ "Monument to Ellis Andrew Stones".
  44. ^ "Chelsworth Park Heritage Citation".
  45. ^ "Memorial plaque Ellis Stones rock garden, The University of Melbourne". Flickr. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  46. ^ "Rockery at The University of Melbourne School of Horticulture at Burley Gardens".

Additional newspaper articles[edit]

About war experience

About gardening

About garden heritage

About environmentalism

About playgrounds

About Elliston

Recognition, obituaries and honours


Newspaper advertisements mentioning Stones[edit]

External links[edit]