Biography

“As with my beginnings with Ellis Stones, Sam has also found his life’s work.”

- Gordon Ford 'The Natural Australian Garden'

 

 

As a child in rural Victoria, I spent many hours planting trees and revegetating farms. My father founded the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers (now Conservation Volunteers Australia) in the early 1980s, and this imprinted upon me a deep affiliation with the land. After school I travelled overseas and worked in Fiji, California, Finland and New Zealand, dabbling in eco tourism, farm work and national park maintenance. I returned to Australia intending to continue working with the environment. 

In 1995 I met Gordon Ford, a noted landscape designer about whom I had read a great deal. I visited him at his Eltham garden where we discussed his style of landscaping at length. Gordon offered me a couple of weeks of work experience while I waited to begin full-time study at Burnley Horticultural College.

Work experience soon became full-time work, and I found that I was learning the intricacies of design principles on the job. Keen to learn, I routinely wrote up many of the things Gordon discussed during the day. My 'lessons' were understated; there was never a 'this is how you do it' approach. Instead, I was part of a small team that pulled together on all aspects of a job. I quickly came to understand why Gordon used to say he was learning something every day, even after fifty years in the field. 

He was involved in all aspects of each job, and as I observed how he dealt with clients, suppliers and those he worked with, I saw he offered the same consideration to the ideas of all people. When Gordon became too ill to continue working, he gave me the opportunity to use my accumulated experience by running his business for him. Until his death in 1999, we had nightly meetings to discuss each day's progress. During this time he wisely said, 'you're not going to get rich doing this, but you'll make a good living, meet terrific people and have a wonderful life.' 

     

Since establishing my own business I have endeavoured to maintain the integrity and approach that Gordon brought to his work. Still based in the Eltham area, I have been designing and building Australian natural-style gardens for 17 years. From urban courtyards to bush acreages, from the coasts to Victoria's central highlands, the design principles are consistently applied although the materials and environment may vary.

While I approach my work in a hands on way, I do take the opportunity to increase awareness of the naturalistic landscape school. Several of my gardens regularly open to the public in the Australian Open Garden Scheme and Rotary's Garden Design Fest. I have been a recurrent guest lecturer to landscape design students and a regular speaker for various plant societies and garden interest groups. In recent years I have observed a renewed enthusiasm for the 'Australian style garden'. While this often focuses on sustainability and native plant ecology, landscape design students are also increasingly interested in and influenced by the local design tradition of naturalism pioneered by Stones and Ford. 

 
 
 
“I have known and worked with Sam Cox for over 10 years – first while he was apprenticed to Gordon Ford and later in his own right. He is a gifted Landscape Architect whose natural skills have been honed during his time with one of Australia’s great post war designers. In that regard the legacies of Edna Walling, Ellis ‘Rocky’ Stones and Gordon Ford rest squarely with Sam, whose comprehension of and sensitivity to the Australian bush is self evident in his work which demonstrates the same restraint and refinement of his master. The considerable weight of these legacies sits comfortably on his broad shoulders.”
- Sean Godsell B.Arch(Hons) Melb M.Arch RMIT RAIA

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