Garden notes 21 Boobialla Street O’Connor 8-9 October 2005
The huge eucalypts first attracted us to the house in 1993 (in original 1960s condition, with many fine trees and shrubs). The development of the garden and the 1997 alterations and extensions (designed by Anna Pender, who received a Commendation in 1998 from the ACT RAIA for the work) complement the trees. But their ubiquitous roots and shade make the growth of many other plants difficult.
There is Japanese inspiration for aspects of the design of the garden (asymmetrical balance, serene and evocative). Views from the house (and as you step out the doors) are important. The garden is for living and enjoyment.
Areas of the garden still have much growing to do. For example, over the past two years a grove of proteas and leucadendrons has replaced a huge escallonia in the NE corner. In coming years the new shrubs will dominate, and the bulbs will be taken over by hardy ground covers (including Grevillea ‘Bronze Rambler’). The small garden between the Clianthus Street driveway and the path to the front was planted this year.
Ecology - the garden is intended to be environmentally sound and easy to maintain. It is bird-friendly and water-wise. The climbing rose frame is placed to shade the bedroom window from summer early morning sun (winter sun enters fully); dense plantings on Boobialla Street side of house shade the windows from summer morning sun, deciduous wisteria along NE facia shades in early and late summer mornings, and the big trees protect from heavy frosts. The wallaby grass ‘lawn’ is never mown (only the flower/seed heads near the paths are trimmed) - it was developed over several years from a nature strip patch of remnant native grass, and clumps subdivided and replanted while other grasses were removed. Deadheading prevents agapanthus seeds entering the storm water system (plantings too close to the kerb will be progressively moved).
Colour - mostly subtle and harmonious, but with some seasonal drama. Wattles are first in spring, then bulbs, wisteria, dogwoods, then dark orange and brick red azaleas and a rich purple rhododendron (back garden), and roses. In January the agapanthuses provide a cool blue visual foundation from the street. In autumn there’s a huge fiery ornamental grape through a large eucalyptus, and the wisteria, dogwoods, maples etc colour richly. From mid winter to spring the ruby red Allocasuarina littoralis flowers glow with the low winter sun behind them (especially appreciated from inside the house), and dark pink tracery of coral bark maples contrasts with cool greys and greens.
Fragrance is important. All purchased roses are perfumed, and perfume is a major criterion for bulb selection. There are six osmanthus varieties, perfumed species and hybrid camellias, michelias, daphnes, Rhododendron fragrantissimum, philadelphus, pittosporum, lily-of-the-valley, violets, potted citruses, gardenias, and some wattles and eucalypts are richly fragrant in flower. There is scented foliage from small lavenders in the driveway that are brushed by cars passing over, mint bushes, bay tree, citruses, eucalypts, various scented-leaf geraniums, and herbs including rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, mints and sage.
Intimate & rare interest - small bulbs include fritillaries, native orchid (pterostylis curta), species and named small cyclamens and hellebores, antique daffodils (including single and double campernelle), species camellias, local endangered grevilleas (G. Wilkinsonii, Tumut grevillea, and G. iaspicula, Wee Gasper grevillea), and a boobialla (Myporum floribundum) on Boobialla Street (ready for replacement).
Picking & harvesting - flowers are picked for the house (and for giving) all year round. Perfume as well as visual appeal is important - daphnes, roses, gardenias, bulbs (especially hyacinths, freesias, perfumed daffodil varieties), Solomon’s seal, proteas, hellebores, etc. There are herbs and greens throughout the garden, and strawberries under the roses.
Basalt columns - the gift of the basalt columns was inspired by the angles of the house. They were originally from the Walcha lava field - laid down about 50 million years ago. The design and placement of the rocks (including the pond) took nearly four years . . . .
The large eucalypts have always supported many varieties of birds - pardalotes feeding on lerps high up, scrub wrens finding insects in the deep bark and leaf litter, tree creepers and currawongs probing the bark, honey-eaters enjoying the flowering periods, and grey fantails and many varieties of ‘small brown birds’ taking insects through the year. Most years there are magpie, magpie lark (peewee) and currawong nests in the eucalypts.
Food and water for birds - additional plantings and the garden design ensure that all year round there is a wide variety of feed, suitable for many different native birds. This includes smaller nectar flowers close to the ground (correas through winter especially, and small grevilleas) throughout the garden so that the small honey-eaters are not out-competed by the wattle birds – which have access to profusely flowering large grevilleas (G. barklyana & G. arenaria) around breeding time. There are gumnuts and hakea, wattle and grass seeds for a wide range of parrots (gang gangs, king parrots, crimson and eastern rosellas, white cockatoos, etc), finches and others. Dense understorey and deep leaf/bark litter supports insects and other invertebrates which provide food for many small and large birds (from scrub wrens and fairy wrens to kookaburras).
The pond is not covered. Many birds enjoy the water for drinking, bathing and feeding: magpie larks spend time in the shallows finding insects, water snails, and, at least once (perhaps the first time ever officially recorded), taking a small fish; and kookaburras often visit to check out the fish, but have only been known to take one large goldfish (the fish are breeding well . . .). A tub of water on the front veranda is used daily for bathing by the wattle birds, and other drinking water is available.
Nesting places - to support additional safe nesting places, dense prickly shrubs (osmanthuses, berberis, prickly melaleucas, etc) have been planted and maintained. This year wattle birds successfully nested in a prickly Osmanthus heterophyllus, part of a clump of osmanthus varieties close to the Boobialla Street footpath. White-browed scrub wrens also successfully nested this year – in a patch of rough undergrowth protected from currawongs by wire netting. Possible nesting places for spotted pardalotes have been created/enhanced and some artificial nest boxes installed.
Rain & storm water. We attempt to keep almost all rainwater on site. Rain that falls on most roof areas enters rainwater tanks, from which it is immediately directed to selected areas of the garden. Rain that falls on the garden or paving soaks in close to where it falls wherever possible. This is achieved by (a) deep mulches, (b) uneven garden bed surfaces so water collects and soaks in, (c) swales and contour banks (notable above the path in the back garden and above the Boobialla Street kerb), (d) sumps (runoff directed to depressions over deep porous material), (e) ensuring the slope of paving directs water onto garden or sumps, rather than continuing on to the storm water system - this is most notable in the path close to the Boobialla Street driveway where a small rise in the path directs water into a fairly large depression that can take any likely volume of water, and ensures adequate watering of proteas and grevilleas planted on the bank of the depression, and more distant large trees and shrubs.
Greywater. A custom-made greywater recycling system (with approved plumbing) takes water from the shower and laundry to selected areas of the garden.
Plantings. Most of the garden tolerates dry periods and does not need substantial additional watering.
Sources & references
* Information about Australia’s Open Garden Scheme at www.opengarden.org.au and in Australia’s Open Garden Scheme 2005-06, available from newsagents, bookshops and the ABC shop.
* Fritillaries, unusual small cyclamens and hellebores, and other treasures are from Marcus Harvey’s Hill View Rare Plants, 400 Huon Rd, South Hobart 7004, phone 03 6224 0770.
* For a garden attractive to a wide variety of native creatures wherever you live, go to: www.floraforfauna.com.au.
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