New Zealand Plantswomen, Barbara Garrett

Barbara Garrett, director of Barbara Garrett Planting Design Ltd., shared a few of her outstanding planting combinations in Auckland with me on a recent visit.

Her career has seen nearly two decades of imaginative planting and garden maintenance transform urban backyards into retreats and horticultural Eden’s!

Barbara creates enduring plant associations that have year-round seasonality and are based on good bones and thoughtful fleshing out with the perfect planting.

How lovely it was to see how Barbara has cared for these places from tubestock to treescape, punnet to paradise and seed to scenic!  And watched many clients families grow as the garden has too.

In a world of slash and burn and mow and blow, the creation of “slow gardens” which adapt, morph and marvel is truly special.

Barbara Garrett Planting Design Ltd. worked collaboratively with Craig Steiner, from Strass Landscape, who designed and built this hardscape on Auckland’s North Shore.


The National Arboretum And National Bonsai Collection


The National Arboretum, which is planted on the site devasted by Canberra’s terrible 2003 fires, really has been a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

Many of the trees have grown well, but like all things green, there are constant changes and adaptations taking place.

Since it opened, a series of small gardens illustrating various environmental aspects have been planted and are thriving. These range from savvy lawn tips and herb gardens to bird attracting low water usage areas that highlight a need to be water responsible, especially in Canberra.

The latest gardens, designed by Neil Hobbs from Harris Hobbs, openned on Sunday 2nd April by former Patron of the Australian Open Garden Scheme, Tammy Fraser.

Known as the “Gallery of Gardens”, they contain various  gardens, including a celebration one for the Australian Open Garden Scheme (now defunct), an AIDS reflection garden, a labyrinth, and a Mununja Butterfly garden.

Community Gardening gets serious at CERES


CERES (Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) is one of the most interesting community gardens to visit in the “Garden State” of Victoria.

The area contains an information centre, cafe, nursery and works as a hub for various other organisations, including chicken clubs, gardening groups, environmental organisations and so forth.

The sustainability centre is located on 4.5 hectares on the Merri Creek in East Brunswick, Melbourne.

They run extensive environmental education programs, urban agriculture projects, green technology demonstrations and a number of social enterprises including a market and organic online supermarket.

CERES, according to their website, is a place for community-based learning and action to create environmentally beneficial, socially just, economically satisfying, culturally enriching and spiritually nurturing ways of living together.

They reach out to over 200,000 people in schools across metropolitan Melbourne, and regional and rural Victoria.


Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

This festival, now in its 22nd year, is held annually at Carlton Gardens and Melbourne Exhibition Building. It features some of the best up and coming as well as established practising garden designers.  This years offerings all seemed to focus on including a garden pavilion and small water feature.

For my money, however. some of the most interesting were some of the smallest. The ‘Wild at Heart’ garden by STEM Landscape Architecture and Design (above) captured the feeling of an natural ecosystem meeting the backyard effectively. Emmaline Bowman’s detailed entry included a delightful spring, daybed and herb garden in what was a thoughtful and charming display.

Similarly, student designers Dale Johnson, Ross Peck and Liz Beale from Swinbourne University of Technology created a small but achievable look that was wildlife friendly and plant rich. Their garden, titled Awash With Nature was explained; “Our garden is a little ode to water.  As water is the great connector of life on this earth, habitability relies upon a source of water, however small.  This is true for plant and animal alike…

In the Great Hall, arrangements varied from the highly structured to organically shaped nests like this work by Bloom College.


Goodbye Eden Unearthed and Hello Harbour Sculpture 2017

Want to see marvellous artworks with fabulous views? Check out Harbour Sculpture 2017 with over 100 itens for sale.

Works on display till Sunday 2nd April include some interactive installations, monumental pieces and beautifully crafted pieces inside the Hunters Hill Sailing clubhouse.

And how fitting that the curator visited Eden Unearthed and wrote her own message in the fabulous interactive sculpture below by Maya Hendler titled ‘A is for Apple’.



Neighbour Day

This annual celebration aims to help us celebrate our community.  For me, spending the day in my local community garden is the ideal chance to mingle and marvel at the wonderful extended family we have in our neighbourhood.

Catch up on a event in your own ‘hood’ by checking out the Neighbour Day website, but if you want to catch up with me, I’ll be at Hughes Park in Lane Cove at the FoodFaith with many friends and community groups, including the Uniting Church and Rotary, as I make pesto from the garden to share among the locals and help up a local composting initiative.

Come along  Sunday 26th March between 11am and 2pm to share in the bounty, grab a sausage or simply bring down a bucket of kitchen scraps and we can help turn them into wonderful worm vermicast!

And if you can’t get there, check out the Neighbour Day website for some great tips like these:

  1. Start simply with a smile – this can lead to friendly hellos and conversations.
  2. Share some home cooking as a welcome to a new neighbour or a friendly gesture to neighbours you already know.
  3. Offer to bring in your neighbour’s bins or their mail when they go away.
  4. Find a common interest – Do you both have young children or pets? Are you into outdoor exercise? Arrange to go for a walk together or organise a playdate.
  5. Join your local neighbourhood group or association, or volunteer with a local community group.
  6. Invite a neighbour over for a cuppa or a barby – a good conversation starter is asking how long they have lived in the area.
  7. If you have a veggie garden share surplus fruits and veggies with your neighbours.
  8. Try carpooling if your kids go to the same school, or you work/shop in the same area.
  9. Make a special effort to introduce yourself to older residents and anyone who lives alone. Leave them your mobile or home telephone number for use in an emergency.
  10. Be kind.
  11. Introduce yourself or connect with neighbours you find difficult to meet in person with a simple postcard (a friendly message + your name and address) as an icebreaker.
  12. Exchange phone numbers and let your neighbours know you are happy to be of assistance in case of emergency.
  13. Offer to help your neighbours out when they are away. For instance, offer to collect their mail, mow their nature strip and keep a watchful eye on their property.
  14. Organise a street clean-up or a ‘gardening bee’ with other neighbours.
  15. Link people you know may appreciate each other’s company in your street, or in your neighbourhood. Communities need more people to make an effort to connect others.
  16. Take the initiative – organise a simple Neighbour Day event and remember that every day is neighbour day. You can invite new neighbours to join in and meet established neighbours.
  17. It is important to understand that some neighbours may decline your welcoming approach. Respect their choice and build connections with others living nearby.

National Eucalyptus Day

I love the idea of this, but I’m in a quandary. My favourite gum tree is actually not a Eucalyptus, it’s an Angophora!  So where does that leave me? I feel “genusist”!

Who could not love the Sydney Red Gum? It’s stunning salmon coloured trunks look so stunning, especially when they have just shed their old bark and are showing off their new pinkish skin. Known as “decorticating”, this process is like the exfoliation version of the plant world!

IMG_1630Ok, so if that gum’s out, the what about the fabulous West Australian flowering red gums of which there are no so many stunning cultivars, including this marvellous pink one called ‘Summertime Pink’.  I am yet again snookered. It’s not a Eucalyptus anymore and has suffered from “rebranding” – now being a Corymbia botanically.

Fear not, there is always the garden writers favourite tree; thank goodness for the Scribbly Gum, Eucalyptus haemastoma, whose pale creamy trunks have been graffitied by a mysterious grub and leave indecipherable messages to each other.

But National Eucalyptus Day is supposed to be about what this tree means to us as a Nation. Who could of said it better than Harold Cazneaux when he photographed a red gum in South Australia and titled it The Spirit of Endurance. This Eucalyptus became one of the most recognisable images of its time.

The accompanying prose written in May 1941 by Cazneaux always gives me shivers.

This giant gum tree stands in solitary grandeur on a lonely plateau in the arid Flinders Ranges, South Australia, where it has grown up from a sapling through the years, and long before the shade from its giant limbs ever gave shelter from heat to white men. The passing of the years has left it scarred and marked by the elements – storm, fire, water, – unconquered, it speaks to us from a Spirit of Endurance. Although aged, its widespread limbs speak of a vitality that will carry on for many more years. One day, when the sun shone hot and strong, I stood before this giant in silent wonder and admiration. The hot wind stirred its leafy boughs, and some of the living elements of this tree passed to me in understanding and friendliness expressing The Spirit of Australia

Happy National Eucalyptus Day in any way, shape of form you choose!

Greener Pastures

The view from the French doors outside my lounge room windows at The Top Place make some people green with envy! Yet creating your own verdant lawn is not as hard as you might think.

Use a click on weed and feed sprayer connected to the hose for a fast and effective pick me up. But for a more lasting result, try aerating your grass.

Iif you’re struggling with your own green scene, coring your lawn can be done on a smaller scale than seen here, but the principal of lossening compacted areas to allow water and air to penetrate to the roots, and this increase growth of worn patches, remains the same.


Community Harvest and Thanks Giving

The Saturday before thanksgiving saw the Sydney Weekender come to to the Foodfaith garden in Lane Cove to film a segment on Community Gardening and the unity social enterprise that’s being trialed here at Hughes Park.

The idea was to not only end the year thanking everyone who helped put the garden together, but also give thanks back to Mother Nature by feeding the beds with chicken manure…a fitting full circle for the garden.

We at scrambled eggs for brunch, marinated tofu and eggplant and char grilled pumpkin and squash. Accompanied by our own tomato salad, pickled olives and elderberry cordial…and Rosie and the film crew from seven seemed to relish the meal too.

Bon appetite!