24-25 March Open Garden Plant Fair at Lanyon

This weekend Saturday 24 March and Sunday 25 March 2012

The open garden scheme season traditionally ends with the annual plant fair, hosted in turn over the past few years, around the ACT at least, in a sucession of beautiful old homesteads such as Lambrigg and Bellevale. This year its Lanyon’s turn.

Its been a few years since I’ve taken a turn around their gardens so I’ll be interested to see what’s happening, particularly in the veggie patch. The Lanyon Gardener (no name provided) will be speaking about the veggie patch on the hour from 11.00 am to 2.00pm on both Saturday and Sunday. A full list of speakers can be found here. Chef Janet Jeffs will also be speaking, on Saturday only, about organic and biodynamic growing and cooking. And then there are all the stalls to get around!

Address: Tharwa Dve, Tharwa
Directions: From Canberra head south along Tuggeranong Parkway/Drakeford Drive. Turn right onto Tharwa Dve, follow signs to Lanyon Homestead
Open: 10am-4pm. $10.00, no charge for children under 18

Time Out

We took a break from all the bottling last Sunday and headed out to the Open Garden Scheme’s Annual Plant Fair, which this year was held at Bellevale near Yass.
The property certainly lives up to its name as it is situated on a hill with great views out to that big mountain next to the Hume Highway


yes that one, (can anyone tell me the name of the mountain?), and out to lots of other very beautiful rural scenes.


The current owners, the Abbey family, bought the property in 2007, from the descendants of the original family that bought the property in 1834. The new owners have been working  to renovate the existing gardens, which will be quite a challenge as there are 2 acres of them! The work so far has included re-placing, as necessary, some of the old roses in the formal rose garden.


This roses are protected by a photinia hedge which, while not a personal favourite of mine, certainly forms an attractive windbreak for this part of the garden. The hedge is also enhanced by features such as this lovely wrought-iron gate the pattern of which was rather marred by the whoever stuck the sign on it.


Next to the rose beds is a stone flagged terrace with a central sundial. The large sculpture on the top of the sundial was made by one of the sculptors whose work was being sold on the weekend.


There is still a lot of work for the owners to carry out, particularly along the embankment along the eastern side of the house. Those who were able to negotiate the rather irregular stone stairs were able to look at some of the more unusual plantings such as the Osage Orange tree which was dropping its oddly-shaped fruit around its base. For those unable or unwilling to risk the stairs an attractive bowl of the fruit was placed on a table on the eastern verandah of the house.


I’m presuming that this tree, which is estimated to be over 100 years old, was originally planted for its decorative value. While traditionally the wood was prized by the native Americans as a superior timber for making bows, (as in bows and arrows), today’s woodworker would be more likely to know it for the striking orange colour of the timber which is highly valued by the wood-turning fraternity.

In addition to the plants, garden ornament and tool sales, this year’s fair also included a sale of botanical art which was displayed in the ballroom of the house. And yes I did love that 17 ft ceiling (about 5 metres high) – perhaps if we ever decide to extend Chez Fork we can fit one in …

Moving from the sublime to the ‘mundane’, one of my favourite spots in the garden was the clothesline, which was surrounded by plantings of daisys, agapanthus, lavenders and other familiar favourites.


It certainly makes for a pleasant location to hang out the washing.

While the Abbey’s have only been at Bellevale for some four years, and it’s too early to tell see how the new native plantings will develop, they have clearly committed themselves to restoring and enhancing this garden. I hope I can return in future years to see how they have progressed.

French Excursion

I did not expect a patch of cool temperate rainforest


or a long mysterious path


as I walked up the driveway to Jackie French’s garden, open as part of the Open Garden Scheme. So the equally unexpected lawns and billowing roses in front of the house shouldn’t have surprised me either.


Jackie’s garden has been created in a deep narrow section of the Araluen Valley (on the coast side of Braidwood) and I could not help but feel that I (and some 49 other people), had just been invited into an Antipodean version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Somewhat more prosaically you were more likely to trip over a wombat in Jackie’s garden, as they proved to be much in evidence on the day. This one just wandered past as Jackie was giving us an introduction to her place,


and the famous Mothball put in appearance at the entrance to her old burrow under the house. Although she, the wombat that is, has now moved to a larger burrow on the other side of the creek.


Jackie introduced us to the garden she has been creating since 1973, first as an attempt at the full hippy self-sufficiency dream and later, once she’d worked out that is was easier to make a living writing about her farm than farming per se, spending her time growing and learning from the land and her garden directly. The weather wasn’t the greatest, alternating between steady rain, flashes of brilliant sunlight and a torrential downpours.


During a break in the rain we went on an exploration of the garden proper. The garden has a wide variety of apples and other fruit trees throughout. Jackie spoke about using a Calomondin, a small citrus often erroneously identified as a cumquat, as a ‘decoy’ to tempt cockatoos and rosellas away from her other fruiting trees. The birds, it turns out prefer the small and less sweet fruit of the calomondins to the apples. Another interesting feature was her method of protecting young trees from wallabys, possums and wombats all at the same time.


The tree is surrounded by a medium size chicken wire cylinder, which keeps the wallabys off; only secured by one post as the wobbly structure upsets possums enough to keep them away; and the whole thing is set about 20cm above the ground so hungry wombats can get at the tasty growth at the bottom of the plant’s trunk without having to bulldoze their way into this most desireable snack.

Jackie and her husband Bryan have built a wonderful house with what Jackie describes as ‘a collection of the history of Australian solar panels’ on the roof


The gardens surrounding the house are a wonderful mix of the edible and the beautiful. From Banana passionfruits


to Buff Beauty roses and Blue Salvias


and yes we did see Jackie’s veggie beds on the way


to the secret part of the garden, or what Jackie refers to as ‘groves’. This is where her ingenuity, not to mention patience are really shown off. Under a canopy of frost hardy trees more vulnerable species are planted, with further shrub layers going in after that. The groves take anything up to 15 to 20 years for the more tender plants to establish. Jackie currently has both Black Sapote and Custard Apples growing here, in a garden that regularly experiences – 6 degrees of frost in winter. In this grove avocadoes are the dominant shelter tree, yes avocadoes, check out the fruit hanging from the branches,


while a Macadamia nut is flowering profusely in its shelter


We returned via the back track, not so much secret as a bit of bush bashing!


Our return to the marquee heralded not only a wonderful afternoon tea, I loved the rhubarb and ginger cake, but yet another torrential downpour to enjoy it in!


In spite of the weather we had a fascinating few hours, not to mention some wonderful hospitality, at Jackie and Bryan’s place. I hope that those people who travelled from Sydney and Melbourne for the day enjoyed themselves as much as we did.

If you want to find out more about how Jackie goes about things you can drop by her website, or buy one of her books (be warned she’s published quite a few of them!). The short summary of gardening with wildlife can be found here.




Over the fence

Like most keen gardeners I’m always keen to see what is growing over my neighbours’ fence. Come spring and the upswing in gardens open to the public through the Open Garden Scheme I can indulge myself without fear of legal action.

This past weekend we went and visited a garden full of Australian native plants in Aranda. This garden is 10 years old and has been created on a steeply sloping site.


The current owners decided early that they would only grow native plants. While they were orginally interested in having a specimen garden, showcasing one off plants such as this Emu Bush…


and this Scarlet wattle


they subsequently developed a broader focus on the plants of the Southern Tablelands.

What I always find interesting is how people choose to display their plants. In this case two different coloured Hardenbergias have been displayed as ‘weeping’ forms, rather than the usual way of letting them sprawl over the ground.


By coincidence, on Gardening Australia this past weekend Sophie Thompson was showing how to train a Hardenbergia as a climbing plant over a fence.

One thing I did admire was the owners’ small bowl of native Greenhood orchids – not an easy plant to grow. I believe I even heard myself saying to the owner “I do envy you your Pterostylis”. (Just the sort of dead posh thing one wants to be able to say to a fellow enthusiast!). Small but perfectly formed as they say.


The steepness of the front of the block would be a challenge to anyone. After heavy rain the garden kept moving downslope so the owners put in swale drains to slow the water down and provide a slow release of water into the garden.


It certainly has done this Grevillea sericea (the Pink Spider Flower) the world of good.


If you are inspired there are plenty of local gardens to suit all tastes and interests on display in Canberra and surrounding districts. You can get an idea from the Open Gardens website (link above) and check out the Visit your state and Special events buttons. Just be warned these are not complete listings, you’ll need the book for that (available from your local newsagent) .

One Open Garden coming up at the end of this month and recommended by TB and myself, is the Allsun Organic Fair, at Gundaroo on 30 and 31 October, which displays not only organic gardening techniques, demonstrations and talks, but has a great range of stalls, including yummy food – allow yourself a good half day.

If you are interested in buying some native plants the Australian Native Plant Society, Canberra Region, is holding one of its plant sales on
Saturday 16 October, 8.30 to 2.00pm or until sold out (our advice – go very early) in the Southern Carpark of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.