The South Australian Branch of the MGS
Award-winning author Sophie Thomson spoke at our February meeting of her life and journey to becoming the South Australian face of TV’s Gardening Australia. Sophie is a long-time member of the branch and we had previously visited her garden at The Chapel in the Adelaide Hills in 2001. At that time our visit coincided with the break in the season and we were all deluged. This time it was a race to get the air conditioner going to cope with 38 degree heat.
Sophie gave us great insight into her approach to gardens which is a very multicultural one. It simply means the best plant, no matter where it originates from, for your conditions. A great believer in soil health and minimal intervention on the pest and disease front, Sophie stressed the need for all gardeners to practise sustainable gardening. For example she advised against bringing sugar cane mulch from Queensland vast distances across the country when we have perfectly good pea straw on our doorstep.
Of particular interest was Sophie’s answer to a question on favourite gardens. Her answer would have surprised many and sent them scurrying for their books. Sophie’s all-time favourite garden in the world is the Cosmic Garden in Scotland made by Charles Jencks and his wife Maggie Keswick. Very few of us would have thought to run up the DNA helix hill and then roll down the slope afterwards but as Sophie said she couldn’t resist it and, after all, it is ‘an interactive’ garden.
Our request to hear more of her personal story made for a fascinating evening and the Goodman Building was filled to capacity – there were not enough chairs! A great way to start 2010.
With January putting on its best hot weather early visitors were plentiful at the Videon-Wells Garden designed by Virginia Kennett. This relatively young garden surrounds a gracious old house with only a couple of the original trees remaining. One is a very old pomegranate which is highlighted in a gravel bed with a spiral surround of Japanese Box. Low water use plants feature in curved beds and many of the pathways are gravel, enabling precious rain water to seep into the ground. Despite the 40 degree heat, sipping cool drinks on the verandah while watching the fountain bubble made the visit most inspiring and everyone took home many plans for their own garden.
Fountain at Videon-Wells Garden
photos by Sandy Scott
Gayle Otto opened her garden to the public in conjunction with Australia’s Open Garden Scheme, a non-profit organisation which helps to assist with funding around 350 community garden projects across Australia.
"A Room with a View" is an example of garden and outdoor lifestyle appropriate to a Mediterranean climate of long hot summers and cool wet winters. Sensible and minimal use of water is a priority, (grouping plants with like water needs) as are the use of mulch, soil improvement and the utilization of shade trees and pergolas. The aim is to demonstrate that with a well thought out design and careful plant selection, a garden can be attractive as well as drought tolerant.
Photos by Gayle Otto
You should have been there
It was a deliciously warm Sunday afternoon on a wonderful sunny break in the winter gloom n when a sizeable number of us met at Cox Scrub Conservation Park for a guided tour led by Peter Bird. Peter is the author of the very good book 20 Nature Walks in the Mt. Lofty Ranges and was an enormously knowledgeable and generous guide.
Optimistically, Peter suggested that we could do the 8km walk. However, after about 20 minutes we were still within sight of the car park n the diversity of plant life within such a small area was truly astounding and we kept stopping to investigate n so the shorter 3.5km walk looked like a more sensible option. The park of 525 hectares comprises gently undulating sand over ironstone. A short section of the Finniss River runs through it and a steep-sided valley in the south-east corner has a permanent spring-fed creek. A narrow sandy track winds at an easy pace past a swamp alive with frog and bird sounds and up through open scrub of Eucalyptus fasciculosa and E. cosmophylla to afford views north across the valley.
Cox Scrub is easy to find, 5.5km south of Ashbourne on the Ashbourne to Goolwa road. Take the time to go there one day, pack lunch and a drink and take binoculars to look at the bird life. You'll be amazed at the intensity and subtlety of nature's planting schemes.
(from The South Australia Branch newsletter)
For more information on the South Australia Branch, contact Virginia Kennett, PO Box 199, Glen Osmond, South Australia 5064.