Angela and Derek Shirlaw

Angela And Derek Shirlaw

Our garden began before the house was completed with the planting of cypress of conifers and poplars down the southern boundary as well as Acer rubrum lining the driveway. With the completion of the house in July 2007 the gardening began in earnest. All the topsoil that had been removed during the building was returned to the area around the house creating what became the northern lawn area. The sloped bank wrapping around the western end of the house was reminiscent of a velodrome in its bareness. The initial bones of the garden were created initial planting of ornamental trees in the lawn with repeat planting in beds of hardy old favourites such as escallonia, lavender, penstemon, buddleia, hebe, ceanothus and agapanthus as well as some less successful natives. Edges were created using local rock with repeated patterns of circles and sweeping curves. The shapes evolved more than were planned and still today we change the shape of garden beds to improve the flow or make mowing easier.

The pergolas on the northern side were given the addition of ornamental grape which provides cooling shade in summer, fabulous autumn colour and allows sun into the house in winter. Hedges in English and Japanese box were planted as well as the Malus Floribunda hedge which has become a favourite in the garden when it bursts into bloom in spring. Various arbours were created around the garden at different times to create some height. The oldest being smothered in a particularly robust Dorothy Perkins rose. Pierre De Ronsard is another favourite which features in various spots around the garden. Friends and fellow gardeners were generous , sharing plants and cuttings with us as there were more bare patches than plants in the beginning. We mulched heavily with a variety of mulches in the beginning and mostly now use a coarse sugarcane mulch. Over the years we have planted thousands of irises and bulbs some of which have multiplied and others which have disappeared altogether.

The garden became much more expansive when we decided that all the trees on the other side of the driveway should be in beds (again to make mowing easier). Once again we recruited the kids, collected more loads of rocks and so began the next stage of the garden. Behind the garage is the orchard with pears, a raspberry trellis and a prolific brown turkey fig which came in a pot from our previous home in Toowoomba. The apples near the aviary are our first attempt at espaliered trees. Our raised vegetable gardens were apple boxes from an orchard at Arding in a previous life. Weeds are a constant battle being surrounded by paddocks. We have discovered that having a stroll around the garden most days and pulling out a few weeds( preferably with a beverage in the other hand) seems to be the best way to tackle them.

The last few years the trees have really grown and we now have shady areas and an understory meaning we have been able to add some shade loving plants for the first time. Many varieties of birds have also moved in, our favourites being the fairy wrens. Water for the garden comes only from the sky. We water pots and new plants until they are established but not otherwise unless things are looking particularly thirsty.

This years storms caused severe damage to one of the biggest trees in the garden which was a beautiful snow pear next to the timber steps on the western side. It has been pruned back but we are still hoping it will survive.

Our motivation to open the garden was to show what can be done in what is a relatively short time in the life of garden. We hope you enjoy exploring our garden with its many pathways, nooks and hidden areas.

Angela and Derek Shirlaw