Whose garden is it, anyway?

Nigel (no friends) the roo

I made a wrong call when I said this patch I play in was mine.  Certainly I pay the mortgage and the rates and mow, trim and tender it. But who really calls the tune in this garden is the wildlife. It is very obvious when I take my eye off things for even a short while, that it’s largely the grasshoppers that munch freely on anything they can land on. All the care and attention in the world on herbs and vegetables comes to nought when deluges of rain kept me  indoors for a few days. I ventured out on the first fine morning and discover what the little hoppers haven’t  eaten through, the continuing rain has waterlogged and rotted. Mother Nature is no polite visitor. She rarely makes appointments and often outstays her welcome.

This garden is also casa insecta for the aphids that swarm all over the roses without so much as a bye your leave, the toads that play and procreate freely among the ferns and invade the compost bins. The caterpillars crawl between the lettuce leaves and make filmy webby cubbies in the lemon and lime trees. The bandicoots and rabbits dig up the beetroots and radishes. Try stopping these little varmin with a Keep Out or a No Trespassing sign. As if !

It’s a constant reminder that we co-exist here on this earth and the sooner we accept  and go with the flow, the happier we’ll be. It doesn’t mean total surrender to the elements and creatures that worm away your garden industry. But be prepared to give up a part of your produce, labour or space to the creatures in your patch. The permaculture peeps say you should allow one third of any crop for the birds and the vegie rustlers and bet on keeping two thirds.

Three cheers for the welcome invaders to the garden; the bees and butterflies that pollinate the flowers and fruit trees and vines; the birds that eat the lawn grubs and maggots, cockroaches and beetles, and that trill, chirrup, screech or honk  from the treetops. But they live by their rules , not ours.

And who’s to give marching orders to the herds of kangaroos that bound through as if on some ancient radar signal that their ancestors followed across the fences  and through the paddocks?. They congregate and lounge under the large paddock fig like old men at a picnic. Try tell them it’s not their place to play in, that they have to go round or go back.  One little lame roo, right,  who has been ostracised from the pack has decided ours is a safe and welcome haven. Perhaps retreating from some kind of roo rage, he’s left the herd and made the house yard his own, alternating between lying in the shade under the golden penda tree or slumbering under the cotton palm. He has staked his claim on the front lawn and gives a distinct guttoral warning sound if I try to reclaim the territory. This critter’s not for turning.

So ownership is a fleeting notion in a garden.


Emma and her Cambrook gardeners have a challenge . Send in any ideas and suggestions for their task below, by clicking on comments.

She writes: “We’re long time fans, first time writers and hope you may impart your inspirational gardening advice to transform an open space into a private oasis for owners at our apartment block! We have a grassed area that is shaded, north facing about 5m x 7m. We intend to screen it off with some mature plumbago hedging then put in some plants to create a shaded, secret garden. Advice on where we might find some mature plumbagos and what plants might suit that space is much appreciated. We are also looking at buying some hardy ground cover for our main garden, which is north-easterly facing.  Currently there is a mix of sygium australis, agaves and cycads. And last but not least, do you have any great recommendations for material to create a small path about 3m long to the clothes line area!”

I’d use stepping stones ( ie pavers) for the pathway and plant herbs like basil or marjoram between them.  They form a pretty carpet and smell delicious when you tread on them. My suggestions for hardy ground cover are gazanias and  santivalia and pratia. All  All are robust and attractive .


Leafy Greens from Cooroy has a green thumb and an artistic eye, going by the picture she sent of  her glut of pretty red bell chillies. She can’t use all her bounty at once and is looking for ideas to preserve.

I froze about 150 of these about two years ago, placing them in those little containers that dips come in. I am still using them, most recently last night in a curry. They thaw in a matter of minutes and are right as rain for cooking and have retained their bite. Meanwhile gardening guru Annette McFarlane says putting chillies in oil is a cinch.


And I take back the whinge I had last week about roses being difficult for me to grow. Yesterday, my white rose bush produced two splendid blooms that were dazzling after the rain and stark against the lush green foliage of surrounding vegetation. Don’t know why I planted white roses. They are only effective as a contrast to their colourful sisters . But seeing any rose open in my garden makes me weak at the knees. They would look nothing indoors in a vase, so I left them on the bush for everyone to see and enjoy.

Thanks Mother Nature.


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    suzie walker said,

    I know how you feel when you talk about sharing your home! Inside I am pestered with cockroaches, spiders, gekkos (don’t mind those). Outside rats (who on occasion seem to pop in to watch the odd tv show), bush turkey’s, cane toads and possums. Overhead bats (who love to make the presence known all over my house and mum’s car), cockatoos, crows and not quite sure what else but with the noise they make I feel like I am living in Jurassic Park. The late Rick Natrass always said Toowong was the richest suburb for wildlife…don’t bother trying to plant a veggie garden!

  2. 2

    peagreen said,

    We lived on 20 acres in Townsville for many years and had just about every species of fauna native to the area come visit us at some time – including echidnas and dingoes – not to mention the domestic animals we cared for permanently. Maintaining such a large area was impossible without the assistance of our furry or feathered friends, from cows/horses keeping the grass down to voracious weed-eating and everything-eating goats, chickens, ducks, pigs and turkeys. We were in heaven, with free compost year-round for the vegie patch.
    When work prompted a move to Brisbane in 2003, we weren’t quite prepared for suburbia, and the fear of “what have we done” sunk our hearts. But there was no going back, so the next best thing was to find a block that would give us that “bush” feeling.
    We found an 830sqm plot in Warner backing on to 2.5 acres of towering ghost gums and ironbarks. It was a start. Then, to our great delight, we spotted koalas in the trees, and we knew then we could make it in the “big smoke”.
    It’s taken a while but our garden has since blossomed to become a haven for bees, butterflies, birds, possums and a gorgeous but ugly bearded dragon lizard, with kookaburras overseeing the lot and laughing from their perch on high in the gums.
    It’s a different kind of wildlife we have now to Townsville, but we’re content to share our garden. We don’t have domestic pets this time, we’re happy with what nature sends our way for the time being.

  3. 3

    peagreen said,

    The first tree that came to mind when I was planning my garden was the fiddlewood (Citharexylum spinosum), a West Indian native; tall, fast-growing and attractive with fragrant tiny white blossoms. I planted a couple in Townsville and they grew proud and strong. So I didn’t hesitate, and off to the nursery I went. When I asked the nurseryman if he had one, he looked shocked and said “oh no, not the horror tree”. Now it was my turn to be shocked. He went on to explain that these trees had been plagued by the lantana beetle (Aconophora compressa) — introduced, of course, to kill lantana — and that the council had ordered all fiddlewoods in its street planting to be removed. The beetle didn’t actually kill the tree but it weakened it significantly and that was a risk the council couldn’t take.
    I left the nursery empty-handed and dejected. That was to be the centrepiece of my back garden. When I got home I immediately googled aconophora and there it was, on the DPI website, warnings about its existence.
    So imagine my surprise when, a few weeks later, I found a tree at the Caboolture markets. There it was, not 50cm tall, but distinctive to me.
    I asked the tree-hugger owner had he heard of the “lantana beetle” to which he replied he had, but his tree was from “the wilds of the Sunshine Coast hinterland” and would be OK. That was good enough for me; I paid him $4 and said thank you very much.
    I planted the tree, in the centre of the garden, and there it grew quickly, like I knew it would. Each day I checked it for the dreaded aconophora and was pleased when it passed inspection. Then, one day, when it was lush and showy at just over 2m tall, I spotted something. I raced inside to get the magnifying glass and the DPI fact sheet I’d printed out, and sure enough it was the dreaded aconophora. I squashed it, but saw another, and then another and then there were literally millions of the little blighters. I was gutted. I knew the tree had to go, I couldn’t bear to see it looking sick.
    That was six years ago now. After another check of the DPI site, the aconophora is still embedded in our region and looks to be spreading, so Townsville, while blissfully free of it at the moment, may be in its path. But, the DPI does suggest that reasonable regrowth has been appearing on fiddlewoods after infestation. So that’s encouraging.
    Does anyone know of the existence of a healthy fiddlewood in their area, or more specifically the north side of Brisbane? I’m willing to take a chance again.

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