about this blog

I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

gardens as spaces for healing and meditation

Zen gardens, monastery gardens, temple gardens. For centuries gardens have nourished people spiritually as well as providing food. They still do. Public gardens, grand and ordinary private gardens, even small courtyard gardens are used to connect with the healing force of nature.

I’m not referring to those people who see a garden and want to dig it up to see if there’s natural gas underneath, so they can make a killing. This is a glass half-full kind of post.

Cabrini Hospital is a large local private hospital. They have a memorial garden that commemorates the lives of people who have worked in the hospital or contributed in other ways.

It is a lovely garden, well designed, combining elements of Japanese and Australian indigenous gardens.

It has a pond although it's so grown over it’s not able to reflect the sky and I couldn’t hear any frogs when I visited.

It has seating. This is not just a garden for superficial viewing. You need to take time to immerse yourself in it.

I won’t be blogging for a few weeks. I’m going to Cambodia. I will be visiting Angkor Wat, a huge ancient temple complex, parts of which are being reclaimed by the jungle. I will also be visiting a nongovernment organization called Mango Tree Garden, which provides children with the opportunity to play and laugh and be creative. I look forward to posting about these and other garden-type experiences, unplanned and not yet known.

Cheers till I get back,

Monday, 14 June 2010


One of the glass beads on my necklace broke, creating an opportunity to rearrange the beads by colour and size. ‘Just like redesigning the garden’, I casually remarked to O and R, husband and wife team in the local jewellry shop.

Having asked whether I am a gardener, and being informed that I was a passionate amateur, O and R asked me if I would help them with their garden. They had pulled out everything and were starting again, but not sure how to go about it. I agreed and we started to make arrangements for me to visit.

‘Maybe you’d better see my garden first. You mightn’t like my style.’

So right away O accompanied me home to see the garden. My first intimation that our styles might be different happened as soon as we started talking garden talk.

‘I want gardens to attract wildlife like insects, birds and possums.’
‘R wouldn’t like that. She's afraid of birds and doesn’t like insects or possums.’
‘You needn’t have a birdbath. Then they would probably stay up high.’
‘But they might make a mess.‘

By this time we had reached my place. When he saw the front garden, he seemed taken aback. He gazed at it in silence for a moment or two. ‘I love it but it is too untidy for me.’

Then he viewed the back garden. By this time he had become visibly uneasy. ‘I love it but I couldn’t stand the leaves everywhere like that. I would have to be cleaning it up all the time.’

Now he became somewhat agitated and remembered he needed to get back to his shop to attend to something very urgent.

On the way back he thanked me. He said it had been quite an experience. He had never seen anything like it before.

No more was said about my helping them with their garden.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

a living fossil in my garden

In my garden there is a living fossil, a tree that was around during the time of the dinosaurs. It is a Wollemi pine, or Wollemia nobilis. It is endangered in the wild but has been domesticated and is now available from nurseries.

A couple of years ago there was a ring at the door and a delivery man presented me with this small tree. I thought it must be a mistake since I didn’t order it. But it was a present from the electricity company to thank me for paying extra for green electricity.

I didn’t know where to plant it so I put it in a pot. It grew and survived a couple of years but it needed more space. When I rejected the shapeless buddleia in a corner of the front garden a congenial spot became available. And as you can see it has settled into its new home and looks happy and healthy.

Here’s some botanical information courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite its name Wollemi pine is not a pine. It’s a conifer, a member of the ancient araucaria family. Other members of the aucaria family include the Norfolk Island pine and the massive kauri tree of New Zealand. Aucarias were common on the ancient continent of Gondwanaland more than 130 million years ago. They were found even earlier on the continent of Pangaea that covered most of the earth’s landmass over 200 million years ago.

The Wollemi pine has double-helical rows of needles and bubbly dark-brown bark. Most araucarias are single-trunked but wollemia sends up a dense thicket of offshoots -- which may help it survive drought and bushfires.

Members of this family are dioecious meaning they can’t self fertilize and are either male or female. I don’t know whether my plant is male or female and it needs an expert to tell which is which. Let’s hope there happens to be another Wollemi pine of the opposite sex nearby … but if not, just growing a single specimen will still help to conserve this extraordinary and attractive tree.

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