May 24, 2019

The teachings of time

Michael Keelan visits the garden of a couple who have learnt how to create the perfect urban oasis, through years of experience.

One of the nice things about writing these articles is that I really get to know people in a different way than I would through a “normal” friendship — and that is through the wonderful world of gardening. I sometimes think, when I am planning to interview a “mate” about their garden, that it may not be a noteworthy journey, but how mistaken I have been, on so many occasions. I think there is a little bit of “gardening” in us all. Some may be a little reluctant to open up about their secret passion, others are only too happy to talk about their pride and joy … the garden. 

Such is the case with my two mates Roz and Geoff, or Rozzie and Alg (Smokey), as they are affectionately known to their friends, of which they have a copious number!

It’s been some 50-odd years of friendship in my case, sharing the joys of having children, developing careers, and all in between, they have both had time to plant and enjoy gardens at their various homes. 

Roz and Geoff both enjoy their compact city fringes garden.

I can recall one of the first plants they purchased from our nursery many years ago was a lemon scented gum or Corymbia citriodora. Now, I do confess, as a young horticulturist I just loved these trees, they grew fast and tall, 35 metres plus, offered quick shade and were also Australian native plants. Well, that particular plant grew rapidly and surpassed its expected height in a short space of time. A few years on, Geoff informed me that there were a few problems with the tree — pathways, etc — and that it had to be removed at a cost of several hundred dollars. So, it was the wrong tree, in the wrong place; a valuable lesson learnt by yours truly. 

Over the years, Roz and Geoff have pursued their various directions in life, Geoff originally into a family foundry business and then later on successfully venturing into in the cutting-edge industry of digital billboards. As for Roz, well she is still one of the best-dressed in Adelaide and has run a successful Hyde Park boutique for many years. 

But it’s the gardens they have developed along the way that interest me. Leading such full and busy lives, they have still had time to nurture and enjoy a number of gardens in the various homes they have occupied over the many years. Several years ago, they purchased a delightful, large town house in Parkside with a north-facing backyard. Now, I know it’s not always possible, but if you want the perfect site for a garden, it will be north-facing, or as close to it as possible. Delightful on summer days, provided you have protection from the searing afternoon sun, but in the cooler months the sun streams into the garden area allowing the plants and veggies to flourish in all seasons.

They have a delightful entrance to their front portico, with large container grown Ficus hilli. There are a few roses dotted in the sunnier spots, plus a few pots of mixed colour making the entrance welcoming.

In the centre of the house, there is a small interior garden, fortunately there is a “borrowed view” of a magical, almost year-round multi-colour bougainvillea in their neighbours’ garden. This area has a small table and a few odd ferns in pots, adding to this delightful space that can be seen from the dining and kitchen areas.

Also in view from the living areas is a modestly sized rear garden and entertaining area, which offers true Tuscan dining — a wonderful reminder of just what outdoor living is all about. The garden fences are completely covered and hidden by plants such as Nandina domestic and older established trees and shrubs, all offering interest and seclusion. There is a central paved area with a magnificent slate dining table, shaded in summer by a cantilevered market umbrella.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Geoff’s veggie garden, consisting of a few tomatoes in the ground and some in pots, all producing well, plus a number of herbs such as parsley and mint. One of the features of this area that adds summer colour is the Trachelospermum jasminoides that perfectly covers a trellised fenced service area.

Geoff is the main gardener, it’s easy to tell as each time we visit he’s eager to show off the latest crop, or newest addition to the garden. It certainly offers him great joy and satisfaction as he potters and plants in his spare moments. I’m not absolutely sure how Rozzie contributes, perhaps a little titivation here and there, but I do know that she loves her garden!

From the very moment you step onto the property, and from every window of the house, one can view a garden area, and it clearly demonstrates that, even on a small residential block, with careful and thoughtful planning the lines of boundaries and small space disappear, with the softness that is a well-planned garden.  


This story first appeared in the March 2019 issue of SALIFE.

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