Open garden / Garden program opens to natives and colour

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WITH a wide, private front garden thanks to an awkward, fan-shaped block, Carolan Marstin’s garden welcomes visitors with a Buddha and a bright red gate leading to brick paths through natives, shrubs and trees offering pops of red, pink and purple flowers.

Burrimul, in Weetangera, is the first garden to kick off the new Open Gardens Canberra season, and will be open this weekend – September 26-27.

“I’m very happy to be kicking off the brand-new season of open gardens,” Carolan says.

“The garden is colourful year-round, but there is a lot to see in spring, including the clematis, which will be flowering then.”

The garden previously opened as part of Open Gardens Australia in 2012, but Carolan says there have been a lot of changes since then.

“There are new beds, the removal of gum trees and a lot of general renewal,” she says.

“There are also a few more little animals to find!”

Carolan says the garden is well structured, yet the plants keep their own form, and hidden around the place are statues of various native and exotic animals, with a particular focus on emus.

“The emu is my totem, and Burrimul, the name we gave the garden, is one of the Aboriginal words for emu,” she says.

Carolan has a particular fondness for native plants and says the garden is about two-thirds native at this stage.

“When we built the house in 1972, natives were all the rage and people would talk about no-fuss gardens, which is rubbish as natives still require work,” says Carolan.

“So I decided to treat them properly and while there was a lot of learning required, I’ve now got to the stage where I know what works.”

Carolan says the front garden, with its winding paths, traditional Japanese torii gate offering Buddhist blessings to all who pass under it, and year-round colour and contrast, is her favourite part of the garden.

“It reflects my commitment to natives,” she says. “I like the paths, and I like being out here and walking through the garden.”

Carolan says she’s carted every tonne of soil herself and, as a woodworker, made the many wooden fences and screens, too.

“I like design and landscaping – I didn’t have a clue about gardening when I started and learned through trial and error,” she says.

“I enjoy gardening; I like the hard work, the sweeping, the pruning – it’s not a chore to me.”

Burrimul, 14 Harcourt Street, Weetangera, open 10am-4pm, on Saturday, September 26 and Sunday, September 27. Admission $8; free to under-18s and Open Gardens Canberra members. It costs $25 to join for free entry to all open gardens for the year (until August 31). More information at


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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist with a particular interest in homes and gardens.

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