Open garden / Shady, soft and sustainable

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Tom Baker
Tom Baker… “You can make a pretty interesting garden with privacy, shade, comfort, a bit of beauty and a variety of plants on an ordinary block.”

IN Tom Baker’s shady garden, everything mingles in together and competes for space, creating a cool and endlessly interesting landscape to explore and enjoy.

“I’ve been here for 36 years and the garden has changed gradually over time, from having lawns in the front and back when the kids were younger to what it is today,” he says.

“It’s an average block, with a long driveway and a big shed – but I’m keen to show that you can make a pretty interesting garden with privacy, shade, comfort, a bit of beauty and a variety of plants on an ordinary block,” he says.

Tom’s sustainable garden in Queanbeyan will open for the first time with Open Gardens Canberra on the weekend of November 21-22.

At 11am and 2pm each day, Tom will outline how the garden achieves sustainability, including measures for stormwater retention.

“I don’t use much town water here as I have tanks, and this is a true sustainable garden, with no lawns, composting, recycled building materials, pots and soil, 25-year-old worm farms, and hardy plants that I’ve selected over the years and which makes it very easy for me to look after,” he says.

Horticulturist and gardener Tom says the garden is arranged mostly for his own enjoyment and that he’s particularly fond of the potted white and purple Canterbury bells and the watsonia, which is almost pure white and quite unusual. He also has a range of potted geraniums with vastly different foliage, from fine filigree leaves to larger varieties.

“The plants were introduced but I like to let things self sow, and at the moment I’m happy to let the Chilean jasmine take over, which keeps popping up all over the place, and the bamboo – it softens the edges and gives a natural look, which I like,” he says.

“I have seats around the place so you can sit and really appreciate the views, and get a different picture from wherever you are.”
It’s a productive garden, too, with a sunny, tightly planted veggie patch and an abundance of fruit trees.

“On the open weekend, I’ll run competitions for kids 12 and under to find the fruiting trees – there are quince, figs, lemons, limes, cherries, boysenberries, cumquats and three grape varieties,” he says.

“There are also quite a few subtle water features for kids to find.”

22 Irene Avenue, Queanbeyan, open 10am-4pm, on Saturday, November 21 and Sunday, November 22. Admission $8; free to under-18s and Open Gardens Canberra members. It costs $25 to join for free entry to all open gardens 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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