Prickly end to the open gardens scheme

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Jackie Warburton… “I had no idea at the time that it would end up being the last weekend of Open Garden Australia for Canberra.” Photo by Andrew Finch
Jackie Warburton… “I had no idea at the time that it would end up being the last weekend of Open Garden Australia for Canberra.”
Photo by Andrew Finch
WITH a lawn surrounded by cacti, succulents on the roof of the shed and a glasshouse full of the little spiky plants, it’s clear to see where garden owner Jackie Warburton’s heart lies.

As president of the Cactus and Succulent Society of the ACT, Jackie says she was given her first cactus by her father-in-law, Jon, 15 years ago and has collected them ever since.

“I like them because they require minimal care,” says horticulturist Jackie.

“I only water them twice a year, in the heat of summer, and weed every six weeks or so. They flower spectacularly from November to January and pretty much take care of themselves.”

Jackie and Bret’s succulent-filled garden in Oxley will be open on the weekend of May 2-3 for the first time under Open Gardens Australia. Jackie says it has turned out to be a very personal experience as it’s the last weekend of gardens open in Canberra as part of the 27-year-old scheme, and for which she had been a garden selector.

“Although summer is the best time for the succulents, I chose to open the garden at this time of year because everything else would be looking good,” she says.

“I had no idea at the time that it would end up being the last weekend of Open Gardens Australia for Canberra.”

Jackie says that in 2011 when they moved in, the garden was in a pretty poor state as an ex-rental.

“The garden has evolved over the years, and continues to do so, although we haven’t changed much of the actual structure,” she says.

Now as well as the abundance of succulents, there’s “a bit of everything” – an ornamental grapevine, Muscat and seedless black grapes, a conifer garden and natives out the front, several shade houses, a rose garden, a dwarf orchard, a herb garden outside the house, roof succulents on the shed, a hydroponic veggie patch and a cottage garden.

“I like the lawn, as it keeps everything from looking too crowded,” she says. “There’s something to enjoy year-round because of the different areas we’ve created.”

Jackie runs her own gardening maintenance business Terra Solarus, and says she often rescues discarded seed heads through her work, and throws them to the back of her own garden beds to self-seed.

“Once they grow, I move them to a better spot,” she says. “I’m a fan of things self-seeding, which can be seen as lazy gardening but it’s plants for free. I don’t like to see anything go to waste, and I rarely buy seeds, other than heirloom varieties, which I can then propagate.

“The garden is always evolving but I’m satisfied with it. It’s lovely to come home to.

“My personal favourite spot is what I call the glasshouse just off the house, where I keep frost-sensitive cacti. I spend time in there most mornings and on weekends, pottering with the radio on – the weather can be doing anything but it’s always perfect in there.”

Jackie and Bret’s garden, 14 Raphael Close, Oxley, open 10am-4.30pm on the weekend of May 2-3. Admission, $8; under-18s free. Jackie will give talks on growing cacti and succulents at noon and 2pm both Saturday and Sunday, and plants will be available to buy. Jackie’s charity is the Cactus and Succulent Society of the ACT.

Also open…

CHRISTINE’S garden at 48 Weathers Street, Gowrie, was created from scratch with cuttings and pot plants from her previous garden, and is now an inviting oasis. Christine is focusing on the more unusual plants in her garden including a snail creeper, a dove tree, a forest pansy tree, the pretty flowering toad lily and the “strange Amorphophallus Lily with its striking flower but horrible stench”.

Open 10am-3pm, $8, under-18s free. Plants from the garden will be for sale.

Photos by Andrew Finch

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.


  1. I love succulents! I remember my grandmother’s backyard overfilled with so many different kinds I never managed to count the all. You say summer is the best time for succulents, I moved recently to a place where the winter is very cold, so should I plant my succulents outside in the garden (it’s lovely indeed) or is it better to grow them inside? Thank you for the information. Greets!

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