Open garden / Emma’s garden where the children play

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LARGE deciduous trees frame and shade Emma Kain’s garden, where the focus is on fun and creativity for her three children, aged 10, eight and six.

“The kids love being out in the garden, and they love climbing trees, building cubbies and growing veggies – they have access to materials such as tools, timber, bricks and mesh so they can use their imagination to create whatever they like,” she says.

Emma Kain… “I’ve always kept busy around the kids when they’re playing outside.”

Emma says the liquid amber and gum trees dwarf everything in the front, but she has a combination of natives and exotic plants and vast amounts of edibles in the back, including grapes, persimmon, pomegranate, lime, mandarin, quince, apple, elderflower and plums, as well as the kids’ personal veggie patches.

This playful, productive and drought-hardy Holt garden will be open to the public for the first time through Open Gardens Canberra on the weekend of April 29-30.

With a huge “anti-aviary” protecting the veggie patch from bowerbirds, a slide from the deck, rope swings under the giant golden elm and a huge sandpit, as well as access to a public green space next door, Emma says it’s a garden for imaginative, organic play, as well as work.

“I’ve always kept busy around the kids when they’re playing outside, so they see me doing physical work and it teaches them to be busy too,” she says.

Emma says the kids love to build and create hiding places, and have built their own treehouse of sorts in the quince tree. As they’re getting older, she allows them the freedom to play in the green space next door, which she has cleared, worked on and planted over the years.

“At first, the compromise was that I’d garden while they played, so I started to clean up the weeds around the logs and rocks, and then we gradually planted bits and pieces out there, including crabapple trees and some cuttings from plants that had proved to be pretty tough.

“I grew up on a farm so we wanted the kids to have something close to that experience.”

Emma says she loves the relaxed garden, with its foliage contrast, perennials and extreme shade, even though it means they can’t grow many sun-loving plants.

“Regardless of the weather, we spend most of our time out here as a family, playing, relaxing, working or pottering, all year round,” she says.

50 Lindrum Crescent, Holt, open 10am-4pm, on Saturday, April 29, and Sunday, April 30. Admission $8; free to under-18s and Open Gardens Canberra members. Proceeds in aid of the Orana Steiner School.

Emma will also host a compost-building workshop. More information at

Also open…

“Woowoolahra”, 6 London Bridge Road, Burra, NSW, 10am-4pm, on April 29-30.

A CLASSIC garden of beautifully constructed rock walls dividing “rooms” in a mature garden where lovely old trees embrace lawns and frame valley views. A 40-metre rose arbour and berry garden enclosed with espaliered fruit trees are wonderful features of this garden. Huge deciduous trees create an autumn display. Morning and afternoon tea and lunch is available in aid of the Cancer Support Group.


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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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