Open garden / Where natives, veggies and birds abound

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Isobel Crawford… “Having manageable sections makes the garden feel less overwhelming.”

WHILE Isobel Crawford’s garden is densely screened from the street by wattles, tea trees and casuarinas, the cucumber and zucchini growing at the front door give a hint of what lies behind.

With predominantly veggies thriving in the back garden, garden owner and botanist Isobel says she created the garden in 2002 when the build of her solar-passive house was complete.

“In a way it was carte blanche to create whatever I wanted, because it’s very sad what happens to gardens when you build a house,” she says.

This lush, green Dickson garden will be open to the public for the first time through Open Gardens Canberra on the weekend of March 4-5.

Isobel says there wasn’t much in the garden to begin with, so she divided the space in the back into raised beds, with distinct paths laid with fake grass between them leading to the water tanks and the shed/studio, or “shedio”, in the back.

“I find that having manageable sections makes the garden feel less overwhelming,” she says.

“The raised beds are all different shapes, and even if it all needs doing you can complete one and it’s helpful, it lifts the burden somehow.”

Isobel says she’s self-sufficient for water, with 24,000-litre and 7000-litre tanks that also create thermal mass and have helped her orange tree survive winters.

There’s broccoli, cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes, basil, capsicum, eggplant, pumpkin, corn, lima beans, snake beans, rosemary, as well as satsumas, plums, apricots – and chickens – in her nearby rental property.

Isobel says she loves being largely self-sufficient for veggies, but also enjoys the bird life that visit her garden. She says she has taken care to place bird baths in hidden-away spots so the smaller birds will come.

“I made an effort not to grow nectar-producing plants, so instead of honeyeaters we get brown thornbills, superb fairy-wrens and white-browed scrub wrens,” she says.

Gardening is therapeutic, Isobel says, and she likes nothing better than to escape to the garden and potter around.

“I find the most useful time in the garden is a gentle potter with a cup of tea, when you deal with any weeds or issues there and then,” she says.

18 Dutton Street, Dickson, open 10am-4pm, on Saturday, March 4, and Sunday, March 5. Admission $8; free to under-18s and Open Gardens Canberra members. It costs $25 to join Open Gardens Canberra and gain free entry to all open gardens until August 31. More information at

Also open March 3-4: 28 Marrakai Street, Hawker


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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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