Open garden / Cottage garden goes back to the future

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Garden designer and caretaker Kevin Jones… “I’ve had years of experience with gardens in Bungendore and I know what works.” Photo: Holly Treadaway

Four gardens in Bungendore will close the spring season for Open Gardens Canberra over the November 23-24 weekend. KATHRYN VUKOVLJAK visits one of them, a sustainable cottage garden…

HARD work, care and attention to detail has gone into creating a sustainable new cottage garden to complement owner Anthea Thomson’s 19th century Bungendore home, “Thornleigh”.

Gardener and caretaker Kevin Jones says he’s included plantings that would have been common when the house was built in the 1860s, many of which were uncovered following tree-felling and soil removal on the site.

The heritage-style garden will be open on the weekend of November 23-24 along with three others in Bungendore; “The Old Stone House” and “Fox’s Folly” on Molonglo Street, and “Fieldstone” on Ellendon Street.

The Bungendore event will close the spring season for Open Gardens Canberra.

Kevin, who planned and designed the garden, says that while he only started planting 18 months ago, it already has an established feel and a sense of heritage character.

The front garden features low-walled beds packed with hollyhocks, foxgloves, lupins, delphinium, larkspur, salvia, valerian and assorted daisies, surrounding a lawn that’s been landscaped so it’s slightly higher on the eastern end to disguise a gradient. 

Kevin says the garden is water wise, with 15,000 litres of rainwater storage. 

“Our first water bill after the plants went in was only $10 a quarter dearer, and that’s thanks to the water tanks,” he says. 

The garden features bulbs, annuals, herbaceous perennials, heritage trees and roses, as well as some rare plants, including Scaevola from the kangaroo paw family, which Kevin says is hard to grow but rewards with the most beautiful purple blossom late in summer.

Visitors will be embraced by the garden as they walk through the front gate, he says, with climbing roses Pierre de Ronsard and Zephirine Drouhin planted across the path, to eventually intermingle over the top of an arch in two shades of pink. 

“Once they grow bigger, the scent will be a knockout,” he says. 

The garden would also have been used to grow produce for home use, so Anthea and Kevin decided to include a potager with herb beds, a wicking bed for veggies, a worm farm, two drums of cured cow poo and a compost heap.

There’s a nursery for ailing plants, such as acidic soil-loving gardenias, daphne, jasminoides and cyclamen, which Kevin says will be transplanted when they start to fare better.  

“The garden is a real passion for me,” says Kevin, “I’ve had years of experience with gardens in Bungendore and I know what works.”

“Thornleigh”, 21 Forster Street, Bungendore, open 10am-4pm, Saturday, November 23 and Sunday, November 24.  Four gardens are open from 10am to 4pm. It costs $15 to visit them all, including a map; $8 for one garden. Free to under-18s and Open Gardens Canberra members. Funds raised will go to the Bungendore Community Foundation. 

It costs $25 to join Open Gardens Canberra and gain free entry to all open gardens until August 31. Visit opengardenscanberra.org.au/members

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

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