One man’s rubbish is another’s garden feature

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The only limit is the imagination when it comes to repurposing old “rubbish” into a unique feature for the garden, says gardening writer CEDRIC BRYANT.

An old gate transformed into a mirror frame.

SOMETIMES the simplest items used as a garden feature make the biggest impact.

Whether found on the side of the road or bought at The Green Shed, it’s a case of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, as the saying goes. Two of the gates in our garden are examples of this, when garden-renovation clients asked me to throw out “rubbish” for them. One was a traditional front gate that I used in its original rusted state. I saw an identical gate in a Bathurst garden transformed into a mirror mounted on a wall (right), which is a great way to make a small garden look bigger.

Wrought-iron panels dating from 1899 were used in this gate.

In the 1950s, the then Yass Shire Council decided to modernise the town and ordered all verandahs in the main street above the shops to be pulled down. Most had historic wrought-iron panels dating back to the late 1800s, many of which were cast in Britain and brought out as ballast on sailing ships with wheat and wool on the return journey.

Illustrated here (left) are two panels I rescued in Yass, dated 1899, which I incorporated into our front gates. I’ve also seen old rusty bicycles as a feature in gardens with the front basket planted with flowers. There is no limit to your imagination at minimal, if any, cost.

Mushroom warning signs have been placed near oak and silver birch trees.

MUSHROOMS are springing up in many gardens and parks, from horrible-looking black ones to pretty red ones with white spots that look straight out of a fairytale. In Britain and Europe, it’s a popular Sunday pastime to go mushrooming, however be warned! We’ve had poisonous death cap varieties growing here. Warning signs have been placed particularly near oak and silver birch trees, as seen here (right) in Watson. I’d recommend not to pick any mushrooms in the wild, and to make children aware not to touch them, no matter how pretty they appear. In Canberra, unfortunately, we have had deaths from people eating wild mushrooms.

There is a wonderful range of edible mushrooms at the Capital Region Farmers Market at EPIC, as well as truffles, another fungus which grows in association with oak trees. We have several oak plantations on truffle farms in the district, often grown with hazelnut trees.

ANOTHER warning in association with oak trees at this time of the year: acorns. These are thick on many footpaths and roads. Please be careful, especially those with a walking disability, as these are extremely hard and slippery and can roll underfoot easily, causing a fall.

BEES are environmental champions and one of our ecosystem’s most important pollinators. They are responsible for much of our food supply and are essential to sustain life on earth. 

Yet bee populations have been in decline for years, often due to the increase of chemical sprays, as well as forest and tree clearing, as is still happening in Queensland. 

However, in the home garden we can play our part by not using chemical fertilisers and sprays and planting bee-friendly flowers. 

Quoting the Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka: “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

FINALLY, congratulations to the committee and members of the Belconnen Garden Club for keeping in touch with each other during the lockdown. Every few days emails are circulated containing everything from garden hints to cartoons, jokes and poems to keep spirits up. 


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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.


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