Low-care ‘town garden’ of year-round colour 

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Liz Baker…“We like to do all the garden work ourselves, so we wanted to keep it low maintenance.” Photo: Holly Treadaway.

JOHN and Liz Baker are no strangers to warmly welcoming people into their gardens.

They’ve hosted numerous open-garden events over the years, but for the first time the couple will share their low-maintenance Griffith “town garden” as part of Open Gardens Canberra on the weekend of April 24-25. 

Cleverly designed to provide colour and interest year-round, using a combination of flowering shrubs, perennials, bulbs and roses in shades of pink, purple, blue and white in co-ordinated colour palettes, the garden was established by John and Liz 11 years ago.

They say they learned everything from establishing three other gardens, particularly their “gorgeous old country garden”, Old Graham, near Cowra, which they created over more than 20 years and often opened to the public under the Open Garden Scheme or for local fundraisers.

“We’re in our mid-70s now, and we like to do all the garden work ourselves, so we wanted to keep this garden, where we plan to stay, low maintenance, choosing mulch, drippers and no lawn,” says Liz.

The couple designed and established the Griffith garden themselves, apart from building the stone walls and putting in the paths, and say they like neat lines with touches of whimsy. Several sculptural bird baths attract scrub wrens, fairy wrens and magpies.

John and Liz are art collectors, filling the space with sculptures by Sian Watson, Greg Johns, Michael Le Grand and Patricia Lawrence, as well as works by students from the ANU’s School of Art and Design – and a flock of ceramic chooks, “the perfect low-maintenance pets”!

“There are nooks and crannies, with secret paths leading around the garden and art to be uncovered,” Liz says. 

“Children love the winding stepping stones in the front garden, and spotting the iron snail sculptures there.”

Trees include magnolia, Japanese flowering crabapple, cherry and crepe myrtles. David Austin roses are much-loved, plus bearded iris, hellebores, bergenia and camellia sasanqua “Yuletide”, with its Christmassy blooms. 

The block is divided at the back by a trellis that conceals the productive veggie garden, fig tree, blueberries, Seville orange, blood orange and mandarin trees, a potting area and newly established espaliered fruit trees – Josephine pear; apricot, Pink Lady/Gala, white peach/yellow plum and kiwi fruit vines. 

“I love making jams and marmalade, so I wanted to replicate the fruit trees from Old Graham here,” says Liz.

The Baker garden, 20 Wells Gardens, Griffith, open 10am-4pm over the weekend of April 24-25. Entry $10, children under 18 free. Book at  Eventbrite. There will be no ticket sales or memberships available at the gate. Join Open Gardens Canberra for $30 and all gardens are free for a year.

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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