Alison Archbold of Archbold Design and her partner, Charlie Vizy, purchased VizArche, their 9.3-hectare property with its four gum trees and eight bushes, nearly 14 years ago. Charlie’s prowess in construction and Alison’s aptitude to DIY has transformed this space into a garden utopia. Both love gardening and both are artistic, conventionally and otherwise, in everything they do.
As gardens often seem to do, VizArche has evolved without having had a master plan and with most of the hard landscaping and buildings being made from recycled materials. This doesn’t mean a creative and thoughtful process hasn’t gone into the various spaces they have built and continue to build, by any means. Alison and Charlie have also learned to work with the land rather than against it, including its often rocky profile.
Alison said they are aiming for self-sufficiency through growing their own organic food and trees for firewood. Charlie is constantly on the lookout for local trees and shrubs to collect seeds from, which he propagates and plants on the farm.
Vegetables are grown in easy to maintain raised beds made of recycled pallets. Alison has gone from growing a bit of everything to sticking with varieties they eat a lot of and that are highly productive. Several beautiful espaliered fruit trees are planted on the boundary, including a four-way-grafted pear tree.
The area is enclosed to protect it from wildlife, particularly roos, rabbits, parrots and cockatoos. Amusingly, but eternally frustrating for Alison and Charlie, I learnt that kangaroos have target plants which they continually return to and attack after being defeated in battle.
Two thriving beehives are housed nearby, for pollinating the gardens and producing delectable honey. Alison said they haven’t harvested honey for the past two years due to the dry weather and therefore tough conditions. She also said they don’t use pesticides on the property, to protect the bees and other wildlife.
An enchanted Birdhouse Forest and ‘Stumpery’ has been established and includes beautiful old Eucalyptus stumps, salvaged from nearby roadworks and artistically placed using a crane. There is also an area planted with deciduous trees, designed to accentuate the sunlight received during the cooler months.
Some of the many other features throughout the gardens include the glorious crab apple trees which line the driveway, a giant chess set framed by Rosemary ‘Blue Lagoon’, and a horseshoe sculpture created by local metal sculptor, Sue Wilmington.
All gardens are watered by tank water and dripper irrigation systems, a huge timesaver compared to hand watering in the past.
Unsurprisingly, art plays an intrinsic role at VizArche. Alison, a well-known multi-media artist (Trompe-L’oeil, mosaic, ceramics, painting and cards), said art is a great way of adding year-round colour to a gardenscape, an otherwise significant challenge in dry climates such as ours.
Resident alpacas, Dorper sheep, designer chickens and budgerigars also call VizArche home. The team earn their keep by providing manure and entertainment for residents and visitors alike.
VizArche will open its gates on the weekend of 19-20 October 10am-4pm, as part of the Queanbeyan Arts Trail. For more: qprc.nsw.gov.au/Community/Arts-Trail