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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Blank canvas to native beauty

Dave and Kaye Bishop have lived at their Yass, NSW property for a mere four years, and what has been achieved in the garden during this time is simply incredible. Aside from a couple of once-were poplar trees and a whole bunch of grassy weeds, the gently sloping, 1,800sqm urban block was an otherwise blank canvas when they first moved there from rural South Australia.

Before designing the garden and dry creek riverbeds, Dave observed the position of the sun throughout the year, the lay of the land, and also the flow of water during rainfall.

They initially imported soil for garden beds from their local landscape yard, which are now seasonally topped up with mulch from garden prunings. Boundary garden beds were deep ripped to break the compaction layer, promote plant growth and maximise aeration and water/nutrient absorption. Open areas, dry creek beds and some paths were covered with river pebbles.

This wonderful garden boasts almost exclusively Australian native plants, except for a Claret Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia ‘Raywood’), grown to let in the winter sunlight, and a self-sown Seaside Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), perfectly complementary with nearby plantings.

Dave said he developed a passion for growing and propagating Australian natives after spending 2.5 years in botanically devoid Antarctica for work. On his return, he promptly visited his local garden centre where he was encouraged to go native. Dave’s healthy obsession for propagating and growing Emu Bushes (Eremophila) began directly after – there are 57 species growing in their garden so far.

Dave has sourced an enviable collection of plants and cutting material for the garden from specialist garden centres, collectors and gardens past.

Large growing shrubs and small trees have been planted within the property boundary to protect smaller and more sensitive plants from winter frosts and wind. Some of my favourite plants growing, aside from the Emu Bushes of course, were Allocasuarina verticillata and A. littoralis,Banksia robur, Chrysocephalum apiculatum (grey leaf form), Eucalyptus albopurpurea and E. pulverulenta, Hakea sericea, Isopogon formosus and Vanilla lily (Arthropodium milleflorum).

To begin with, invasive grassy weeds were controlled with herbicide spray, but are now only occasionally seen and then removed by hand. Plants are watered by hand using tank, mains and occasionally bore water. Dave said most plants are drought tolerant and usually only require additional water during establishment. No fertilisers are used.

When Dave isn’t pottering in the home garden, he volunteers and contributes to several organisations, such as Yass Landcare and the National Botanic Gardens seed bank.

A standout is Dave’s energy and motivation to share his knowledge and reverence of Australian native plants; he runs native plant propagation classes for anybody interested. Dave and Kaye have also opened the garden to several garden clubs and a steady stream of enthusiasts, myself included. Check out Dave’s FB page: YASS Australian Native Plants.

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