Find fresh inspiration from gardens designed to handle drought

Find fresh inspiration from gardens designed to handle drought


Life & Style
Bergenia, lomandra, salvias and Artemisia arboresens in the garden at Blundells Cottage, Canberra.

Bergenia, lomandra, salvias and Artemisia arboresens in the garden at Blundells Cottage, Canberra.

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One of the best things gardeners can do is to start looking seriously at gardens that were planned with low maintenance in mind.

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Next time you're visiting Canberra, take a walk along the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin.

Turn into Wendouree Drive below Parkes Way and look for Blundells Cottage, a small, nineteenth century stone dwelling set among slab sheds, built in 1860 for Duntroon's head ploughman, William Ginn and his family.

Since 1999 the cottage has been managed by the National Capital Authority (NCA) as a house museum, but on a recent walk it was the surrounding garden that caught my eye.

Only a small area is cultivated but it's an excellent example of a low-maintenance garden in a climate with hot, dry summers and frosty winters.

One of the best things gardeners can do is to start looking seriously at gardens that were planned with low maintenance in mind.

Let's face it, the forthcoming summer is going to test most of us.

But we can all have attractive and inviting gardens that don't need insane quantities of water - it just takes a bit more planning.

There's little point looking to our traditional sources of inspiration, the gardens of Britain and northern Europe, we must turn rather to southern European, Californian and Australian gardens, especially outback gardens, that were designed to handle drought.

The little garden at Blundells cottage might be small but it's full of excellent ideas.

It is shaded by evergreen loquat trees (Eriobotrya japonica) from southern China, with large, oval, pointed dark green leaves.

One of the best things gardeners can do is to start looking seriously at gardens that were planned with low maintenance in mind. - Fiona Ogilvie

White flowers are followed by dark gold berries in autumn.

The garden's plan consists of small lawns interspersed with paving and gravel, and beds with simple combinations of mostly foliage plants.

It's hard for us to give up lawns, just looking at green grass makes you feel cool on a hot day, but you don't need acres.

A small patch near your outdoor eating area satisfies the eye, and elsewhere you can use various combinations of gravels and pavers, with linking paths made from flat stones set in gravel.

Continuing the green theme, there are plenty of tough plants with cool, green leaves once you start looking.

Look for a variety of shapes - tall, rounded, horizontal - with narrow, lacy or plain leaves in different textures.

Highlight with splashes of silver and grey.

I'm looking out for interesting plants that I can propagate now, to fill the gaps I'll be facing next autumn.

Home propagation makes it easy to have swathes of the same plant rather than a cottage-style patchwork.

Hardy shrubs include Anisodontea capensis with shiny green leaves and pink flowers, any of the evergreen Californian lilacs (Ceanothus) with true blue flowers, Hibiscus syriacus, and autumn colouring ceratostigma, also with blue flowers.

Slender leaves of ornamental grasses contrast the rounded masses of shrubs.

The lomandra, poa, stipa and miscanthus genera offer a wide choice from ground covers to hedge height and above.

Blundells Cottage, Wendouree Dr, Parkes ACT 2600 is open 10am to 2pm every Saturday (except Christmas and Boxing Days).

Details phone: 02 6272 2902, email: nce@nca.gov.au/

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