Believe it or not, there’s no great mystery when it comes to productive gardens. As long as your soil is rich, you water effectively and keep your eye out for bugs, any productive garden, no matter how small, can be a success story!
Healesville based artist Clare James has a backyard full of veggies, as well as an orchard, a duck house, chook house, tree house, trampoline and more! The garden work is a family affair. The kids are keen assistant vegetable gardeners, and Mark is the chief preserver. ‘I grow the food’ says Clare, and Mark preserves it. ‘He’s good at finishing jobs whereas I’m better at multitasking, which gardening allows me to do.’
Developing her sprawling country garden has been a ‘true adventure’ for artist Criss Canning. ‘It’s been very experimental for us’ she says of Lambley Nursery – a 40-acre property which comprises her husband’s nursery business, as well as the couple’s own impressive country garden and veggie patch.
Matt and Lentil Purbrick are perhaps Melbourne’s ultimate ‘pin-up couple’ for living off the land, having established their own abundantly productive farm in Tabilk, an hour-and-a-half north of Melbourne. The pair is almost entirely self-sufficient, farming 6 acres of vegetables, fruits, flowers, meat, eggs and dairy.
Matt Reed and Michael Morant from Antique Perennials are passionate growers who grow and sell an incredibly diverse range of plants from their nursery in Kinglake, 45 kilometres North East of central Melbourne. ‘The botanical world is vast, and way, way, WAY bigger than we’re led to believe at large hardware store nurseries’ they say. ‘There’s so much more to discover, grow and understand.’
The Northcote home and garden of The Sederof Family is living proof that productivity in the garden need not be limited by square meterage! While their sixty-square-metre garden is relatively small, it grows big things. For instance, 150 eggplants in one season!
One of the most impressive productive gardens we’ve seen in recent years is that of landscape designer Natasha Morgan. At the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, just south of Daylesford, Natasha has nurtured a rundown, rural property into a hub of growth, abundant creativity and community collaboration. Natasha’s garden is a series of long raised beds, overflowing with edibles and flowers, as well as an orchard and berry patch. It overflows with enough vegetables and fruit to feed her family, workshop participants and lucky neighbours.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, is the truly magical home and garden of Ann Sherry and Michael Hogan in Sydney’s inner West. The garden here celebrates and softens the bold grandeur of the historic ‘Abbey’ house. ‘The garden is my thing, more so than the house’ says Ann. ‘I love the separate spaces within it, the flowers, and the beautiful smells. It makes me feel good. I love the fact that I can muck around in it, and that we can eat out of it. It feels as though it wraps the house up somehow. The house is a great building but the garden has finished it.’
And finally, an example that might perhaps ignite nostalgic memories for many of us – the Narre Warren garden of 78-year-old Horst Schoeps – 4000 square metres of lovingly nurtured vegetable gardens, grape vines, landscaped lawns, with swimming pool and pond system complete with rainbow trout (!), an orchard, and chickens! The absolute beauty of this garden is the way it connects the different generations of the Schoeps family. As his daughter says – ‘what I love most about Dad’s garden is that my kids get to come here and be free and wild, just as kids should be, in a garden created by their Papa. There are always new places to explore and create in. It’s a magic garden!’