Recently, I found more photos when sorting through some dusty boxes, so I hope you don’t mind me taking you on the occasional trip down (my) memory lanes?
And, apologies now, for I tend to ramble along these lanes…
Once again, these photos were scanned on various devices – it would be another five years before I “went digital”.
We left my dear Secret Hollow, to move to the city, where school and work opportunities were more plentiful.
After renting for a time, we found that buying an existing house was out of our financial reach – real estate in the city was enjoying a “boom period” and was highly inflated.
So, our best option was to “block & build” in a new suburban estate. Not something we really relished – living cheek by jowl on small blocks, surrounded by cookie cutter, off-the-plan homes and McMansions with tiny, unappealing, bland gardens – you know, the handkerchief lawn, bordered by low “strappy” plants en masse.
Looking down the endless streets, houses and front gardens all looked so similar, and sadly devoid of character.
We came to call them “Stepford suburbs”.
And, we country bumpkins did not fit their mold.
Many subdivisions were built on what was considered by property developers to be, “poor land to be reclaimed”.
Ours was one of them.
|our small portion on the corner|
So much native bush has been lost to metropolitan areas.
What was once diverse open woodland - important habitat for marsupials, and birds such as black cockatoos (red tailed and white tailed – now endangered), was totalled. The land bulldozed. The soil eroded, leaving nothing behind. The fragile structure weakened without its topsoil and root network. It became arid and unproductive. Not even a hardy weed dare grow.
Primed for new housing...
For me, the transition from bountiful old growth forest to barren building block wasn’t easy… to say the least.
After living where space and privacy wasn’t an issue, I felt disconsolate and depressed.
Hemmed in and claustrophobic, staring at blank metal fences, and smothered by the oppressive heat. Not a tree for shade in sight.
I so missed my little country cottage and gardens. Tears flowed every day.
As the foundation was laid, the house built and fences went up, available land for a garden shrunk before my eyes.
For ages, I refused to acknowledge the wasteland outside.
What could I do with a small block, bound on three sides and endless, dry deep sand that held no water or nutrients for any length of time?
There was nothing. Not even a living twig on our block. The slightest wind whipped up mini dunes onto every windowsill and at each door.
When I studied the
Judging by the established properties nearby, the (temporary) remedy was to pour litres of water every other day onto lawns and border plants to keep them green. But, in summer, even a few days of missed watering would begin to render their feeble green patch, light brown, as precious moisture drained deep into the earth with no substance to hold it.
After observation, it seemed few people – in our street at least – did very little to truly nourish the soil. Much chemical fertilizing, and a lot of water, seemed to be the order of the day.
Oh yes, and starkly coloured inorganic pebbles, were the fashionable “mulch”.
Natural mulch, was seen as “messy”.
With such poor, depleted soil, there had to be another solution.
Hard work, and the introduction of copious amounts of manure, compost, wet newspapers, straw and layers of natural mulch.
Gradually, inspiration rose in me, like sap through a tree. Once again, I felt the need to create a new garden.
But, this one had to be different.
I decided that I wanted to give back to the area, which was once wilderness. An oasis that would encourage wildlife to return. A shelter in a suburb.
I also knew that, to help drown out the sounds of the city - which I found difficult to come to terms with - I wanted falling water of some sort. A fountain or waterfall perhaps?
I drew up plans for our garden to be. It was to feature a pond and waterfall, in the hopes of bringing the frogs and lizards back.
In the following months, we collected rocks, advertised for sale in the local paper. Oh, so many rocks.
And, in February 2006, work began.
After consulting with hubby, he agreed that I could include a “jetty” made of old railway sleepers in my plans.
The hunt for (seconds) sleepers was on, and we stockpiled until we had enough.
With his incredible skills in interpreting my vision of a walkway out to the pond, hubby measured and cut and made a wonderfully rustic, “old” landing.
His beautiful structure gave instant age and character.
I adored that old sleeper jetty.
And, I adore my clever hubby for making it ♥♥
I wish we could’ve taken it all the way across Australia with us when we moved…
Digging the pond was an almost Herculean effort – for every shovel full of sand removed, it seemed two would fall back in place. Even when we hosed it down for stability, the sand would threaten to crumble, and was heavier to move.
Hubby and I worked tirelessly, digging and barrowing. When he returned to work, I continued to dig on my days off, and slowly, the hole grew and was shaped into what I hoped would look like a natural billabong.
Our stock of rocks anchored the edge of the durable lining – the larger ones were carefully placed to create a waterfall ledge.
With our backs and arms sorely tested, the hardest part was done.
Once filled, the pond began to draw many tiny insects to the water, and with them, came the lizards, then the birds.
And, the myriad dragonflies were a delightful bonus.
Watching them hover and flit and skim the sparkling surface was mesmerising.
Once the soil began to build up and planting was underway, the previously dead air in our yard, buzzed with tangible energies ~ from the water, the ageless rocks, the old, dense wood, the now rich, fertile, teeming soil, the plants, animals, insects and birds.
Life was returning to this tiny barren world.
Early the following season, we heard our first frog call late one evening – a very welcome sound that brought tears to my eyes.
My vision of an oasis - a sanctuary, not only for us, but for local wildlife - was fulfilled.
On that small block, I created a green haven, with hidden paths and surprises around each corner, making it seem much bigger than it really was. Such was the illusion.
|a love of mine ~ the green man ~ a welcome, watchful spirit of place|
|I carved this bird bath from a limestone block... in my spare time ;)|
|our very heavy stone garden guardian has travelled with us from place to place and across the country - he's a member of the family now :)|
In time, a garden creates its own secrets. If you let it…
A small vegetable/herb plot was built at the other end of the yard by the washing line.
|a small array of herbs flourished under charming Crepuscule rose|
|in between chores, I quickly painted a blue wren to honour our old home in the country, and to welcome all birds|
Then, we turned our attention to the patio area...
They say, "there's no rest for the wicked". We must be very wicked indeed, for we worked feverishly - yet loved every minute, as we reaped the rewards our garden gave us :)
A screen, and much planting, was required to detract from the bare fence, and near proximity of the new house being built next door. Soon, there would be no more sky.
Here, I had the opportunity to add some visual pop to contrast with the cool greens.
In the harsh, glaring light of summer - and even in winter's grey gloom - the intense, saturated hues suited this area well.
|our official site supervisor xx|
I wanted to create a pleasant outlook from the kitchen window, making cooking and washing up a joy, not an eyesore.
Leftover sleepers made the perfect edging.
And, the chance purchase of a peaceful soul, completed the scene.
The partly shaded wall ruled out full-sun loving native plants, so graceful Golden Palms lent an exotic atmosphere, as the long arching fronds rustled deliciously in the breeze... piña colada anyone? :)
|view from the kitchen|
At any time of day, the sound of water cascading over rocks into the cool pool below, was heavenly. A very welcome respite in the often unbearable heat of Western Australian summers.
And all the while, the garden continued grow. Luscious and full.
|path leading from the veggie garden back towards the pond|
|eternally fascinated by the goldfish, yet never attempting to dive in - just keeping an eye on their safety :)|
As I look back over these images, it’s hard for me to believe that this garden was conceived, achieved and established in just under two years. It's true!
But then, we can’t take all the credit. Australian native plants are incredibly generous in their growth. I simply helped them along with love and care.
A beautiful, compatible, symbiotic human/environment relationship.
|under the dome - looking out|
Once again - not long after the final established photos were taken - we moved, in late 2008.
And left a vibrant green legacy behind.
Like Secret Hollow, I miss this garden terribly also.
I don’t miss the burgeoning, busy suburbs, or the traffic on our busy street, or the long, hot West Coast summers.
But that lush, cool, peaceful patch of paradise… yes. Very much so.
As we look to a new property sometime in the near future, I take with me the knowledge - and the hope - that once again I’ll design, and we’ll create, yet another garden for the heart, mind and soul to benefit human and non-human.
Sanctuary for all.