The last two times Jerry Coleby-Williams garden, Bellis was open to the public I couldn’t attend. When I had found out that it would be open to the public again, I marked it down in my calendar and told myself that I would definitely go. It was going to be on Mother’s Day weekend as well so to visit was to be a Mother’s Day pressie to myself. Open Gardens Australia organised this event. Unfortunately, they are winding up their operations so this might be my last chance to visit Bellis. Even more reason to attend!
I visited the garden on a Saturday. It was a beautiful day for the trip with sunny and mild weather. We arrived around lunch time. I had planned to get there for the 10 am opening but glad I didn’t. As I paid my entry fee, I was told I arrived at a perfect time. At 10am there was a long queue. This was one time where my lateness served me well!
It was crowded in Bellis. The garden was designed for three housemates and a dog so having a few hundred people come through meant there might be some gridlock! But this was ok. I took the opportunity of being still to slow down. Observe and appreciate what was growing in the beds, discovering all the different elements with my little one and having a chat with a few people along the way.
We discovered four sugarbag bee hives amongst the garden. Barbed wire formed into a ball. Butter beans and cobs of corn hiding amongst the leaves. Agave with a spiky colourful leaf margin. Flowering radicchio.
The diversity of what was being grown was what I loved. If you looked closely at the garden beds, there were volunteer seedlings of different types of mizuna and amaranth. Edible food plants that weren’t your traditional crops. A rare type of corn was being grown – this corn no longer grows in the wild.
This diversity attracts all sorts of insect visitors to this garden. Jerry keeps a record of all the species of insects that he discovers in his garden. New species have also been identified at Bellis. You can check it out Jerry’s observations at Bowerbird.
At the centre of the Bellis, is a magnificent Pandanus Tree. I love Pandanus trees! Under this tree was Jerry sharing his experiences with the crowd. As a gardener who doesn’t have the extensive experience that Jerry has, I was grateful for being able to sit under the Pandanus tree while listening to the knowledge that was being shared with us.
My little one, Akasha also got to ask Jerry a question about something she had seen in his garden. Jerry took the time to get down to her level and enthusiastically explained what a slime mold was. She told her brother as soon as she walked in the door when we got back home, that she saw a slime mold. She will have fond memories of this day.
Bellis’ biodiversity is what inspires me to explore ideas of what I can do in my garden. Getting to meet Jerry was the equivalent of my friend meeting her favourite rock star. (When I said I was visiting Jerry Coleby William’s garden – she didn’t know who he was!) I felt a bit star stuck!
Spending a few hours exploring this awesome garden was the best way to spend a Saturday. I came home with a piece of Jerry’s garden with me – I bought a chocolate pudding fruit tree, a pepino bush, four season herb plant, a jar of Siam Gold Chilli jam and stinking roger seeds on the way out. I also went away with some great ideas such as using sweet potato as a groundcover on my nature strip and increasing the diversity of plants that I grow.
Thank you Jerry for opening your garden to us. (I know it must have taken a beating! I saw some plants along the path in your front garden a bit squished.) The joy and connection that was created by your generosity with your time and spirit was apparent to me when I looked around that day at everyone smiling, exploring and chatting with each other. It was awesome!
Were you also visiting Jerry’s garden? Or have you been there before? What were your experiences – we would love to hear them! Please let us know in the comments below!
If you like to know more about Jerry’s garden, visit his website – Jerry Coleby-Williams, Sustainable Gardening in our Continually Surprising Climate.