Margaret Casey lives in Melbourne. She has recently retired and is enjoying the extra time she has to play in her garden and share it with her grandchildren.
First of all how would you describe your garden?
My garden is a broken into areas of native, ornamental and edible. Even though I live in the warm temperate part of Victoria, I have developed a micro-climate in my courtyard where I am able to grow various orchid species along with some subtropical heliconia and costus species which is a delight. I have a productive veggie garden where I spend most of my time and a native garden in the front filled with colour which attracts beautiful native birds and other fauna.
How did you get started in gardening?
When my son was a baby I longed to spend time outside with him and I would potter in the garden and watch him explore, and one thing led to another. I established a fernery to enjoy from my kitchen window and he would keenly watch me and join in trying his hand at planting and digging. As my love of growing things developed, so did his and we spent even more time in the garden. He is now a horticulturist and I am an avid veggie gardener.
What motivates you to get up and garden?
To go out each morning and check what has grown, fruited, changed or been under attack in the garden is a joy. Even weeding now is something I enjoy, as it gives me precious time to switch off and just ‘be’ in my garden and enjoy it for what it is. To be privileged to be sharing my garden with the wildlife that lives there, along with the obvious fitness benefits, is a real gift.
What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your garden? How did you deal with them?
Drought and the heat of Black Saturday set my garden back somewhat. I lost so many plants that were scorched in the heat that I installed 3 new water tanks to add to the existing ones and planted more shade trees for my micro-climate area. Four years on, and the garden is thriving. The tree ferns are lush, sheltered by the native frangipanis that have grown to also protect my pond, fish and precious plants.
What were some of the unexpected benefits from gardening?
To see the waste I throw away turn into the precious black compost that enriches my garden and then to watch my grandchildren sow some seeds in that soil and then enjoy eating the produce that those seeds provide is precious. To share that cycle of use and reuse with them is terrific.
Is there a gardening moment that stands out for you?
When what I thought was a Gymea Lily when I planted it 10 years earlier, flowered and actually turned out to be a Spear Lily with the most spectacular 1 metre long flower that eventually almost touched the pool it was so heavy. That was a surprise worth the 10 year wait!
What has your garden taught you?
For me my garden is my sanctuary. It is the place where I can relax even when working physically hard, and then enjoy the rewards of that labour either by imbibing the beauty or living off the produce and sharing it with others.
If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be?
Oh that’s a hard one. Probably a pumpkin. Rich in colour, robust, able to store for ages and use in so many wonderful ways, warms up the winter time, and loves to wander at will through the garden.
What tips would you offer first time gardeners?
Be patient, start small and enjoy what you do. Eventually the waiting for seeds to sprout, flowers to form and open, communing with nature etc, is all worth the wait, and the enjoyment is immense.