Garden inspiration: a Mount Keira escarpment garden

It's about time to do a 'garden inspiration' post! This wonderful garden is one I've been planning to post about for a while. Nestled into the escarpment slopes in Mount Keira, and with a stream running right through, it makes some of the best use I've seen of local native plants. Owned by Denise and Arthur McConnachie, the garden was originally planted out with advice and plants from Richard Scarborough and Michael Jarman. More recently, it has benefited from design and maintenance work from Kath Gadd of Mallee Designs, together with Owen Cowie from Woolungah Landscaping. From the street front through to the State Conservation Area at the back, it makes the most of local native species.

Low mulched plantings of mixed species including Spiny-headed Mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia) and native vines and grasses by the verge give way to a dense screen of trees further back, almost completely hiding the house from the street.  Image by Tracee Lea ©.

Beneath the trees, shade-tolerant species are used, including Native Violet (Viola hederacea), Red-fruited Saw-sedge (Gahnia aspera) and, further back, Bird's Nest Fern (Asplenium australasicum). Image by Tracee Lea ©.

In the lee of larger sheltering trees, a Bleeding Heart (Homalanthus populfolius) grows happily, while native vines including Kangaroo Vine (Cissus antarctica) ramble along the ground. In the foreground is a recently-pruned Native Hibiscus (H. diversifolius). Image by Tracee Lea ©.

The central part of the garden is narrow as it runs beside the house, but then it widens out into a view that features a wooden bridge, from where you can look down into the shady understorey or up into the canopy. 

Image by Tracee Lea ©.

A mix of ground ferns, tree ferns, palms and saplings grow in the understorey. Image by Tracee Lea ©.

The sstrap-leaved plant in the foreground here is called Settler's Flax (Gymnostachys anceps) and it's a great understorey element, where it will produce flowers and fruit even in the deepest natural shade. With its strong vertical growth and decorative blue-purple fruit, it is an ornamental local species with uses in both informal and formal gardens. Image by Tracee Lea ©.

The back garden more naturalistic, and I'm afraid we were distracted from taking too many photos of the plants by a large and imposing Brush Turkey mound, complete with a little family!
Who needs a compost bin when you have a Brush Turkey mound? Image by Tracee Lea ©.

Proud papa. Image by Tracee Lea ©.

Shy and retiring offspring, well captured by Tracee Lea ©

Not everyone likes having Brush Turkeys rummaging around in their flower beds or making mounds from their mulch, but with a naturalistic garden and plenty of space, they can be accommodated. And they are fascinating creatures to observe, which you can do up fairly close as most are quite tolerant of humans. The population of this species is still recovering in the area, after being hunted by both foxes and cedar-getters from the nineteenth century. Terrill Nordstrom's new book A Guide to Birdlife of the Illawarra Region of NSW includes some fascinating historical quotations and information about this species. For example, it is not known whether the birds observed here today are descended from a pair of birds liberated on Mount Keira in 1948, or from cage escapees in the 1980s (p.26). 

Happy gardening! 

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