Get active: lively up your verge!

There's some good news for residents of the Wollongong local government area: the local council has released some verge garden guidelines, finally giving residents certainty about what is considered good practice in the area.

Released on 16 October, the guidelines provide instructions, diagrams and illustrations of suitable designs for verge gardens, plus a few easy 'rules' to make sure you develop a verge garden that adheres to the guidelines. The rules are common-sense rules such as consulting with neighbours, checking for services before you get started, and staying safe. They adhere to widely-used Australian verge garden conventions such as a 1.2m wide grassed or mulched strip along the verge for pedestrians to use, and 600m of low-growing plants alongside the road to allow people to get in and out of cars. 

If you are looking for inspiration, Wollongong Council is also developing some demonstration verge gardens. So far, gardens have been established at Coledale Community Hall (native garden) and Port Kembla Community Centre (mixed produce garden). More are on the way, including at Kemblawarra Community Hall and Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre. You can find details here

From little things...the new plants in the Coledale Community Hall verge garden. Image by Emma Rooksby. 

The guidelines don't allow for every context and situation (verges that are on a slope can be challenging to manage while complying, particularly ones that slope both along their length and across their width). But you have to start somewhere, and this is a pretty good start. 

As a bonus, Wollongong Council also has 20 $250 Connecting Neighbours Grants on offer for residents to buy native plants from the Botanic Garden's GreenPlan Nursery. 

For some further inspiration, 'On the verge' by Simon Pawley in Renew's Sanctuary magazine has some great images and suggestions, although not all the gardens pictured comply with Wollongong Council's guidelines. Many other local properties already have established verge gardens that are worth a look. A couple of images are included below to get you thinking. 
A verge garden featuring a crushed gravel path and 99% local natives. The trees are some of the tough local rainforest trees such as Whalebone Tree (Streblus brunonianus) and Muttonwood (Myrsine variabilis.) Understorey plantings include Dianella species and a number of grasses and ferns. Image by Emma Rooksby. 

An established verge garden with a large Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus), probably planted in the 1970s when this species was 'all the rage.' Image by Emma Rooksby. 

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