Garden inspiration: a Mount Pleasant rainforest haven

I had the great pleasure recently of wandering round a garden in the upper reaches of Mount Pleasant, helping the owners learn more about the ecology of the land they care for. It's an astonishing spot, directly adjacent to the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area, and still home to many native fauna species including local yabbies. 
The creek that meanders through the lower garden is home to a host of indigenous fern species, up to and including the large Bird's Nest Fern (Asplenium australasicum) and tall Straw Tree Ferns (Cyathea cooperi), which help stabilise the creek bank. We counted about ten indigenous fern species on the block. (NB some species visible in this picture aren't indigenous.)
One inspiring thing about visiting local gardens is seeing how well they can support natural regeneration processes, with a rich native seed bed and regular visits from birds resulting in a wide range of indigenous seedlings popping up. In this case the owners, Gerard and Sheila, have been actively working to protect the seedlings, and the result is a garden with high and increasing (plant) species diversity. 

As well as many rainforest species, there were also some massive Blackbutts (Eucalyptus pilularis) and and Turpentines (Syncarpia glomulifera), plus a few other species characteristic of the wet sclerophyll (Eucalypt) forest. 
The tall Euc here is a Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis), while the understorey is quite a mix of natives and exotics.  
Below the Blackbutt is growing one of the largest Narrow-leafed Geebungs (Persoonia linearis) I've seen in this area. It's massive, and the distinctive dark flaky bark with rusty-orange tones underneath is clearly visible. This particular Geeing had a lot of fruit on it, not yet ripe, but hanging there in gorgeous greenish bunches. 
OK OK I can't resist sharing a shot of the Geeing fruit, nestled in among the long narrow leaves that give this species its common name. I'd love to see it growing in gardens all over Mount Pleasant, and wherever else in the escarpment foothills it'd be happy to live. 
The garden is an interesting mix of formal lawns and beds and less formal areas. The spot pictured below has a fairly formal aspect, with the Settlers Flax (Gymnostachys anceps) providing a vertical element in the central bed, and low Prickly Rasp Ferns growing around them (see following shot). The leaves of the Settlers Flax seem to be aligning with (?) echoing (?) the tall trunks of Blackbutts and Turpentines in the background.   

Prickly Rasp Fern (Doodia aspera) doing what it does best. 
A particular delight of this garden was the huge number of native seedlings popping up. They don't yet contribute to the structure or overall look of the garden, but they will do in years to come. 
Classic rainforest pioneer, Bleeding Heart (Homalanthus populifolius) coming up to wreck the symmetry and order of the garden bed picture above!

This seedling is one I've never seen in a garden before! It's a Hairy Psychotria (P. loniceroides) just hanging out happily in a dry rock wall. The recent La NiƱa sequences seems to have given this species a bit of a chance to recover from drought conditions, so it will be interesting to see how the new plants go over the next few years. Hairy Psychotria can grow to around 3m tall and has gorgeous translucent green-yellow fruit. 
Last but not least, a young Native Tamarind (Diploglottis australis) growing happily in the understorey. This may eventually become a large and handsome tree. 
There was so much else to see in this garden, I think I got a bit distracted and forgot to take enough photos! But if you're in Mount Pleasant, this is the kind of thing you could get going without buying in any plants. Just let them grow themselves! 
The Straw Tree Ferns (Cyathea cooperi) were a conspicuous element along the creek. 

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