Gardening with George Hoad, president of the Garden Clubs of Australia

Sophie Thomson’s quirky Adelaide Hills garden ‘The Patch’ combines beauty and practicality with a raised veggie garden, unusual succulent plantings, mixed grasses and interesting objects scattered throughout.
Sophie Thomson’s quirky Adelaide Hills garden ‘The Patch’ combines beauty and practicality with a raised veggie garden, unusual succulent plantings, mixed grasses and interesting objects scattered throughout.

Hello garden lovers and greetings for 2019!

As usual, the weather over the past 12 months has been a mixed bag of heat waves, devastating winds, prolonged dry spells and the odd deluge of rain – who knows what the next year will hold!

As seasoned gardeners we take it all in our stride and when the good days are with us – we enjoy every moment!

Over the past year, in my role as president of the Garden Clubs of Australia, I travelled the country, dropping in on numerous clubs and visiting many members’ gardens.

The range of styles, size and conditions all varied greatly but the one thing that unifies them all is the passion shown by the owners.

From a collection of potted succulents and cacti in western NSW to a rainbow coloured cottage garden in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia to a tropical oasis on Norfolk Island – the styles are worlds apart but the love and attention shown to every nook and cranny of the garden is the same.

Sophie’s succulent portrait.

Sophie’s succulent portrait.

Gardens and gardening styles are always evolving – to some, what was fashionable 5 years ago is already overdue for an update.

Gardens of course continue grow, sometimes in unpredictable ways, they age and plants die. I like to think of us country folk as a little more practical and down to earth when it comes to our gardens – not prone to the whims of fashion. When we create a garden it’s generally planned to last for many years, if not our lifetime.

But every now and then a new idea comes along that can be adapted to solve that problem corner of the garden or sad area we all have. Here’s a few I picked up on my travels.

Most of us have a veggie patch in our gardens and it can be big or small or even the entire garden. Something I have noticed is the popularity of the courtyard veggie patch using recycled pots, garbage bins, rubber boots, kitchen utensils – anything that holds soil and grows edible produce. To assist this trend is the availability of miniature or dwarf varieties that happily grow in a confined space.

I mentioned succulents earlier and they have made a comeback as a ‘must have’ garden plant. They look good collected together in pots, in a rock garden or raised bed. Mostly they can cope with the heat and dry of recent years but be warned if a frost is predicted – cover or move your pots or you may lose the lot – I speak from experience!

Water features are still as popular as ever and most gardens I visit have a pond, a fountain or at least a bird bath. Given our often dry conditions, I’m sometimes amazed at the use of water features in gardens, especially fountains but nothing beats the sound of trickling, splashing, gushing water echoing throughout the space.

George enjoying a sort of 'Forest Bathing’ in his garden!

George enjoying a sort of 'Forest Bathing’ in his garden!

Ornamental grasses and strappy leafed plants have been big in gardens overseas for many years and I’m starting to see more used here, especially in the drier parts and parks and public gardens. They come in all colours and sizes, some perfect for small gardens. My favourite is the variegated form of Lomandra longifolia, commonly called basket or mat rush.

But my favourite new idea for us gardeners is ‘Forest Bathing’ – forest what you may ask? Developed in Japan, Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing is where you take a walk in the forest (or bush in Australia) to refresh your inner being. Owning a large country garden as I do, I have been bathing for years – who’d have known! And I don’t even need to take a towel!

Happy gardening,

George Hoad​

George is president of the Garden Clubs of Australia