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  • Writer's pictureAnnemarie Bolduc

Our Eclectic Garden

Updated: Feb 6

Let’s have a first wander in our garden, and start with the original established plants and trees.

Bottlebrush front tree • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2017

In 2017, we bought our home in Tumbarumba, a charming little town in a cool climate wine-growing region by the Snowy Mountains. It was love at first sight for the 1940s partly renovated little white bungalow and the quarter-acre garden with established trees, shrubs and floral patches. The place is at the edge of town with a view of some land and hills... which compensated for the fact we could not afford a hobby farm. The first year, I was so fascinated to see what was popping up in the yard each season. I'm still just blown away to be living in a botanical garden with such eclectic plants that have been there for years. To my knowledge, the original owner was a woman named Rita, a gardener and craft maker who planted all these ornamentals. When we moved in, there were no Australian native trees or plants except a big bottlebrush at the front of the property. It was a"meant to be" coincidence that before finding this property, I was planning to start my creative home business and call it “Bottle and Brush Studio". The place is just perfect for two creatives like us. It is peaceful but alive, inspiring and cosy. There are always things that can be improved but we love our little nest and working spaces. Let’s say we managed pretty well in pandemic lockdown times and feel so grateful to live here with our cat and chooks.

Our fine house with one cat and chooks in the yard • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-21

To make it our yard, we made a few changes. We wanted a productive garden with fruit trees, herbs, edible perennials, veggie patches and beneficial plants, including some native varieties. My goal was to keep the original look of the garden and enrich the diversity. I have removed the unessential, over-packed and repetitive plants to make room. Shade, roots and some invasive plants are still tricky to manage. The work is still in progress but the challenge is fun. I'm happy to be the principal gardener, with the help from my hubbie with the heavier jobs. Some of the trees are pretty huge... but we will not remove any unless needed, usually for disease or safety reasons. I was worried when it got so dry before the bushfires… The fires that devastated the region passed near us on 2020 New Year's Eve through the hills in front of our place. We were lucky the wind did not change direction towards the town. Through this experience, I've learned the importance of keeping a yard tidy, irrigated and safe from the threat of embers.

Eclectic and colourful trees in the yard • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018-2020

One particular feature of this established garden is the eclectic varieties of the trees. Some of them are pretty special to me as they remind me of my home in Canada, like the blue spruce, cedars and birch trees. Some are quite exotic for me as they would not suit Québec's climate, like the windmill palms and evergreens like the holly and strawberry tree. A giant cypress tree and a Japanese maple tree are the most colourful in Autumn. The flowering trees have four old magnolias, a decorative pear, crape myrtle and many shrubs, including gorgeous camellias, roses and rhododendrons. There are a few non-flowering shrubs like cedars, bamboo, nandinas and other edging-type plants. The previous owners have done much hard work; it was a jungle when they bought the property, as we heard from our neighbours. When we got there, there was already an old chicken coop, a wood shed, a small shed, a medium shed and a new big garage. The house is a small bungalow cottage-style with 3 bedrooms. It has a cosy covered side terrace and front balcony where we love to sit at the end of the summer days and enjoy the present while looking at the hills. Our little backyard forest is a safe environment for our fluffy pets and various wild creatures (mostly flying) who pass by every day.

Birds and bees paradise • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018-22

Birds love to hang out here in our garden. Sparrows fly around our bird bath all year, but each season brings different native bird species. In winter, there are many king parrots (the friendliest), magpies, currawongs (that I must keep away from my chook food) and sometimes kookaburras, peewees and cockatoos. Spring brings various nectar-loving birds and beautiful crimson rosellas. At the start of summer, I have to net my raspberry bushes from the cheeky bowerbirds and silvereyes, but the little blue fairy wren and finches passing through are always more than welcome. In the warm season, I also have visits from impressive parrots like the gang-gangs and black cockatoos, but they are always very high up in the trees, so that makes it very difficult to photograph. Our resident chickens are also pleased and spoiled in this garden. There are plenty of shady spots to hide, water for them all the time, plenty of bugs to eat, and scratching and sand bathing allowed areas. I fenced off a part of the yard where they can free range without destroying my veggie beds. All the happy little bees buzzing around are in paradise and helping pollinate my fruit and vegetables; this garden is truly a little heaven!

Some of the original flowering perennials • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018-21

In late winter, we already have some little flowering beauties coming up, like the hellebores. In spring, it is all happening and there are different blooms each week in the yard. Ornamental rockeries are packed with flower bulbs like various daffodils and hyacinths. The iris, princess lilies, roses, columbines, queen's tears, and campanulas come in early summer. The white pompom shrubs and giant oriental poppies are making their show, and later, the hydrangeas, hollyhocks, and then red hot poker are stealing it. In late summer, there are flowering plants popping up like the agapanthus, nerines, naked ladies, crocuses, and hibiscus. When the autumn anemones are back, many summer flowers are still on. Through these flowers, there is much ground covering various plants like yellow archangels, ferns and little wild violets, which I later learned were edible. Elephant garlic is another edible plant I discovered in this garden, with a huge garlic bulb and a big flower ball! I learned most of the names of all these cultivars while discovering them right here. I had to learn to care for and maintain this whole botanical garden from scratch. Fortunately, most of them can look after themselves, but some good clipping, pruning, weeding and dividing are needed each season (all extra pulled-out plants go to friends, neighbours and markets!). I use plants from the garden for my still life and food photography and every weekend I make little bouquets to bring some colours and fragrances inside the house.

Still life floral photography • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2022

In a future virtual tour, I will show you my new plants and how I grew organic food while keeping the best of this unique, established garden. Meanwhile, you are welcome to read "My little Garden Studio" telling how backyard gardening can be more than a hobby.


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