All stories

A collector’s garden in Brisbane

By Lawrie Smith AM, text and images

Brenda Meehan has built a beautiful native collector’s garden in Brisbane on an 800 square metre rocky site. She has created an amazing mini botanic garden since 2011.

Visit by Garden Design Study Group members

After almost five years, Garden Design Study Group Queensland paid a return visit to Brenda’s garden. The garden is located on 800 square metres of a rocky hillside in Albany Creek, northern Brisbane. We were amazed at the progress of this mini botanic garden.

Brenda’s design approach for her collector’s garden

Brenda is an avid collector of smaller native plants, and also a gifted designer. This is demonstrated by the diversity of the collection and the relationships between the plants and various microclimates . She dismissed the term ‘designer’. She said that the garden is a “trial and error” process. If any plant is not responding, it is swiftly relocated or removed. The result is that the garden plant palette is visually healthy and aesthetically pleasing. It is responding positively to the differing design issues and site microclimate conditions.

A collector's garden in Brisbane

Documenting the plants collected and planted in the garden

The most important component of her garden design skills is keeping detail records of the plants and their location. Brenda records the botanic and common name for each new garden plant in Excel spreadsheets. She keys the location of all specimens back to a simple garden bed layout plan, (drawn as a Word document).  An excellent way to keep tabs on plant position, age and growth over time.

Exploring the garden collection

Given the large number attending, we walked around in groups guided by her documents and closely observed the collection. Brenda explained that she initially commenced by planting small plants in the open exposed site. But she quickly realised that shade and shelter was a necessity.  Now the garden has matured providing a good balance of sun and shade. Walls and rocks create numerous small ‘garden rooms’ each with a special character, all linked by enticing steps and walkways.

This was a great opportunity to see how effectively more than 180 native species were used in this small site. And this is where half the area is house and driveway – remarkable! This is truly a lovely collector’s garden in Brisbane.

For more showcase native gardens, see our website here.