Garden Design Study Group: O’Neill Garden
Bob and Dot O’Neill moved to their current 0.4 ha property just four years ago but their garden, begun from nothing (actually worse than nothing), is already well established. The growth of plants has been remarkable, so that the garden now looks twice its age. The amount of work involved in achieving this has been enormous. They showed us a video recording the progress over the four years, so we had to believe them! Their soil is good – a fine, grey, sandy loam. The air is clear with no city pollution and the garden is sunny with, as yet, not very much shade. In addition to this (plus all the hard work), as one member said, “much-loved gardens thrive”.
Their garden is a model of practical design. First they had about 14 large cypresses (with other similar exotic trees) removed – a huge job. They also put a root barrier along one fence to keep unwanted tree roots out. Other plants and structures were also removed. In the first year, in an unexpectedly wet period, they lost many plantings and discovered they had a high water table. To improve drainage, they treated this problem in two ways – by using agricultural pipes and by importing 140 cubic metres of soil to build up beds.
To lay out the garden, they marked out beds on the existing lawns with hoses (Dot) or stakes (Bob), then sprayed and re-sprayed theses areas until the grass was completely dead. Beds are curved as are the grassed paths between beds. The number of plants in the garden is in the thousands (for example about 200 were planted last summer) and Bob has propagated about 90% of these, mostly from cuttings coming from many sources.
The O’Neills’ garden is a collectors’ garden. They initially specialised in correas and are growing about 200 different forms, with two of each sort where possible. They keep records of which of the 47 numbered beds each correa is planted in. Bob recommends space and sun for good flowering in correas and eremophilas.
For more information on this garden see Garden Design Study Group Newsletter 91, August 2015, p. 19.