Friday, March 4, 2016

A gardener's haven in Cardiff

The brick facade peeping out from native shrubbery of Gerda Maeder's home in a quiet Cardiff suburban street gives nothing away. Stepping out the back under a magnificent 20 year old 'roof' of a wisteria, we begin to glimpse the 1.5 acre oasis of food that is Gerda's passion. A swarm of eager visitors fill the courtyard. We are provided with a safety induction... mind the edge of the deck that's yet to be finished by my husband, there's a bath of water over there in case of fire or emergency... Oh and that's the cubby... a substantial hideaway emerging from a tangle of beautiful vines. This is a labour of love, quirks and anything goes, there are no rules here!

A long snake like form hangs from a pergola. New guinea bean, eaten like  zucchini, Gerda harvests one and shares it among those of us willing to try this strange fruit.... it could feed a small village. Lake Cardiff, as the frog pond is affectionately known, greets us at the bottom of a hand crafted timber stair, the entry to the garden. Chooks scratch in a home made coop, a mesh of wire, tin and recycled bits put to good use. A coffee tree - please take some berries as they are a labour to prepare. Miracle fruit grows in a thicket of trees, it changes your taste buds to make sour foods taste sweet! Over a central pathway of railway sleepers and gravel that adds some structure the garden slopes down into a wild concave of lush growth. A goat picks over the neighbors fence at a tree stump, climbing. There is the unsuccessful cherry tree that is going to be cut down as it is shading the grove of citrus. A fragrant lemon myrtle tree, beautiful for tea grows in the orchard, a close grouping of anything edible.  Pipino is a little bit weedy, a ground cover vine related to tomatoe, the solencae family. She removes the fruit to protect from fruit fly in summer, it's left to mature the rest of the year. 'I try to grow as many natives as possible as they attract beneficial insects"... even in the orchard. This is a working garden, although she made an effort to make it showy for the HOGs visit, it's beauty is in its wildness... tamarillos... lemonades... pomello tree... the unsuccessful hazelnut....yacon... tomatoes... roses... Everything imaginable grows here.

At the bottom of the gully, beyond the impressive stand of bamboo, a creek flanked by tree ferns and native sandpaper figs, winds through. Beyond is the bush area where with the help of garden deisgner Maree, they are trying to regenerate as many of the current natives and out compete the weeds. A solid strategy is needed to win the battle against lantana and more. All ground covers and vines are removed so trees can be mowed around. They saved what they could eg remanat dianella. Lantana and vine weeds are turned into mulch, a method working to increase manageability of morning glory and jap honey suckle. It will take a few more years for the natives to establish. Wattle seed has been thrown around and native indigofera planted, indigenous to the area. ...birds are coming... 100 have been counted by a neighbour. Gerda says that is is really good to have an expert help you, Maree has assisted with plant selection and placement. However it's still a challenge to balance, neighbors at the rear were concerned about the bush close to their homes, therefore they keep a firebreak. The adjacent reserve has a lantana infestation that they continue to work to keep at bay. The creek fills with run off causing a  torrent after rain. It's constantly changing, new pools and patterns to it's banks forming with the weather. The neighbors have a goat for weed control. And then there is the native bush food... anniseed and cinnamon myrtle. .. bush tucker sandpaper figs...plums... munch munch as we walk back up the hill, over the hand crafted steps with a last glance back at lake cardiff and an urban oasis.

Thank you to Gerda for welcoming HOGs and welcome to all our new visitors and to the Newcastle Urban Gardeners Meetup group:

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