We are near the end of spring, but we’ve had plenty of summer-like weather. And with it has come some very challenging conditions. This has taken a toll on the environment, gardens and farms, and looks like continuing to do so for a while yet.

It can feel overwhelming at how large some of the challenges are, and repairing the devastation caused by drought, fires and other disasters can be daunting. But sometimes it is good to be reminded that tragedy can spur action to renew and even improve upon what was there before. In 2003 I was in Canberra for my nephew’s wedding, and the happy and joyous event was conducted to the backdrop of intense heat and wind, raging fires, an eerie red glow filled the sky and ash and blackened leaves rained down, and water bombing helicopters filling up from the lake at the venue. And guests being called away as their houses were threatened. While it made for an eventful and unforgettable day, the catastrophic results to the area were heartbreaking, with people killed and many injured, the destruction of pine forests and Mount Stromlo observatory as well as 500 homes.

But an enquiry and inquest were set up, so that we could learn what went wrong, and how to react better and more effectively in future. The current spring outbreak of fire along the east coast is huge in scale, but our firefighters are doing a great job in very challenging conditions. And I am being heartened to hear a few people say that we could be managing our country better by learning from our First Nations people and how they conducted cool burns and mosaic burning. There are some good results happening from this practice, it will be interesting to see if it becomes a bit more widespread.

Terra Australia Garden Canberra

Though fire and devastation cause destruction, from it can come renewal. I was in Canberra briefly on a very smoky day last week, so I popped in to see the progress of the Terra Australis Garden.

Terra Australis garden plaque

Planted up with all Aussie plants, it is a site with great extremes, from baking hot in summer to freezing cold in winter, so the plants chosen need to be tough! The garden is situated in the new National Arboretum, which was planted around the areas where the 2003 bushfires ripped through. From the ashes, there has been careful planning, and there is now 94 forests over 250 hectares, featuring rare, endangered and symbolic trees from around Australia and the world. It is exciting to see these trees create so many opportunities. Education, seed banks, tourism opportunities, research….and not to mention the pure beauty of being able to walk through a forest! So while renewal can take time, effort and often money, the hope is that something even better can grow in place of what went before. I hope any readers affected by fires and drought will in time see their own examples of regeneration and new hope.

Terra Australias Garden at the national Arboretum Canberra

Waterwise gardening tips

As water restrictions become more needed, becoming waterwise is a good habit to get into. Having been dependant on tank water, it is second nature to save water wherever possible. Turning taps off while brushing teeth, shorter showers, fixing dripping taps are all good tips, but you can take things further. You can pop a flexible plastic tub in with you when you shower to collect a bit more water, have a small bucket next to the sink so you can collect the water while you rinse your fruit and vegies. When you water plants, be sure that you are wetting more than just the surface of the soil, otherwise your watering will be largely wasted. The addition of organic matter in the form of compost and worm castings helps soil retain water, so check out all my articles on soil building by these methods!

With many areas still in drought, we have done a reissue of my book (co authored with A.B Bishop), The Australian Native Garden. It is being released under a new title and a new paperback cover- it is now The Waterwise Australian Native Garden. For people who already have the original hardcover book, the reissue is essentially the same inside. But the new title will hopefully entice new readers who wish to garden more sustainably, and to use more native plants when they garden. Australian native plants have adapted to the often harsh Australian climate conditions and over time, plant breeders continually breed and select from these for good looks as well, so our hope is that people will look to our own plants first before exotic ones. The book also has sections on planning gardens to cope with water shortages and also fire. I have bought the last remaining hardcover copies of The Australian Native Garden from the warehouse, so get in quick if you want that edition!

My shop has lots of great gift ideas for Christmas giving, with less than a month to go till Christmas, it is advisable to get in now before deliveries get hectic. We can also post your gifts directly to the person, saving on your postage….we can gift wrap and include a card from you if you wish, just add the instructions for this in the order note section at the checkout. There are lots of new things on the shop, have a look!