Saturday, 15 September 2012

A - Z of Australia - O is for Open Gardens

I first came across the Open garden scheme when a friend who lives in Tasmania mentioned that she was  busy preparing her garden to take part in an "open garden". She explained what it entailed and what charity she was supporting. As it happened a couple of months later two of my ex-work colleagues invited me to visit an open garden with them.
I really enjoyed the experience and we have since visited a few more, not only for the inspiration, but
it´s also a lovely way to enjoy the outdoors, have a cup of tea or coffee together, and an opportunity to ask the gardeners questions about their choice of plants, discover new plants or design ideas.

A dry garden
Open Gardens Australia is a not for profit organisation established in 1987, that organises the opening of private gardens for public enjoyment in all of the Australian states.

All sorts of gardens are opened to the public, from small city gardens to country estates, Open Gardens Australia has about 10 thousand gardens in its books, and each season about 600 private gardens are opened to the public, with over 175,000 people visiting these gardens!

If someone thinks they have a good, well maintained garden, they can request a visit from one of the selectors, and the Committee would then make a choice to include them in the visiting calendar.
On open days, usually on a Saturday or Sunday or the whole weekend, members of the selection panel and committee members, as well as friends and  relatives of the garden owner are at hand to help man the entrance, provide refreshments, answer questions, etc.,so the help of the 10 thousand volunteers involved each season is essential.
An entry fee of usually $6 is charged for anyone over 18. From this fee, 35% goes to the garden owner or the charity of their choice, and 65% goes to the Open Garden Australia, who after the deduction of their operating costs, distributes the surplus to the community as grants for garden related projects.
Yearly, around $350,000 is given to charities by the garden owners, with over $4,7million donated since 1987. Also since 1987, over $1,1 million has been given to community garden projects from those 65%.

The first "open garden" we visited was in Mosman Park, one of the most exclusive suburbs of Perth. The boundary walls were covered in plates and little pictures made of broken china, and the garage wall painted with a colourful mural, both being out of character with the style and cost of housing in that suburb, so I'm almost sure the neighbours wouldn't be too happy with that outdoor decoration!

Boundary walls covered in plates and tiles and a sunset painted on the garage door

Inside, the front garden mostly occupied by a swimming pool was surrounded by murals on the walls as well as some walls covered in colourful crockery and broken tiles at the entrance to the house.

Painted walls surrounding the pool, and a table and old bathroom basin get a mosaic makeover
The owner who was a porcelain artist started amassing any broken china she had, and friends and anyone else who heard of her plans to recycle broken china donated all their bits and pieces to her.
I like colour and I thought the idea of recycling was lovely but in this house it might be going a bit overboard...But who would wear yellow if everyone just liked blue? Tastes differ and this lady certainly had a different house and garden!

Walls at the entrance to the house

This next garden was a tropical haven in suburbia. Photos of the original garden had been put up showing that it had all been dug up and replanted over the years. It was a very hot day, but nice an cool under all the shady trees. The owners had built a lot of steps, bridges and hiding nooks to keep their grandchildren entertained, and that was a lovely touch.

The tropical haven garden
Shower with enclosed view of the garden
One of the most interesting features of this garden was a shower whose outside walls had been replaced by glass, facing the inside of an enclosed patio full of greenery. It certainly must be a wonderful feeling to have a shower bathed by the sun or under the night stars!

This next garden was a garden of a TV gardening presenter and it was a "study in the art of recycling" and very inspirational as well. The front garden was a "dry garden", and among various interesting ideas, the back garden had a water storage tank for rain water, chickens to provide eggs and eat leftovers, plants covered with mulch to protect from the harsh sun and keep the soil moist, a compost box, shade-cloth was used to cover the vegetable planter boxes when the weather was too hot...

Chooks, mulch and vegetable boxes
This last garden was an inspiration to me and I have decided to remove the grass on my front garden and will replace it with a dry garden.
It's all being planned at the moment and I'm trying to convince my husband it will be a good idea too of course, as he will not have to be out there removing an endless number of weeds every other weekend!
Although I suspect he likes to remove the weeds, it's a relaxing pastime for him...


  1. This is great. I wish someone would start an Open Garden scheme here!

  2. It is a very interesting scheme Mara, I suppose a lot of work for the gardener, but a lot of fun for the visitors, and great for charities!

  3. What a super way to spend an afternoon Sami. I think I like the second garden best but the idea of not having to look after a lawn is very appealing also. You'll have to show us a picture of your garden when it's all finished.

  4. I think there is a similar scheme that runs in England, Sami.

    It´s a great way of learning new ideas from ordinary people who love gardening :)

  5. Thanks Grace, I will post an update when I do my front garden.
    Thanks for visiting Marianne.Lovely that the Open gardens schemes are popular in other countries too.

  6. What a lovely idea! Lovely pics, Sami - I love the ceramics, especially.

  7. Be cautious when you go to Open Gardens. Often all is not what it seems. While most people are genuine about sharing their garden, this opportunity is also abused. Homes that are soon to be offered for sale are placed on the list to get viewed by the maximum numbers of people. Places where regular lawn sales are held are on the list to get people to know the location. Bed and breakfast establishments also use it for publicity. The people who attend may also be assessing the residence for a future burglary. Some people also steal during the Open Garden times. Sure, attend, but be cautious.

  8. What a great day for you and I must say for me finding you:). I love the ceramics they are so very colourful. B

  9. We once had an open garden event in our village in the UK. It was brilliant and we met so mnay people.

    I particulary like the mosaic table pictured above. Also what a great idea to cover terracota pots

  10. Que lugar fantástico! Adoraria visitar.

  11. Hi Sami,

    Aww my comment has not appeared! I really do struggle with blogger :)
    I love the mosaic table. I've been thinking about trying the same idea, but using terracotta pots

  12. Hi Sami,

    Opps this is the 3rd time I've tried to leave a comment. I really struggle with Blogger blogs. :(
    I was trying to say I love the mosaic table and want to adapt the idea for covering some old terracota pots

  13. Nice Blog and beautiful pic.
    Thanks for sharing this.
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  14. Thanks for visiting and leaving your comments - Louise, Buttons, JM, SJ and Carole.
    Carole - I think the idea of covering pots with ceramic tiles would look great. I once covered a terracotta pot with little mirrors and it looked very pretty.

  15. Terrific article, Dami! I've been struggling with finding an "O" topic, you did brilliantly!

    Very interesting and great pics!

  16. It was the only thing I could come up with, with an O as well! Some of the letters I have so many choices, that I find it difficult to decide what to choose!

  17. We also have open gardens here in South Africa. This next weekend, there are a couple in Cape Town and whole lot out in the winelands. I love going to them as get such inspiration and it is also just such a lovely day out and its for a good cause at the same time.

  18. We have them too, Sami. Haven't been to many this year as they're sometimes quite a distance away for a Sunday after dinner jaunt (Dad almost always comes to ours for Sunday lunch). Nice to see "over the garden fence" though.

  19. Thanks for stopping by Cynthia and Joanne. It seems open gardens are everywhere then, I never knew about them until a short while ago.

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