3 years & thriving

To see Julianna Hurley’s Castlemaine garden is to be inspired to work with your local soils, plants and climate. In only three years, Julianna transformed an ordinary lawn into an oasis for her family and native wildlife. This beautiful bush-garden was low-cost to build and thrives throughout the year with minimal watering and effort.

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Julie’s front yard, transformed from lawn to bushland oasis in just three years.

Julianna says her secret has been working with what she’s got; using local plants and working with the clay soils that characterise her region. Julianna started by creating low, wide mounds from soils on site plus a few loads of loose clay from a local building site. These mounds provide topographic relief from the original dead-flat landscape, as well as a deeper substrate in which the plants can establish.

Native shrubs form the back bone of Julie’s garden design. Quick growing indigenous wattles, such as Wirilda (Acacia retinoides) and Varnish Wattle (Acacia verniciflua) rapidly transformed her bare block. These wattles have been interplanted with slower growing natives, including Emu Bush (Eremophila glabra), Rock Correa (Correa glabra) and Coastal Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa).

The varied foliage and bold shapes of drought tolerant shrubs provide the backbone of this garden design, with the quick growing Wirilda Wattle (back left), silvery Emu Bush (middle foreground) and vivid green Rock Correa (front right).

Flax Lilies (Dianella tarda) and local daisies such as the Common Everlasting (Chrysocephalum apicluatum) and the Hoary Sunray (Leuchochrysum albicans) are garden gems that provide nectar and pollen for pollinator insects.

Hoary Sunrays (Leucochrysum albicans) flower for months.
Common Everlastings (Chrysocephalum apiculatum) shine brightly against soft silver foliage.

While Julianna has masterfully relied on plants and soft landscaping to give the garden it’s structure, a few constructed elements have been cleverly incorporated for screening and artistic effect. A piece of rio mesh provides a framework of an indigenous climber, the Apple Berry (Billardiera scandens), to screen a plastic water tank. A curved, rusted-steel sheet provides a screen for her front door, contrasting beautifully with the subtle grey-green foliage of her plantings. Finally, a small, sculptural screen crafted by a talented local metal-shaper, fills a gap in her fence, bringing dynamic interest to her landscape.

An artful screen for privacy (by Metal Shaper) and rusted rio with Apple Berry (Billardiera scandens) for hiding a tank

Through-out the garden, clever design serves a dual purpose of water harvesting and garden shaping. The nature strip out the front of the block is being used as a water resource, with run-off from the grassy catchment flowing into a swale that runs perpendicular to the slope, along the length of a garden bed at the property boundary. As water sits in the swale it has a chance to infiltrate the soil. Any overflow spills to another swale downslope, before it is redirected back into storm water. To the casual observer these swales look like a neat garden edging.

A shallow swale, running perpendicular to the adjacent grassy slope, catches and slows run-off, giving it time to infiltrate the soil of the mounded garden bed.

First published in Western Water’s garden e-news, ‘The Watering Can,’ Summer 2017-18.

Text and photos by Cassia Read

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