That’s not to say everything went to plan. At her home in East Ringwood Deery was gardening on heavy clay but at Karwarra the soil is deep and volcanic. While Karwarra had about 1200mm of rain annually there was such good drainage that Deery felt free to try her hand at a wide range of Australian plants, including several from Western Australia. “They didn’t all go very well,” Harris says. “In winter it gets cold and dank and that’s when you get fungal things.”
But one of the WA plants to succeed was /Melaleuca violacea/ a prostrate shrub with purple flowers that Deery introduced around the ponds. Harris has replanted those as well as other species on Deery’s list and has also introduced many new plants, including those that will handle the garden’s increasingly dry conditions.
In a nod to the way Deery’s design drew attention to the delicate details of plants, Harris has been wary of introducing new cultivars specifically bred for bigger, brighter flowers. But she has avoided some of Deery’s weedier choices.
“On her plant list she has /Acacia baileyana/ (Cootamundra wattle) but I knew Deery enough to know that she would now say, rip the bloody thing out. She wouldn’t mince words,” Harris says.
“In any garden like this there is an obligation to be familiar with the garden’s history and Deery’s vision is the soul of this garden but I don’t see point in slavishly mimicking the original design. I want to honor it.”
The Karwarra Australian Native Botanic Garden is at 1190-1192 Mt Dandenong Tourist Road, Kalorama. It is open 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday and 1pm to 4pm Saturday and Sunday.
About our guest writer:
Megan Backhouse has a Masters of Urban Horticulture and writes the weekly garden column for The Age. She has been a journalist for 30 years and is an avid home gardener.