There are plenty of seats in John and Carol Clarke’s large garden, Crundale, at Dural. We try out most of them as we wander the curving pathways that lead down the slope to the dam and gully beyond. It’s not that we are wearied by our wander, but that there is so much going on we need to stop and let it all register. John’s is a garden for birds. He tells me he had three primary aims in establishing the garden some 20 years ago. He wanted a lovely place to be in, not just look at; it needed to attract birds; and it needed to change all the time, a desire fulfilled not just by a wide range of native flowering plants and a few exotics, but by the movement and activity of the birds who visit them.
For keen bird-watcher John, there is a 360-degree drama unfolding around us as we sit looking over waterfalls of grafted grevilleas, melaleucas just coming into flower and wattles just finishing, that I’m missing. That chick-chick noise? Little wattlebirds warning off the little birds in his territory. The woop woop? A brown cuckoo dove that nests in the gully where the lyrebirds live. Clarke has identified 110 different avian visitors to the garden. We sit a bit longer and I recognise a whipbird and an Eastern spine bill zooming under the grevillea, but miss the Bassian thrush rustling through the mulch and the white-throated gerygone in the top of a tree.
The key to luring a range of birds into the garden, says John, is simply to provide what they like. First off, that’s water. He has it as still pools and birdbaths kept scrupulously clean, as running water, and in a large dam, where a kingfisher has built a nest in the willow on an island, and a raft offers fox-safe b&b accommodation for ducks. The are nectar-rich flowers for the honey-eaters, mulch for the insectivores to forage in and seed on plants and in cockatoo-proof feeders for the little seed-eaters. (Clarke follows Audubon Society recommendations on responsible feeding of birds.) There is also shelter, and nesting options.
Clarke has designed the garden to maximise his enjoyment of the birds. Paths wind around so that you can come around a corner unexpectedly on a bird. The paths take advantage of naturally occurring outcrops of sandstone, where rock orchids and ferns shelter in the damp shade of the stone overhangs. The paths link two terraces of open lawn loved by little birds like superb blue wrens and red-throated firetails. Around the lawns grevillea, banksia and tall kangaroo paw draw the honey-eaters and provide shelter for the little birds. We pause again on another bench and listen to the bird song.
Crundale is open as part of Galston Open Gardens. Eight private gardens will open on Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 October, 9.30am-4.30pm. Tickets and brochures at Galston Club, 21 Arcadia Road Details: www.galstongardenclub.com.au