Other people's gardens

Making space in the garden

I expected a visit to harbourside garden in Darling Point to tell me about the plants that deal well with the salt and water laden breezes coming off the harbour. And it did. Gingie’s owner briefly experimented with the English flower garden she’d always wanted and then made a sensible change to a subtropical palette.

seaside subtropical planting

She nominates her best seaside performers as agaves, bromeliads, gingers, cannas and sugarcane grasses. All great recommendations and I loved the way they gave great energy to the garden, especially through the repeated explosive forms of agave, alcantera and cordyline.

seaside subtropical planting

But what really struck me about the garden was how a garden lover ekes out space wherever possible to grow more plants. Like these:

Up the walls

Thunbergia grandiflora

The liver and brown brick of the front of the house is almost covered in climbers, notably the blue Thunbergia grandiflora, and passionfruit. The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous but who I don’t want to keep referring to as the owner, so let’s just call her Anne, told me she’d tried to have both the white and the blue thunbergia growing together, but the blue is more vigorous that the white and continually outcompeted it, until she gave in and let it take over. (A hint there as to how this lovely climber has become an environmental weed in the wet tropics, where it takes over disturbed watercourses and invades the rainforest smothering whole treee canopies!) Australian-Balinese designer Made Wijaya uses the same climber, in its less assertive white form, on many of his pergolas, for the great bead-like curtains of bloom it creates.

Anne also grows passionfruit up the north-facing walls, and gets plenty of fruit. She has started seedlings of a particularly tasty specimen she bought ‘from the side of the road’ and will replace the current vine when its productive life is over.

Under the terrace

Bromiliad and odontonema

Under the overhang of the terrace tough bromeliads revel in full sun, with more delicate ones further back in a bit more shade. From the deep shade at the back of the overhang, the red flower spikes of odonetonema reach to the light.

In the trees


For height in a garden with a view, Anne recommends palms, which don’t block the view (though in this part of the Eastern suburbs Bhutan cypress, Cupressus torulosa, are planted on most boundaries to stop the neighbours looking in, inevitably blocking views). A lillypilly that threatened Anne’s view has had its top cut off. Here it is, with its head just below a neighbour’s jetty.

Seaside subtropical planting

The big green mushroom has also been carved out from the inside, leaving a frramework of branches from which Anne can grow a range of hanging and trailing plants. Dendrobiums are tied to the stem of the lillypilly as well so that the tree has become a vertical garden.

Dendrobium on lillpyilly trunk

You can see Gingie for yourself on March 20 and 21, when it’s open as part of Behind the Walls, an Open Gardens Australia event. Tickets include access to the Gothic mansion Carthona, another privately owned garden and the National Trust property Lindesay, which also has some great ideas to inspire – see below!



5 thoughts on “Making space in the garden

      • Col Cashman says:

        Yes it is. I grew it in Sydney very easily and have it now on the Gold Coast, where we moved to last year; have been told it is established in the wild in some area south of here in NSW.

  1. Col Cashman says:

    Not really. The plants which do well up here were usually OK on the North Shore if the right spot was available and having large trees to create microclimates helped. Up here it is all palms and agaves, etc., and cottage garden plants aren’t good near the coast. The heat is too much for most of the bulbs and our heavy rain this Summer has taken out some perennials which went well in Winter.

    However, I can grow plants which didn’t like shade, such as Grevilleas. I will just have to go by trial and error, as I did for forty years in St Ives. Certainly know I wouldn’t be any more successful with WA plants than I was down in Sydney.

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