Australian Open Garden: Janet & Andy’s Garden

Filed under How-To Centre

6 Gidabal Street, Aranda

Sat 2 & Sun 3 October 2010

Janet and Andy Russell are opening their garden to the public as part of the Australian Open Garden Scheme for the first weekend in October. Janet and Andy are active in community groups concerned with the environment, such as Friends of Grasslands and Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park (STEP), and have applied their experience to enhance the sustainability of their own garden.

Their garden showcases a large range of native plants and demonstrates the various ways in which the different species can be used in landscaping. Tall elegant eucalypts, colourful shrubs, strappy plants, small herbs and groundcovers provide variety and form in a garden in which there is some colour all the year round.

Janet and Andy Russell in their sustainable garden

Above: Janet and Andy Russell in their garden

“Our ideas about our garden have changed over time”, says Janet. “The garden started out as a specimen garden as we were so pleased with the huge variety of Australian plants available – we have about 260 unique species of plants. Since then we have developed an interest in local plants of the Southern Tablelands, particularly the grasses, small herbs, lilies and other strappy plants. The outside garden focused our minds too about design, as it is so visible to the passing public. It consisted initially of neglected exotic shrubs, eucalypts, old untidy acacias and a sprinkling of native grasses. We were aware that people often regard native gardens as those that consist only of leggy and untidy shrubs and we wanted to show our plants off to their best advantage by better management of them by regular pruning and the way we presented them.”

The drought has been a challenge for all Canberra gardeners, including Janet and Andy, and they have found this year’s better winter and spring season a great relief. As Andy remarked, “Our previous attempts to keep herbaceous plants alive over long hot summers on the western facing outside garden have not always been successful even though the plants survive in harsh conditions in the wild. This has made us focus on better preparing planting sites everywhere we plant. We also realise that adding mulch made the problem of dry soils worse by preventing moisture from entering the soil when it rained. We should have ensured there was sufficient moisture in the soil before spreading the mulch. We have an electronic drip system which is divided into six sections, three inside and three out. We are trying to reduce our reliance on town water by the use of tank water and structural strategies such as building swales and terraces to manage the flow of water through the block.”

“We also plan to use management strategies, such as using the water from our tanks more strategically to maximise the benefit of rainfall we receive”, said Andy. “This will mean putting moisture into the garden before the rain arrives so that the rain soaks into the soil more effectively. This is about timing as well as management and is a work-in progress at this stage.”

Janet and Andy Russell near the swale-Canberra garden

Above: Janet and Andy in their front garden near the swale (depression on the contour of the land) that stops water run-off and allows water to gradually infiltrate the soil.

Janet and Andy Russell's Canberra garden-view of swale from above

Above: A view of the swale from a higher point in the garden

“We enjoy the challenges of gardening, the opportunity for physical activity, and the garden is a source of continual pleasure as we watch the seasons pass by,” concluded Jane.

If you want to find out more about the open day at Janet and Andy’s garden, check out the climateXchange calendar or contact Janet on phone 0406 944 462.



  1. pansy22
    Posted 30/09/2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Nice post, this is going to save environment and it is great that you people are doing really very well.. and this is also good for the future surely helps a lot..

    water tanks

  2. pansy22
    Posted 30/09/2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Nice post, this is going to save environment and it is great that you people are doing really very well.. and this is also good for the future surely helps a lot..

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