I’ve been gardening here at 28 Gumtrees since I was 10. Over the years I’ve grown and shown daffodils and chrysanthemums, grown just about everything, built gardens, destroyed gardens, planted, removed, and planted more trees. However when I bought the place 6 years ago my focus turned to the inside, and the garden was left to fend for itself. Around the same time, the wallabies started to come in, although it wasn’t until the drought hit 4 years ago that I really noticed them eating anything but the lawn. Very few plants are safe from a hungry wallaby, and once they discover a plant they will return to it over and over. I have, or rather had, a lovely little self-sown hebe that was about half a metre high that suddenly was not allowed to have a leaf. However, the parent plant, just 2 metres away was barely nibbled. While I stripped floors and rebuilt kitchens and painted everything in sight the garden struggled. Between the weather and the hopping lawnmowers I only had to mow about 8 times a year, mostly to get the weeds around the lemon tree (compared to the 50 times a year average before the wallabies). The twitch (which they don’t eat) took over the garden beds, and things either survived or died, pretty much unnoticed.
Before Christmas last year I decided this had to be the Summer of the garden, and the weather (and the loan of a trailer!) co-operated nicely. Project Resurrect began with 7 loads of green waste, and a number of loads of pine bark. My plan was to plant what I had, and only grow things that could survive the wallabies since without installing a few hundred metres of fence, I had little way to keep them out. I started poisoning the grass, then gave up and just dug holes in the weeds in an effort to “Plant Everything” before it got too hot. I got about 3/4 of the pots in, and dumped pine bark on the weeds to make new garden beds.
I removed 6 trees (5 of them dead, 1 almost so), got some bargain plants through exchanges and markets and was determined that I was not going to start “collecting’ plants like I had in the past. I once had about 30 different dianthus (wallabies’ favourite food it seems) and I haven’t seen an ixia or muscari flower in 5 years. While I was willing to put a few fences around some trees until they got big enough to be out of wallaby reach, I was determined not to end up growing a bunch of wire cages. If it wouldn’t survive without minimal attention from me it wasn’t going in. However, when I planted out the two chrysanthemums that have been struggling along in tiny pots for a couple of years right beside the path that Rufus uses to come and go at night, I was not prepared to go to water them the next day to find they did not have a leaf left between them! This combined with the demise of the long awaited liriope flowers before they even broke bud made me snap. I started planning how to fence off a part of the garden without spending money.
I thought of using scrap timber I had on hand to build rectangular frames for chicken wire, then attaching them to posts I’d have to buy, but I wasn’t loving the idea of all those straight lines around my flowers. I thought of chicken wire or plastic mesh around star pickets (until I priced them at nearly $15 each!), but wallabies have a habit of just leaning on wire until it sags, so I’d need a lot of posts, and it would look a bit like a poorly made chicken run. I almost got some (give away) lengths of iron balustraude, but they would have had to be carted up a hill, AND cut before I could fit them on the trailer to bring home – which was a bit beyond my skills and strength.
Then, someone posted a headboard bench seat – you know the type – wooden bedhead, with the footboard cut in half and attached as arms each side and a few planks to make a seat.
And I remembered an idea I had to make a gazebo for the back garden, but rather than build a railing, I wanted to use the timber and metal bedheads that I often saw at the Tip shop and garage sales. I wanted bedheads like mine, timber posts and black ironwork.
So I set off for the Hobart Tip shop- bedheads please… They had one. One. A narrow piece of metal, missing the side posts… Not worth bringing the trailer over for. So instead I went home and hitched the trailer to get some bark – and thought I might as well look in Mornington Tip shop, maybe get one there to start the collection. $50 later – and the trailer was fully loaded with 11 bedheads plus another bit. Dropped them at home, carted them down the back, hitched the trailer up again, went and got some pine bark, brought that home, disconnected the trailer and went back to Bunnings to get stakes and cable ties and wire and most importantly… spray paint!
Operation Fence had begun.
Step one: Get some consistency. With only 2 bedheads that actually matched in design, and one that was bright blue, another gray, and the rest strange combinations of sun faded and scraped black the first step was to spray them with flat black paint
Then, test out the placement. I discovered I had an extra piece which when inserted meant I could extend beyond the current garden. If I’m going to all this effort I want every centimetre I can get.
See part 2 here