Open Day At Bellis

Almost 1,700 people visited my garden last weekend. And what a very friendly, gentle, respectful and very inquisitive mob they all were.

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I found the first visitor snoozing in her car as the dawn mist was rising. People arrived gradually at first, but as Brisbane turned on one of its magical autumn days, things began to bustle.

I’m sorry the staircase in the front garden was unpainted, but it was only finished on Thursday evening, and Friday was ‘set up’ day. The old stairs were decayed. They had to go. The project was delayed by the search for a carpenter who wouldn’t use kwila wood. This durable timber comes from an Indo-Pacific rainforest species and it’s currently fashionable in Queensland. Greenpeace reports that its logging is unsustainable and often illegal. So thanks Anthony, I’m happy you used Australian plantation grown spotted gum.

I read in the Visitors’ book the complaint “not a single choko”. Correct. I removed them so I could treat the rust and repaint the railings on the back stairs.

Some visitors had travelled quite a distance, coming here from Hervey Bay, Coffs Harbour, Sydney, Tasmania and WA. I’m very happy my cocoyam patch brought a smile of recognition from the three shy visitors from Papua New Guinea. I’m looking forward to them letting me know how to make something edible from the fleshy skin surrounding the fruit hanging from my Pandanus cookii.

Kids loved playing amongst the leafy stems in my lush ‘permaculture patch’. There, on the south of the house, grow cocoyams, celery stem taro, bananas, jaboticaba, mandarin, jackfruit and Brugmansia. And kids loved the lawn-munching guinea pigs. Radicchio, the long-haired guinea pig, was appropriately groomed and silky for the occasion.

Noel Burdette, from Spring Fields Garden Centre, bravely tried supplying visitors with open pollinated seed. He brought 700 packets, and they’d vanished by the end of the first day.

My neighbours, Chas and Gail, kindly picked three crates of avocados from a monster tree in Manly (it produces 3,500 fruit each year), and each visitor got one free as they left. When they ran out, I picked 4.5 kg of my West Indian gherkins as farewell gifts.

Visitors were so generous, bringing some very thoughtful gifts: two beautiful Winter Melon, cuttings of variegated Angel’s trumpet, home-grown soya beans, shiny eggplant fruit, organic eggs and greetings cards.

It’s interesting hearing Gardening Australia viewers  comment about they way that TV distorts reality. Apparently my garden is bigger, smaller, shorter and longer than it looks on the telly…

It may seem strange to say that 1,678 people visiting my 813 square metre property could be an intimate experience, but it was. It was a life-affirming experience.

Thank you.

Jerry Coleby-Williams
14th May 2012