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


12 Comments Add yours

    Why don’t you guys write a book i.e hard copy, about ‘how to’ based upon your gig at your crib? Lesser tomes have been produced and have sold well.
    From FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2012 – 05:39 PM

    Hi Guys.
    thanks heaps for opening your garden up for all to see.really well done.enjoyed looking at your little peace of greenery.andrew.
    from SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2012 – 07:29 PM

    Dear Jerry, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring your wonderful garden yesterday. Everything is looking so healthy. Amazing how much you have incorporated in your garden. Best wishes from Jean, Teneriffe.
    from SUNDAY, MAY 13, 2012 – 08:09 AM

    Dear Jerry, Jeff and guinea pigs… Thank you for opening your garden. Our 4 yr old son was fascinated with the plants and ‘creatures’ (abundant insects). It was the most beautiful practice garden we’ve ever visited. Ascher is tickled pink he got to visit the home of ‘the man with glasses’ and the man with the bees. Lots of photos for kindy and ideas for the garden. Jeff, we appreciate the time you took to explain the bee setup – just magic! When is the book guys?
    from SUNDAY, MAY 13, 2012 – 01:08 PM

  5. JERRY
    Dear Everyone,

    A book should really follow, but the problem has always been finding the time to do it!

    Thanks for the thanks, it was a pleasure sharing the weekend with you all.

    Jerry (plants dept), Jeff (technology dept) & Damo (bees dept)
    from MONDAY, MAY 14, 2012 – 08:23 PM

    Jerry and Jeff,
    Thank you so much for opening your garden to us the public.
    Jerry it was great to visualize the garden I have read so much about.
    The two ladies I brought with me were greatly impressed as the aunty and I do backyard gardening but not as your lay out. Ours we follow the fence line.
    We could not get over your healthy tropical plants.
    Once again thank you.
    from WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2012 – 01:47 PM

  7. JERRY
    Dear Lucy,

    I’m guessing that you were the three ladies who very shyly discussed the Pandanus growing in the front garden. If so, please keep in touch, you can email me via this website. I’d like to see your garden, if I may.


    from WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2012 – 04:10 PM

  8. KATE
    Thanks for welcoming us all to your garden again! A lovely Mother’s Day outing and plenty of inspiration. We definitely want to get a herb/salad/stir-fry/pest-control border going at out place! Also, my niece says thank-you for tempting the guinea pigs out with bamboo so she could have a good look at them.
    from WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2012 – 08:25 AM

  9. JANE
    Hi Jerry,
    We visited from the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and forgot to write in your visitor book. We arrived around 11 a.m. on the Saturday and had to wait until some ‘visitors’ had left so we could actually get into the garden! We thoroughly enjoyed looking around your edible sustainable garden. We live on one acre and if we ever had to rely on our garden for food, we would need to rid ourselves of the possums, turkeys, bandicoots and flying foxes. How do you manage to harvest your garden food before these types of animals get to them? I just covered my passionfruit due to the bush turkey nonchalantly walking along and picking off the unripe fruits. He pecked off around 12 and he didn’t even eat them. Oh well, I must away to do some pruning and tiding. Would love to hear how you manage your animal pests.
    from SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2012 – 11:33 AM

  10. JEN
    Hi Jerry
    Thank you for opening your garden ! It was great to wander through!
    I was very envious of your coffee plantation, My ‘shrub’ has 6 berries on which excited me no end!!
    Have you tried growing elderflower here?
    Cheers Jen
    from SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2012 – 05:37 PM

  11. JERRY
    Dear Jen,

    I grew elderberry (Sambucus sp.) at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. There it was regularly attacked by stem borers, killing top growth, so we had to cut them down to the ground on alternate years. They also needed lashings of water to prevent them from wilting, plus they suckered vigorously. Much though I like elderberry, it’s not very productive for all the resources it consumes, it’s better suited to acreage or an enthusiasts garden. None of these characteristics make it a welcome in a plant in my modest-sized, waterwise garden.


    from WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2012 – 04:16 PM

  12. Lissa says:

    Sounds like it was a wonderful day 🙂
    So sorry that I missed it, but hopefully there will another in 2013 that I can attend with friends. I will try to remember to bring a gift of some sort from my garden as you were so generous in providing your visitors with something.
    Next to the pleasure of eating my own fruit and veg sharing produce, plants and seeds with others are a lot of what it is all about for me.

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