About Bellis

Bellis, built in 1914.
Built in 1914. Retrofitted in 2003.

Bellis: A Model, Affordable Sustainable House and Garden in Brisbane

Bellis is an ordinary, rather elderly Queenslander house in Brisbane’s Bayside.

It’s been retrofitted for sustainability by it’s owners, Jerry Coleby-Williams and post-sustainability consultant Jeff Poole. During the commissioning process of the domestic wastewater treatment system they were startled to be advised by Queensland’s Environment Protection Agency they had become suburban pioneers. In 2003, Bellis was the only place in Queensland where the bulk of a household’s food is grown using treated wastewater. Not much has changed since.

A few years later, Jerry was advising Queensland’s Minister for Water how to improve the state’s grey water use policy based on experiences at Bellis to better serve Queenslanders during the Millennium Drought.

Bellis is not an attempt at self-sufficiency, but an indicator of how we can turn the suburban sprawl of Australia’s cities to an environmental advantage without compromising our Australian lifestyle.

Australian homes are plumbed in for watering, they have electricity to power equipment, many have either space or soil for food growing – sometimes both.

Importantly, homes have a source of free labour to make things happen: people! A five year old can save seed and grow sprouts, a seven year old can understand crop rotation and how to dry, freeze or bottle food and make jam – a young Jerry did all these things. With a little thought, an adult can grow enough food to feed themselves all year round with just 100 square metres of good soil.

At Bellis, we grow food, we harvest rainwater and solar energy, and we treat and reuse water that might otherwise be wasted – all things that can be done with ease by a homeowners in Australia’s extensive suburbs.

You’re welcome to take a look around.

Remember, sustainability is mostly about living within your means. Do not be discouraged if you can’t do a whole lot of things all at once.

Take small, meaningful steps that you can guarantee to carry out. The cumulative effect is what matters.

Jerry Coleby-Williams and Jeff Poole

31 Comments Add yours

  1. Lesley & Andrew Chance says:

    Hi Jerry,
    I just came across this website after visiting the gardening Australia website. I was wondering if you had another open day coming up in the future as I was disappointed that I missed the last one. My partner and I would really love to get some ideas for our place which is west of Ipswich on the way to Toowoomba.
    Also, do you have any ideas for what we can plant along our back fencline which meets very moist (and sometimes flooded) wetlands. We’re not having much luck on our sloping block when planting things down the bottom.

    From 2 of your fans :o)

    1. I open through Open Gardens Australia. Next is May 2013.

      1. Stephen Besnard says:

        Hi Folks, my wife and I have been followers of yours for a long time.
        I have had great success following you tips, I make weed tea by the 60 litre dustbin at a time and I have allways got a drew on the go.
        I have a problem that I hope you can help me with. We live not to far from you at Victoria point, I have some magnificent looking pumpkins growlng but not a flower in sight is there anything I can do?
        I would appreciate your help.
        with thanks.
        Stephen and Jennifer Besnard.
        33 Trafalgar Drive.
        Victoria point.

      2. Dear Stephen and Jennifer
        I have written a reply on this website to your and another gardeners query about pumpkin.
        Please never include private contact details when replying on a public page like this. In deleting them to protect your privacy I will lose this email response and then you have no idea if I have received your email or replied to it!

    2. Canna edulis, Queensland arrowroot, likes moisture. Gahnia sieberi, Cutting sedge, is a moisture loving native.
      I’ve been opening my garden through Open Gardens Australia twice yearly for seven years now, so check their website for details.

  2. Juliet Thomas says:

    Hi Jerry

    I’m sure this is an often asked question, but do you have a non-toxic way of dealing with Nutgrass? I seem to recall you recommending something like using vegetable oil to smother the bulbs.? How would this be applied over a larger area/infestation? I have observed that it is less prolific in shady, darker areas, but my fruit orchard and berry mound will take at least a couple of years to be throwing shade over the area. Hand pulling seems unproductive and futile, and I don’t think smothering works either.

    I had a fantastic time wandering around your garden in August this year – gave me lots of inspiration and ideas as my block in Sawtell is pretty well nearly the same size as your place. Keep up the fantastic work and ideas that educate and inform so many of us



    1. Dear Juliet
      Yes, it’s a common request. The blog concerned is long and was lost when transferring data from the old to the new website. When I have time I’ll see if I can rewrite it. 🙂

  3. Jennifer MacLean says:

    Hi Jerry,

    Thank you for your generous attendance and wisdom shared at the wet, yet welcoming, Mullumbimby Community Garden yesterday.

    Nutgrass has consumed my gardening experience for several years now. I was determined to eradicate it by hand-weeding and have committed countless hours to the task.

    Alas, I recently conceded defeat as the burden had finally taken its toll…With a heavy heart and great guilt I turned to glysophate and yet after a few months regular application are no closer to ridding my garden nemesis.

    I would be very grateful to receive any tried and proven advice you may have on nutgrass eradication, as my research to date has been discouraging and yielded no practical or conscionable solutions.

    Cheers, Jennifer

    1. Dear Jennifer

      I love the people, place and gardens of Mullumbimby.

      I just wish I had more time to relax and get to know the folk who were there. On this occasion I left early because I was concerned about leaving my place untended during the rain. We had 175mm (7 inches) fall that day. I was also fostering a parrot and had my own pets to get back to feed.

      We did trials on nutgrass control when I managed Sydney Botanic Gardens. The most expensive and least satisfactory solution was using Sempra, which is sold specifically for controlling nutgrass. It’s almost useless because most nutgrass recovers.

      The best chemical solution uses glyphosate. Use a plastic bucket and make 4.5 litres of solution (1 gallon) at half the rate recommended by the manufacturer. Use a plastic bucket and add tepid or warm water. Add to this one cupful (250 ml) of urea. (Urea is a dry, crystalline product commonly sold by the bag at hardware stores/ nurseries/ garden centres). Stir thoroughly. Urea dissolves best in warm water, but takes a bit of patience. Pour this into your spray pack, ideally through a fine sieve, pantyhose or a paper filter to remove any impurities or small grains of undissolved urea – stuff that may block the nozzle.

      Nutgrass dislikes alkaline soil, so testing soil pH and adding dolomite or lime will help slow its spread. Other than that, nutgrass can’t cope with deep mulching.

      Good luck!


  4. Jennifer MacLean says:

    Thanks Jerry, I’ll follow your advice and hopefully have some positive results by the end of the year. I’ll let you know how I get on…

  5. Sharon Tonazzi says:

    Hello Jerry,
    do you have a date set in May for your open day? I would like to organise a visit with my community garden group?
    love your work!

    1. It’s 11th/12th May, for details see Open Gardens Australia (Qld) website. Cheers

  6. Leilani Garland says:

    Hi Jerry I hope it is ok to ask you a question on this site. I have a cape gooseberry bush with lots of developing fruit on it but the leaves are drooping and watering has not made them bounce back. I loved seeing your garden on Sunday! I hope I can recreate something like it when I buy a new house. thank you for your passion. Leilani Garland.

    1. Leilani,
      Sometimes you can overwater and constantly moist, warm soil in the subtropics encourages root rot fungi. They are the commonest cause of this condition: wilting in moist ground. I find the best solution is to water on alternate days and if possible, allow the soil to go dry in between waterings. This reduces damage. Good luck!

      1. Leilani Garland says:

        thank you Jerry. I will dig it up and get another bush. cheers Leilani

  7. Margaret Lee says:

    Gday Jerry, thankyou! for your story re Surfers’ Paradise, my home town. A rare positive for a place of fond memories, born there 1947. I remember many plants; a large Flindersia tree where Chevron Renaissance now stands etc. Now Appel Park, we had 3 riverside blocks and would row the dinghy to see wildflowers where you filmed. Knew John Elliot well, also the Rossers, bee experts. Appreciated. Margaret Lee, nee Peters (GCOrganic Growers, PPoppies etc)
    See you at Nambour

    1. Thanks, and do say hello at Nambour! 🙂

  8. Ralph says:

    Hi Jerry.
    Is any special attention required to processing the aerial potato yam before eating, or can they simply be peeled and cooked like its relative the winged yam. Also can the aerial potato be eaten of its vine at anytime.
    Thanks Ralph

    1. Eat mature yam. Think potato, potato in a different wrapper.

  9. Drew & Annette Jorgensen says:

    Hello Jerry, we were disappointed to miss the last open day at “Bellis”, and are wondering if you could tell us when the next one is going to be held?

  10. Gloria Claus says:

    Hi Jerry, we were really impressed at your address this evening at the Eco Centre. Your sharing personally and your honesty and way of dealing with forthcoming climate issues was real and helpful. Thank you for the time you gave to share with us.
    Paul and Gloria Claus

    1. Dear Paul and Gloria,
      It’s nice to be able to speak unedited. Thanks for the thanks! Happy gardening, Jerry 🙂

  11. Gerry Bellis says:

    Hi Jerry, I enjoy you TV appearences very much.
    I want to plant potatos in my yard at Morningside.
    the seed I have has gone green, is it safe to plant these or should I dump them.
    Gerry Bellis
    250 Richmond, Rd, Morningside.

    1. Hi Gerry,

      Thanks for you message.

      Please do not post questions in the comments section. Use the email facility provided.

      There’s heaps of information about growing potatoes on the web,including the Gardening Australia website. You must expose potatoes to sunlight to start them sprouting before planting. It’s too late to plant potatoes in the subtropics. They are a temperate crop and here you plant in autumn.



  12. Julie Jenkin says:

    Hi Gerry

    I was so pleased to hear about your sweet corn growing on “Gardening Australia” this week, and how you use all the thinnings for your guinea pigs. I am an adult of quite some years – well quite a bit older than you anyway, who loves owing and caring for guinea pigs. I know they love sweet corn but what a marvellous idea to grow this vegetable just for the leaves. I grow masses of veggies for the guinea pigs so now I have another idea for them. Thank you, and also to the rest of the team, for your weekly inspirations and knowledge for all things gardening. Cheers, Julie Jenkin

    1. Thanks Julie, and happy gardening 🙂

  13. Anne Hayward says:

    Hello Jerry. I was just reading on a Gardening Australia Link, your information about the Hibiscus mutabilis. In my Sterling Macaboy book, “What Shrub Is That”, (which is, unfortunately, packed), I’m sure he has the Mutabilis, (which has been used around some streets in Wynnum West), under the heading, “Rose of Sharon”, which I believe is also called the Confederate rose! Also, I think, he has the Hibiscus, which I believe is the Ruth Wilcox(?),( which you will find growing around Manly as a street Shrub), as rosa-sinensis, it has the lovely Romantic weeping habit. Have I got it all completely wrong? I’ve had trouble in the past, finding any reliable information on Hibiscus mutabilis! Thank you so much Jerry , I’ve so much enjoyed many of your personable, warm and informative talks in the past. Anne

  14. Cushla Kapitzke says:

    Hello Jerry. Your session on Gardening Australia last night, which told us a little of your personal story, touched my heart. Your relationship with your grandfather through gardening and the fact that you have his precious propagating knife still in its box, spoke to me. It was wonderful to see you in your home, a real person, laughing so heartily at your own quirks. Thank you for coming to live in Brisbane and for opening up to viewers in this latest program. Keep going. The country — people and environment — needs the likes of you. Cushla

    1. Dear Cushla,
      Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement.
      Happy gardening!
      Jerry 🙂

  15. Tony Bunting says:

    Jerry , Mate I had the privilege of being at your open garden recently and I have got to tell you 3 things Loved your garden , Loved that fact that you gave me a peice of the Vine growing on your back stairs , BUT Jerry , the bottle of Lime Pickle I bought was just unbelievably delicious ,OMG just DELICIOUS . I’m still trying to catch my breath after having the Chilli Pickle I bought . Thanks Jerry hopefully will see your garden again .

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