Walcott garden: Native paradise
Rosalind and Benjamin Walcott's Red Hill property is a wonderland that has starred in Open Gardens Australia and will now feature on stamps. Photo: Jamila Toderas
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The Walcott Garden
In 2001 Rosalind and Benjamin Walcott purchased a property in Red Hill that was first developed in 1926. Through their architect Wal Kostyrko and landscape architect Helen Cohen, both Canberrans, the design of the new house was integrated with the garden. From July to December 2003 the initial planting of 2500 plants, mostly native to Australia, was completed. Since then they have welcomed many visitors to the garden, having been open to the public more than 40 times including seven occasions for Open Gardens Australia.
Rock work and the stamp
David and Ian Elvin constructed the wonderful rock walls behind the waterfalls and around the large ponds using rock quarried at Newline near Queanbeyan.
In September, Australia Post is issuing a new stamp series, five in all, to celebrate 25 years of Open Gardens Australia. One will feature the Walcott garden in an image of rocks, winding path and shrubs taken by Dr Ben Walcott who is a fine photographer.
Water tumbling over large stones in the garden creek creates sound and movement. Pea-flowered pendulous native dogwood (Jacksonia scoparia) fringes the water with mat rush (Lomandra longifolia) and massed swamp foxtail, its feathery plumes captivating our photographer, Jamila Toderas. The sweet wattle (Acacia suaveolens) lent its fragrance to the air and the Albany woolly bush (Adenanthos sericeus) provided a soft touch.
On the day the Canberra Times visited the Walcotts’ garden there were 180 plants in flower. Dr Ros Walcott tracks everything that is in bloom in the garden each week for her records and to check the plants’ health and quotes an old Chinese proverb: “The footsteps of the gardener are the best fertiliser”.
Among her winter favourites are banksias because the cones last so long and are bold with their Fibonacci spirals. Banksia robur starts off metallic green and progresses through gold to rusty brown. B. brownii has silver-backed feathery leaves that change colour in the wind. The best small banksia is B. "Bulli Baby" which displays bright bronzed Aussie cones when lit by the sun.
Ros notes which birds are in the garden and, in the first crisp week of August, 22 species visited. They included wood duck, eastern spinebill, nesting crimson rosellas and galahs, satin bowerbird and a new bird for the garden, New Holland honeyeater. A pavilion, which makes the perfect spot for outdoor entertaining, is sited beside a reflecting pool filled with water lilies. The ducks sun themselves close by on a curving cedar boardwalk.
Plants in pots
On the front porch and beside the warmth of walls and windows on the back terrace, potted native plants provide specific points of interest. Nothing is more spectacular than electric blue flowers on Lechenaultia biloba planted in a sky blue ceramic pot, but for those who like subtle combinations, the heathland desert banksia (B. ornata) has grey and cream cones in bud that age to bronze and it attracts honey-eating birds.
Relax on garden benches
This is a garden with sweeps of plants, contrasting foliage shapes and winding gravel pathways that lead to secret corners and secluded nooks. Visitors love to sit and linger and watch the play of light and shade over the whole garden. Foliage of a specimen Acacia cognata "Burgundy Cascade" shimmers in the breeze. Acacia pendula and Acacia spectabilis frame a wooden seat beside a pond and eucalypts shade benches where privacy is provided by a hedge of willowy Callistemon salignus, chosen for its flush of new pink foliage.