Location: East Doncaster, Victoria

Sustainable Gardening’s 2005 Award Winner

Diane Cummins’ garden in East Doncaster, Victoria was awarded the Middle Yarra 2005 Sustainable Residential Garden Award (shared with a garden from Montmorency) recently, for the second year in a row.

The Sustainable Gardening Award is a regional initiative of Banyule, Manningham and Nillumbik Councils with support from Sustainable Gardening Australia.

SGA featured this garden when it won the 2004 award but Diane has added a few more beds since our last visit and the plants have grown too. Seen here is the front garden, now starting to look very well established, although there are still plenty of immature shrubs and trees that will grow much bigger.

There’s close to ten years’ work in this garden, gradually evolving from a garden with numerous exotic plants to one with mostly natives. Diane is keen to point out, though, that she still has a mix of both.

‘I just want to show that you can still have a mix of plants. I still have some azaleas around the front,’ Diane says, ‘but they don’t get any special treatment. When exotics die, they are replaced with indigenous plants.’

Diane’s brother, environmental writer William Lines, has generously assisted with the restructure. He has done much of the major work over the years, replacing sleeper retaining walls, building the stone walls (from local Warrandyte stone), and installing rainwater tanks.

There are two rainwater tanks, one large galvanized iron and one smaller plastic one, and although she confesses to having to use some mains water on the garden, the tanks have considerably reduced Diane’s reliance on this source.‘I still use some mains water because of the vegetable garden,’ she explains, ‘but the tanks really help.’

Water features prominently in the garden too. There are numerous bird baths dotted around, which attract (along with the garden) quite a variety of birds.

In the previous garden tour, Diane lamented that no frogs had taken up residence in her garden. However, she struck it lucky recently when a woman offered her tadpoles from a swimming pool that was being pulled out. Diane now has frogs!
Diane’s garden not only features lots of local indigenous plants, she also has a healthy and expansive vegetable garden and fruit trees (including a Macadamia and a grafted Avocado, which are looking robust and healthy).
The garden is well mulched and Diane is also an avid composter. She has a worm farm and a Tumbleweed Compost Maker.‘This is a great compost system,’ she says. ‘It’s easy to turn and because it’s sealed there’s no problem with vermin.’
Diane also has chickens, which dispose of kitchen scraps in return for eggs.Everyone will have an opportunity to visit Diane’s garden, as it has been accepted into the Australian Open Garden Scheme and will be open on the weekend of 31 March/ 1 April 2007.
It’s an eclectic plant collection, featuring native and indigenous plants. There’s several types of grasses, including Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass), Epacris, a variety of grevilleas, banksias (shown here is Banksia ericifolia), eucalypts, eremophilas, Alyogyne, and correas (shown here is Correa ‘Fat Fred’), to name but a few. There are several Acacia cognata ‘Green Mist’ in pots near the front entrance, which are starting to look very elegant.