The Queensland Gardening Pages
Information & resources about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld

Our Birkdale "Giving Garden"

Ian and Judy Wintle

About the garden

After 20 years of Service in the RAAF and nearly as many addresses, Judy, I and our two sons were looking forward to putting roots down in one place. We acquired our one-acre block here in St James Park, Birkdale in Expo year 1988 and proceeded to build a house that would be our permanent home.
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It was a bare block, so we started well and truly from scratch. We decided from the outset that we would have a nice garden and one that would return something back to us. It is basically a "gardeners' garden", built by sheer hard work and effort, the only help being shovel and wheelbarrow. We have done ALL the work ourselves - no landscape gardeners in our yard.

We started off by planting a variety of tropical fruit trees and basically lots of lawn. However, it was not until after our eldest son received a severe spinal injury in a motor bike accident in 1996 that we really started to put our heart and soul into the garden, which then became an integral part of our own rehabilitation.
It's been very hard work with poor soil and no underground water. The soil is solid clay down to about 70 feet, so over the years we have had to trailer in many metres of different mulches. We bring in quite a lot of stable and mushroom manure and compost everything that is able to be put through the shredder and use all the lawn clippings.

In 2005 we put in a 15000-litre rainwater tank, then two more in 2006. Another two 15000 litre and one 5000 litre tank were purchased in 2008. This means that we now have six tanks with a combined storage of 82,500 litres of rainwater, and have plans for at least one more tank. This should make us "drought proof".
By using good gardening practices involving utilising seaweed fertilizers, rainwater, mulching, worm farms, composting and native beehives this garden remains healthy and productive all year round.

Visitors can walk through many rainforest tracks which are covered by a canopy of exotic tropical fruit trees. The under plantings are full of many spectacular bromeliads, heliconias, gingers, orchids, costus, caladiums, cordylines and calatheas, as well as many other varieties of unusual plants we collect throughout the year.
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We now have approximately 40 different varieties of tropical fruit and nut trees, including sapotes, star apples, longans, custard apples, sapodillas, hog plums, wax jambus, lychees and, of course, several types of mangoes. We also have a productive vegetable garden, which reflects the time we spent living in Malaysia. It's full of Asian vegetables. No matter what time of year it is we can always go outside and find something to eat, be it fruit or vegetable.

The garden changes every year and is still evolving. As the years have passed, additions to the garden include a 100 m2 bromeliad shade house, an African thatched roofed oval gazebo with timber deck, a Goldfish pond with a large running waterfall, Balinese water pots filled with plants and fish and a water lily pond.
In addition to participating in Australia's Open Garden Scheme for many years, the garden has featured on the ABC's Gardening Australia programme and Channel 9's Garden Gurus. We have been finalists in the Queensland Premiers Water-Wise Garden Competition, were included in Better Homes and Gardens' Top 50 Gardens in Australia and were proud to receive a Golden Trowel in ABC Gardening Australia's 2009 "Gardener of the Year" competition. Ian also presents to garden clubs and societies on "Smart Sub Tropical Gardening".

See and read more

Would you like to see our Garden 12 months a year? There are more images in our online photo album here:

You can also read more about our garden in our blog:

Our garden gives us something back in return, and we are very proud to share it with you during our 'Open Garden'. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
 - Ian and Judy Wintle 

Photographs and text copyright Ian and Judy Wintle

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Open Garden dates and information

For the next open garden dates, check the Events Diary on this website or consult the Australia's Open Garden Scheme guidebook.


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