PLANTING A SEED
WHILE HELPING AN OLD FRIEND, MAUREEN GARDNER STUMBLED ON AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW A BUSINESS FROM HER GARDEN.
How Maureen Gardner turned a concrete block into Bowral’s garden oasis, known as Green Lane.
MAUREEN GARDNER HAS a way with plants and is the creative spirit behind the oasis known as Green Lane in Bowral. It all started when a friend opened a shop overlooking the concrete loading dock of Dirty Jane’s, a well-known antique emporium on the main street. The space needed a little beautification, so Maureen bought in a ute load of plants from home. Then another. And another. As she made her deliveries an idea started to form — maybe this empty concrete slab could be a garden centre. “I spoke to the landlord, bought the site office that was sitting empty, put an awning on it and away we went,” Maureen says. Knowing she couldn’t compete with the big nurseries, Maureen decided to specialise in topiary, citrus, formal plants, heirloom perennials and edibles. It wasn’t long before the loading dock was unrecognisable as Maureen crowded it with large and small tabletop topiaries in terracotta pots, succulents in shades of green and grey, and spindly outdoor metal tables amassed with pots of flowering plants, from geraniums to marigolds and hydrangeas, depending on the season. With a background in events and publicity — early in her career she’d worked for the company that toured the Bolshoi Ballet and rock music acts such as Leonard Cohen and was later involved in events such as the Magic Millions yearling sale in Queensland — Maureen knows how to wow a crowd, and added furniture and sculptural garden pieces to the mix. Old shutters, their paint peeled, lean up against the wall. Willow cloches for keeping rabbits off the strawberries and obelisks, just right for trailing clematis or green beans, are stacked in towers. Rustic timber furniture abounds: there’s an old bench from the Burradoo Railway Station as well as stick pieces by local furniture maker Joe Vinks. The results charmed the locals who added a turn of the nursery, which she’d called The Potting Shed, to their morning walk. Three years on and those same locals can now stop for tea and cake, or even a glass of champagne, as Maureen’s husband Chris has recently joined her on Green Lane, opening Green Lane Street Kitchen for takeaway food and coffee, as well as Harry’s — a restaurant and bar. Not content to rest on her laurels, Maureen has also created a conservatory, The Orangery, which she’s filled with established ferns and palm trees and furnished with marble-topped consoles and huge gilded mirrors, all for sale. Maureen inherited her love of plants from her mother, who created a garden on the family sheep farm in Central Otago, New Zealand, where she grew up. When Maureen and Chris bought an old farmhouse on 40 hectares in the Southern Highlands 11 years ago, she too discovered the joys of gardening on a large scale, planting out about five hectares with her favourite flowers; delphiniums, foxglove, lupins, peonys and hellebore. When she’s not gardening, or talking to gardeners about gardening, Maureen’s attention is claimed by the flock of Suffolk sheep and menagerie of animals including donkeys, goats and a pig that she and Chris keep. The Potting Shed is about more than the plants on show. “It’s about helping people learn to garden, giving them ideas and encouraging them to try new things,” says Maureen. That includes children. Maureen gives them tiny terracotta pots planted with succulents to keep in their bedroom. “You never know,” she says. “It might sow a seed.” The Potting Shed, Rear courtyard Dirty Jane’s, 15–17 Banyette Street, Bowral. 0419 154 860; thepottingshedbowral.com
White Veronica, pink Angelonia angustifolia and Salvia Cathedral Sky Blue cosy together on a tabletop at The Potting Shed. FACING PAGE Maureen Gardner attends to a small topiary in her Bowral garden centre.