Gardening Australia

the big picture

A boundless budget doesn’t always determine success when you’re a gardener. In fact, it’s quite likely the opposite, writes MICHAEL McCOY


Anyone who watched Dream Gardens on ABC TV will know that you can spend virtually as much as you want on a garden. Your garden is capable of eating up any budget you have available. Of gobbling it down, in fact. But it’s equally true, as so many readers of ABC Gardening Australia magazine will know, that you can spend as little as you want on your garden, and that decision will never be the ultimate determinan­t of its success.

One of the biggest moments in one part of my garden (and this is probably my favourite part, as it’s the most recent, and the most experiment­al) is based on plants that were, in one way or another, all gifts. Six seedlings of Euphorbia rigida that were given to me by a client about six years ago have turned into dozens, and play a starring role. Co-starring at the same time is a dwarf bearded iris of glowing velvet-purple, given to me 20 years ago by a nurseryman who wasn’t interested in propagatin­g it commercial­ly. I now have countless clumps of generous size echoing throughout the entire space.

The other major component around which these fecund freebies play is a scattering of that best of all ornamental grasses, Stipa gigantea, the original seedlings of which were also gifts from a good friend. Dotted throughout are plants on trial, which I’ve happily bought with the intention of propagatin­g more, should they prove to enjoy the no-irrigation status of this part of the garden.

Indeed, it’s one of the truly enriching aspects of gardening to me that, while there is a healthy commercial offshoot to our passion, you can garden very happily with minimal engagement with it – whether you need to or you simply want to. You can make your own compost, you can make your own plant food (in an infinite variety of ways), and you can propagate your own plants. The effect of doing these things extends way beyond just the financial savings. The rough equation for a super-keen gardener is the smaller your ongoing financial investment, the bigger your necessary buy-in to all the life and health-giving processes that accompany budget gardening.

They provide their own reward.

If I scan my property for the zones that represent the highest financial investment, it doesn’t take long for my attention to come to rest on the garden section of my bookshelve­s. But even that needn’t represent too much of a personal burden. I mean, isn’t that what Christmas is for?

Michael blogs at the

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