Gardening in the dry
Successful water wise gardens are about common sense and taking stock of what’s local.
Seven rivers flow into the ACT, winding through the grasslands and woodlands around Canberra. The Cotter Dam catches some of this water and keeps it, along with three other major dams, for Canberrans to quench their thirst and water their gardens. Water will never abound in the relatively dry ACT so water wise gardens makes sense as you are working with what you have.
A showcase garden at the new Canberra Arboretum has been created to inspire and educate people about gardening with minimal water. Commissioned by the government-owned ACTEW Water, the Canberra Discovery Garden was created as a community-driven water wise garden.
Matt Friend works in community engagement and education at ACTEW Water and was involved in the garden through its design and build stages. He says one of the company’s priorities is to encourage Canberra residents to use less water in their gardens, as this is the single biggest usage of water in the ACT. He adds that it’s an easier task than getting everyone to take shorter showers.
A community group of horticulturists and passionate public and industry representatives worked on the garden’s design. The group decided what plants and features were important to include and what plants people would like to see.
The garden is divided into three spaces. The first is an area to meet and learn and includes a deck and some rotating, experimental garden beds. The middle space is where people can see what plants can grow in a water wise garden. The last showcases different turf grasses and includes three warm season and three cool season grasses.
Of all the plants in the garden, Matt says the crowd favourite is Acacia cognate, with cultivars called Limelight or Mini Cog. It’s a soft-leaf weeping acacia not typically planted in Canberra but which has been very successful.
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