Manilla Gardeners Strutting Their Stuff
by Beth Gower
Manilla gardeners enthusiastically welcomed the chance to showcase their gardening skills by entering the Manilla Show Society’s inaugural Garden Competition.
Due to Covid restrictions, the Horticulture Display, which is usually a highlight of the Show, is not to be held this year. Instead, gardeners were invited to enter their garden in one or more categories: small garden or courtyard, town garden, rural garden, seniors garden, edible garden, specimen plant in the garden, specimen plant in a pot, and specimen tree.
I was given the daunting task of the competition judge. Thankfully, I was very ably assisted by organiser Jessica Taylor and Stewards Catherine Northey and Trish Smith, and young Sarah and Anna Northey. I needed to call on past experience as a garden selector for Australia’s Open Garden Scheme, and time as a Community Education Officer for the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. But I will always recall Elwyn Swane’s main criterion for selecting a garden: it had to have the Wow Factor!
What a wonderful day we had visiting beautiful gardens and speaking with, and learning from, some very talented and knowledgeable gardeners.
Erik and Margaret Dekkers’ garden was awarded top prize for the Seniors’ Garden. An expansive, parklike garden with a diverse range of plants including some wonderful and mature Australian native trees and shrubs. Courtyard nooks provided enjoyable outdoor spaces in which to relax and view the garden – one amusingly named The Bus Stop.
Highly Commended in the Seniors’ Garden Section was Dot Spires garden with some grand statuary and decorative garden ornaments, a productive vegetable patch, pretty hanging baskets and secluded spots to hang out in.
A magnificent Chinese Lantern shrub, Abutilon sp. with striking yellow bells contrasting with deep green foliage earned Delma Sneesby a first in the Garden Specimen Shrub category. But Delma had so much more happening in her garden. Her greenhouse housed a special collection of flourishing ferns, begonias and other treasures. Another garden displayed tiny memories portrayed in intriguing and quirky ways – those ‘ten-green-bottles’, which in accordance with the round song were being slowly reduced in numbers by the free-ranging chooks, the container of pens reminding us of pen-pals, the expanse of shells evoking Shelly Beach in Manly, the rock in the shape of Australia – Australian Rock, two teddies enjoying tea - the teddy bears’ picnic, a one-horse-town, a collection of blue bottles for a further play on words….and so much more.
A Geisha Girl, Duranta repens, was the highlight in Margaret Hurle’s garden with its vibrant display of purple flowers attracting a myriad of butterflies - and a Highly Commended award.
A variety of potted succulents, many unusual, with a pot of Elephant’s Ears towering over them were first-place contenders in the Specimen Plant in a Pot for Amanda Kneipp. More succulents were imaginatively planted in a strip garden bordering the front lawn, and even in old chairs!
We are looking forward to many culinary offerings from Catherine Northey’s highly productive quince tree which gained a first for Specimen Tree. Fortunately, the birds and insect pests haven’t discovered it so it was in prime condition.
Gwen and Ted Taylor’s inviting patio graced by a large, turning waterwheel, made by Ted, was awarded First place for a Courtyard.
An immaculately maintained garden greeted us at Jenny Hall and John Ross’ 1890s home. Jenny and John have been there for seven years and in that time have replaced about 80% of the plantings with those better able to contend with the Manilla climate. A round bed is the central feature in the front garden with a classical fountain surrounded by iceberg roses and lavenders. The centrepiece of the side garden is an Elvins Plum Tree, Prunus cerasifega‘Elvins’ which would have stunning red foliage in autumn and white flowers grading to pink in the spring and summer providing year-round interest. Contrasting with the plum would be the brilliant yellow flowers of Dwarf Yellow Broom, Cytisusrecemosus nana and an edging of gazanias. Water tanks have been installed and even the possums are catered for with a possum box in a tree to discourage them from residing in the roof. A worthy recipient of the Town Garden award.
Another Highly Commended Town Garden was that of Julie Coote. We were particularly taken with her healthy Shrimp Plants, Justicia brandegeeana, in both deep pink and yellow shades.
Ruth Schwager has big plans for her town garden, already exhibiting her design and gardening talents and earning her a Highly Commended in the Town Garden category. Dahlias were her feature plant.
When we came to Helen Hawker’s garden it was decided that we needed to add a new category to the Garden Competition - that of Most Quirky! Helen had constructed a small farm, based on one she had occupied long ago, with miniature animals, farm machinery, tanks and troughs. It was very imaginative, fun – and quirky.
Pumpkins galore were rampant in artist Marj Martini’s home….five, ten, fifteen…maybe many more, all carefully watched over by Marj. There will be many happy recipients enjoying pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, roast pumpkin, pumpkin scones….when they are harvested. And to continue her pumpkin theme, Marj invested in a very decorative pumpkin from the market just that morning! Of course she was awarded first place in the Edible Garden category.
A trip out into the nearby countryside took us to Clarendon, the home of Jodi and Graham Wilson. An avenue of old and majestic Athel Pines, Tamarixaphylla. First in the Rural Garden category.
A runner-up for the Rural Garden award was Jessica and Paul Taylor’s garden. Paul has constructed a long rock garden to accommodate Jessica’s rose collection. Many of her roses were special family heirlooms grown from cuttings given to her by her grandmother, sourced from her beautiful Bathurst garden. The roses are complemented by chrysanthemums, sedums and other striking perennials. Other beds have displays of Australian natives and there is an avenue of Kurrajongs, Brachychiton rupestrisalong the access road. In another area is ‘the gully’ featuring a wide selection of Australian natives – Eremophilas, Hakeas, Myoporum, Whalenbergia and a stunning snow gum dripping with pink blossom.
I have to commend Trish Smith and Lee for what they have achieved in their new garden in less than a year: perhaps next year we should include a special award for a new garden.
And the Grand Champion Garden is…. Jenny Hall and John Ross’ Town Garden, congratulations - a magnificent achievement.
Erik and Margaret Dekkers, 11 Kennedy Street - 1st in Seniors Garden - Large Native Garden.
Jennifer Hall and John Ross, 42 Strafford Street - 1st in Town Garden and Champion Garden - Formal Garden with old house.
Delma Sneesby, 19 Burrell Street (Grantham Lane) - 1st in Specimen Plant or Shrub in Garden - Chinese Lantern.
Marj Martini, 122 Arthur Street - 1st in Edible Garden - Pumpkins galore!
Julie Coote - Highly commended in Town Garden - Shimps!
Ruth Schwager, 87 River Street - Highly commended in Town Garden - Dahlias.
Helen Hawker, Stephen Street (Namoi Street) - 1st in Quirky Garden - Helens Farm.
Amanda Kneipp, 55 South Street - 1st in Speciment Plant or Shrub in Pot - Elephants ear and Succulents.
Ted and Gwen Taylor, 11 Glencoe Street - 1st in Court Yard/Patio - Water Wheel.
Catherine Northey, Woorooma Crescent - 1st in Specimen Tree - Quince.
Dot Spires, 14 Merindah Avenue - HC Senior Garden and Edible Garden - Buddhas and Tomators.
Margaret Hurle, 102 Wimbourne Road - Highly Commended Specimen Plant in Garden - Geisha Girl.
Jodi and Graham Wilson, 614 Borah Road "Clarendon" - 1st in Rural Garden.