Jenny Allan harvesting chilis

Jenny Allan harvesting chilis

By Jenny Allan

Intoxicated with her gardening love affair 20 years ago, Jenny Allan designed her permaculture property in Maleny, and over 100 gardens in the Hinterland. It “took over” her life for a time, with garden tours to run and writing a book, Smart Permaculture Design. But the initial work is now rewarding Jenny with attractive dividends.

Like most people in love, I thought my gardening honeymoon would last forever. Permaculture was my life and I couldn’t imagine I would be side tracked.

I was naïve. My priorities changed. First up, children. And later, life traumas, including separation. I then became a zealous bike-rider, pedaling our verdant hills three mornings a week with the Lycra Lizards. What was that about gardening?

All part of the journey of life. Yet the garden was still there; it needed attention, and it just kept on producing. What should I do?

For the time being, I turned to minimization: the veggie patch was converted into rolling green manure crops; friends helped greatly with maintenance, and harvested the fruit open-slather.

However, the remaining workload overwhelmed me, leading me to stray and look afar…. for something to solve my supposed problems.

I toyed with buying a younger, slick, more handsome house….with a spectacular outlook….and lots of grass. But upon reflection, this wouldn’t solve my problems, the answer lay within.

As the kids grew more independent, I grew a deeper relationship with my garden: a new level of intimacy, where I didn’t have to be in control and continue to develop it.

The garden is the result of the original love affair, and like having children, it is kindling a life of its own. I just needed to trust and enjoy it.

The initial huge effort friends and I put into strategic design and development is such a bonus, and with a bit of help keeps giving to me in a number of ways, some that I never even planned:

  • I drive home to a lush, welcoming entrance with the overhanging large-leaved Giant Lau Lau, ferns, crows’ nests and orchids. Already I feel calmed.
  • I sit back in my favourite spot with a cup of tea and watch the wildlife that has made the lake its own. I created shelving on the edges that the resident heron walks around, stalking little creatures. The bleeding heart leans over the water…the water dragons dozing on its horizontal limbs, jumping in when they feel threatened. The flitting azure kingfisher decorates the scene with darts of blue.
  • The good old regular fruit trees just keep providing…..the oranges, limes, bananas, mulberries, feijoas and tamarillos.
  • I had planted a small cabinet timber plantation as my superannuation. I am now attached to the towering rainforest trees and won’t harvest them, but am glad I had foresight.

In my dreamlike, obsessed days I imagined the kids would be planting with me, singing gardening ditties…..but no. However, at times they surprise me with their relationship with it:

  • When Jasmine’s friends visit they rush to pick the native finger limes, snap them open and suck out their balls of citrus-infused caviar.
  • The magical combination of miracle fruits and lemons is still a hit at school. The kids chew on a miracle fruit and then eat a lemon. The miracle fruit tricks their mouths’ sour receptors into making the lemon taste very sweet. (Warning: not to be tried before a quality glass of wine.)
  • Ziggy negotiated with his agriculture teacher to bring 70 kids here for an excursion….and then asked me if that was okay! He was the Tour Guide and pointed out many things I hadn’t realized he was aware of.
  • Probably the biggest benefit for the children is being close to nature and developing (sometimes unusual) empathy. Once, a python slept on our verandah for a month digesting a possum. As the nights became chillier, Ziggy was concerned the python would get cold so he filled a hot water bottle and put it next to it. He then put a pumpkin beside this, which I thought the python may have trouble consuming. However he told me this was to attract a rat for the python to readily pounce on. He was one step ahead of me!

Twenty years on and I am delighted that I am once again appreciating how much my garden offers.

If you are wondering how much effort to put into your garden now, I recommend designing well and putting in as much effort as you can. And to focus on things that will flourish for the long term, with the ability and resilience to keep on improving.

And then if you do happen to become side-tracked, your faithful garden will keep on evolving, surprising you with rich experiences over time.

Jenny Allen is opening her bountiful garden to the public on Thursday, May 26 for the workshop …..”Create a Garden Paradise for Wildlife”. She is running this alongside regen pioneer, Spencer Shaw.

It runs from 9-12pm and includes Karen Shaw’s scrumptious bushfood morning tea …..with Davidson’s plum jam drops and more.

The last three workshops booked out quickly, so ring soon….Maleny’s Forest Heart Nursery: 54352195