Josh drops in on a community of gardeners reclaiming their verges with impressive results. Subscribe ? http://ab.co/GA-subscribe
Whether you know them as verges or a nature strips, the area of council land nestled alongside the footpath at the front of our houses are central features of our urban environments, but are often nothing more than a waste of space, an area that requires maintenance but gives back so little. Across Australia, there’s a growing awareness of the potential of these underutilised, unloved spaces to be transformed into something so much more. Josh is heading back to his old stomping ground of White Gum Valley, 3 kms from Fremantle, to meet the Valley Vergers, a collective of 30 or so WGV residents with a common goal – to convert their verges from wide expanses of lawn and weeds into beautiful, functional gardens. Their aim? To grow great gardens, boost biodiversity and cultivate community…..all on council land!
And it makes sense. “The verges are huge” says Dave Broun, founding member of the White Gum Valley Vergers. ”Ours, because it is on a corner block, is over 300m2, but even standard verges here are generally over 100m2”. Dave purchased his home in WGV almost ten years ago, and says the verge at that time was just “couch grass, weeds, and one established Tuart Tree (Eucalyptus gomphocephala). I didn’t realise it at the time we bought, but this unused space was just bursting with potential”. He’s not wrong. Although only planted a couple of years ago, Dave’s verge is now bursting with biodiversity, a massive 350 individual plants from 100 different species now occupying this once barren space.
“All of the plants I have put in are WA natives, and most are endemic to this area of the Swan Coastal Plain” says Dave. He is particularly proud of his Quandongs (Santalum acuminatum) that are thriving in the shallow limestone soil, utilising Acacia saligna as hosts. “Quandong are hemi parasitic, so somewhere underground it’s roots have latched on to the Acacia for some extra water and nutrients. These were planted on the verge a bit over 18 months ago and have done splendidly.
While Dave’s verge is all about locally native plant species and a naturalistic style of planting, this is not the case with other Valley Vergers. Directly opposite Dave’s place is the home of fellow valley Vergers Ian and Daphne, long term WGV residents and avid verge gardeners. “Our style is a little different to Dave’s, it’s more formal with the terraces and edges we’ve put in, and we like to clip and shape some of our plants to provide some different sculptural elements” says Ian. The planting style is also different, with Ian and Daphne’s verge a mix of native plants, non-invasive exotics and even some fruit trees. “That’s the nice thing about the verges that are developing within WGV, and the Valley Verges – it doesn’t have to ‘look’ a certain way, or conform to a blueprint” says Ian. “As long as our planting and landscaping complies with council requirements, we are good to go”.
Council requirements and guidelines are an important element for anyone considering planting out a verge to understand and comply with. “It’s really important to ensure that you are designing and gardening these spaces in accordance with what your council has agreed to. Most councils have readily available resources around what can and can’t be done” says Dave. “Know the location of services, both above and below ground, before you plan or plant anything – Dial before you Dig is an excellent resource for that”. Safety is a huge part of verge gardening – “you have to ensure that vehicles have clear sight lines, that overhead infrastructure isn’t interfered with, and that pedestrians and people alighting from vehicles are able to move through the spaces safely”.
QUANDONG – Santalum acuminatum
GOLDEN WREATH WATTLE – Acacia saligna
EREMOPHILA – Eremophila sp.
KANGAROO GRASS – Themeda triandra
TUART – Eucalyptus gomphocephala
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