In rugged country outside Mullumbimby in northern NSW, is a garden that I’ve been regularly visiting for the last 25 years. Margaret and Con live here surrounded by rainforest. Cascading creeks and waterfalls rush down the mountainside, all around their property.
What I love about Margaret and Con’s garden is that it’s almost not a garden at all. The exotic plantings are barely restrained, and the boundary between the garden and the forest is indistinct. Native trees towering overhead embrace the house and garden. Here is the native cabbage tree palm.
And a rare native conifer, the Hoop pine.
Available space is dedicated to favourite tropical exotics, particularly herbs and greens, which Con cooks in traditional Greek recipes. You will find Con’s recipe for Vlita at the end of this post.
Coastal spinach, or “Warrigal Greens”, is an Australian native which can be used in place of spinach or silver beet.
Perched on the mountainside, level ground is limited. A herb garden is planted in a length of guttering affixed to the rock wall at the back of the house site and irrigated by water pumped from the creek.
Vietnamese mint thrives in this watery environment.
Every planting area juxtaposes ornamental with edible plants. Here’s a close-up of native crinums right at home in the moist environment alongside the herbs.
There are always new plants on the go- here is Margaret’s nursery.
Just a few metres away is a gorge, with the thundering waterfall hidden behind the greenery.
The garden is most orderly close to the house, with favourite old fashioned ornamentals grown in containers.
Petunias and impatiens invoke childhood memories, albeit in a vastly different setting.
Unlike our childhood home, there are outdoor bathtubs. Some used for bathing, some used for water plants.
If you hop into the wrong tub, you may find you have the company of frogs, or other rainforest creatures!
Also planted close to the house, where they can be appreciated from the outdoor eating areas, are several varieties of tropical creepers and plants with sublimely lovely flowers. Here’s a selection.
I don’t know the name of this delicate mauve-blue flowering creeper.
Here is Passiflora cochinea– scarlet passionflower. As Margaret observes, it is pure art nouveau!
Another beauty whose name I don’t know.
Snail plant is difficult to grow, but worth the effort, with its delicately perfumed flowers of subdued sunset hues.
Jasmine is pure white simplicity…
Or luscious red…
Bamboo screens the house area.
On the periphery of the house site, plantings of natives and exotics merge with the natural forest, creating a gentle transition from the house into the bush.
Everything is green and lush, and the occasional flashes of colour subtly denote the presence of an exotic ornamental.
Native trees are used as hosts for some exotic epiphytes.
Thai coriander grows among the amaranth, on the narrow strip between the driveway and the precipice. Only the delicate young leaves are used,
Finger Lime is an Australian native citrus with exceptional nutritional value.
Chocolate pudding plant, Diospyros nigra, or black sapote, when ripe, looks and tastes exactly like…chocolate pudding. It’s delicious with strawberries and cream.
As promised, here is Con’s recipe for Vlita, a traditional Greek dish of greens made from amaranth.
Pick the green/ fresh amaranth tips, wash well and discard stalks that aren’t tender.
Add to boiling water and boil for about 8-10 minutes until tender. Drain.
Season with olive oil, salt , pepper. In Greece some use vinegar. Con usually uses lemon juice.
Add some crushed garlic if you like. Serve warm or cold, as a side dish.
In Greece this is a summer green that grows everywhere and is eaten with just about every meal. In winter the amaranth is replaced by chicory.
I love to visit Margaret and Con in their free spirited garden