Our May competition for the best nature strip garden in Victoria caught the imagination, with scores of entries and a special mention in The Age newspaper.
Warmest congratulations to all entrants - your hard work and dedication is an inspiration to us all.
Read the write-up by competition judge, OGV supporter and nature strip expert, Karen Sutherland to find out who won and admire stunning images of the top entries.
Our nature strips add up to an amazing one third of our total public space, according to Adrian Marshall in ‘The Conversation’. Gardeners are increasingly seeing this land as an under-developed resource, with potential to lower the urban heat island effect, increase biodiversity, foster community connections as well as grow some more food plants. This extra space is just too good to pass up!
This competition has been a joy to be part of, sharing each gardener’s enthusiastic work on their nature strip gardens, bringing flowers for local insects, birds and wildlife, joy to passers-by and connection with their local communities, as well as herbs and edibles.
Anyone not mentioned below has also been much appreciated by us all for their hard work and dedication, helping to break new ground for other gardeners, hopefully inspiring more of these gardens in this under-utilised open space!
After much deliberation, I've decided the winner is Susanna Starr from North Fitzroy.
The winning nature strip garden by Susanna Starr of North Fitzroy is colourful and diverse. Plantings include Zephyranthes candida, species gladioli, freesias, babianas, Lilium 'Patricia's Pride', Mexican tulip poppy (Hunnemannia fumariifolia), eryngium species, Achillea 'Moonshine', Pelargonium sidoides and P. reniforme, feverfew, euphorbias, cosmos, Correa alba, Ballota pseudodictamnus, Brachyglottis greyii, white Raphiolepis indica, Phlomis fruticosa, Helichrysum petiolaris, santolinas and white and blue ceratostigmas, parsely, thyme, prostrate winter and Cretan savoury, Warrigal greens, Tulbaghia violacea, a seedling-grown persimmon, and various herbs.
Susanna has developed a playful looking garden, with lots of flowers for pollinating insects and herbs and fruit for sharing with her neighbours. A diverse palette of plants is carefully curated in a narrow space, with tightly constrained evergreens balanced with softer seasonal flowers.
Although there were six close runners-up, this garden is a little bit quirky, bringing a smile to my eyes, and most likely intriguing and engaging local passers-by.
The six close runners-up, which I loved for their colourful explosion of nature onto their strips, were Deborah Gilchrist from Buninyong, Goshen Watts from Belmont, Megan McLaughlin from Arthur’s Seat, Anne Thompson from Newport and Peter Weaver from Seaholme, as well as a special mention for Rachel Eaves from Port Melbourne and her Jelly Palm under-planted with vegetables. I loved how she tied her edible street tree into her local streetscape - very clever! It seems a shame to only award one winner with such a lot of love and effort going into these gardens. Again, there were many more wonderful gardens besides these.
Runner up garden by Deborah Gilchrist, Buninyong. The plants chosen are predominantly native to the area, mixed with exotics (pictured) to ensure there are always food sources for bees.
Runner up, Goshen Watts’ nature strip garden in Belmont grows hardy and resilient flowers in summer and additional veggies in the winter and spring, such as garlic, broad beans, shallots, herbs and more.
Westringia and correas feature in runner up Megan McLaughlin’s garden in Arthur’s Seat. Elsewhere, not pictured, Megan has planted Melaleuca diosmifolia, allocasuarina, Myoporum parvifolium, leucadendron and various acacias and leptospermums as supplied by her local Landcare Group.
Runner up, Anne Thompson from Newport has used yellow Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower) to provide this sunny backdrop to a mix of other bright flowering plants.
Runner up, Peter Weaver’s garden in Seaholme contains an olive, cumquat, fennel, diakon, rhubarb, borage, parsley, sage, zucchini, bulbs and flowers, japanese taro, sweet potato, potato, garlic, and ‘all the herbs’! He says he is still learning what works well in his nature strip.
Rachel Eaves nature strip garden in Port Melbourne. A Butia capitata (Jelly Palm) is surrounded by winter vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, silver beet, kale, spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes, parsley, sage, celery, coriander, lemon thyme, oregano and tarragon.
Although we wanted to encourage home gardeners and so haven’t awarded a professional gardener, the horticulturalists who entered showed fabulous examples of the nature strip genre. The most spectacular were Deborah Hambleton from Central Victoria with diverse and extensive plantings beautifully presented and Tim Ubergang from Altona with a well-developed native theme. Diana Cotter from Coburg and Ilias Paras from Darebin also showcased natives stylishly in their street gardens.
The nature strip garden by garden designer Deborah Hambleton from Central Victoria is extensive. This section of the garden is planted with Pencil Pines, olives and artichokes (the artichokes are prolific and love the conditions!) - as well as a serpentine hedge around Russian Sage and lavender. She has mostly let the artichokes flower and the cockatoos love the seed heads.
This native themed nature trip garden by horticulturalist, Tim Ubergang from Altona receives no irrigation at all, yet thrives with a combination of Australian native plants including some native edibles. Plants such as Capparis spinosa (capers) and Billardiera scandens are edible and complement Xanthorrhoea australis, Hakea baxteri (pictured), chrysocephalum, leucophyta, Acacia cognata and the unstoppable Banksia blechnifolia to name a few.
Garden designer Diana Cotter designed her nature strip in Coburg primarily to offer respite, food, habitat and connectivity for local fauna. It has a mix of natives, indigenous and ornamental plants which will offer food for wildlife all year round. The garden is to become a teaching garden to encourage local residents to consider adding to this connectivity corridor.
Another native nature strip garden by landscape architect Ilias Paras in Darebin. His garden features a range of endemic plants, along with a few general natives - poas, lomandras, Eucalyptus caesia, dianellas and westringias.
Lastly, an appreciation for the work of community planted nature strips, as this embodies connection in this public space. The most amazing one of these wasn't a nature strip, but rather a neglected railway corridor in Upfield, which continues to be maintained by a dedicated band of guerilla gardeners, since being transformed from gritty to genial.
A former waste dump beside the Upfield railway line in Coburg North has been transformed by community group, Upfield Urban Forest, into an eye-catching garden filled with a variety of indigenous and edible plants. The current crop includes rhubarb, kale, peas, beetroot and sorrel. The general garden area includes natives such as allocasuarina, banksia, callistemon, eucalyptus, hardenbergia, sheoak, Black Wattle, Blackwood, Kangaroo Apple, Pigface, Correa alba and C. reflexa. Exotics and edibles include Silk Floss Tree, agave, geranium, salvia, garlic chives, loquat, nectarine, parsley, spearmint and Cape Gooseberry.
All of these gardens give us hope for the future of our cities and towns.