Mediterranean Garden Society
The Western Australia Branch of the MGS
This branch was established early in 2018 to promote climate appropriate - mediterranean - gardening in the Perth and south west areas of Western Australia. We encourage people to join the MGS through a program of branch activities which include garden and nursery visits, plant exchanges and speakers.
Events are held on a Sunday four or five times per year. All events are very informal other than an annual meeting when an agenda is developed. A website of suitable plants for local Mediterranean gardens was created by members in October 2020 so that their experience could be shared.
The photograph at the top of this page shows Everlastings (Rhodanthe chlorocephala). A native Australian daisy belonging to the family Asteraceae, it grows naturally in the south of Western Australia. Photo by Margot Tobin.
April 2023 - Balingup, SW Western Australia
Rivergums and Golden Valley Tree Park
The WA Branch and friends had a wonderful day in the south west of Western Australia. First we visited Di’s garden to experience the Autumn leaves and see the Monarch butterflies. Although many large Monarch butterflies were seen they were too quick to photograph.
Here is a write up of the visit from the Greek Herald written by Anjelica Smilovitis
After lunch in the garden we went to the Golden Valley Tree Park nearby. There were many beautiful trees which are not seen in Perth as it is too hot and dry or gardens are just too small. Most of us did a healthy walk uphill to the groves of oaks, a variety of pear trees, walnut trees and a persimmon tree from which we took fruit.
Many made a weekend of the MGS event and it was a leisurely all day visit to catch up with members and friends, many of whom live in the country areas rather than Perth.
December 2022 - Perth Hills
Christmas Gathering at Jenny’s Garden
Members and friends gathered to see a beautiful Perth Hills garden belonging to Jenny and Richard.
Jenny’s artistic talent is everywhere in the garden, from choosing colours to placement of objects and design.
It was a great opportunity for us to have a good catch-up and the garden was enjoyed well into the night.
Text and photos: Margot Tobin
October 2022 - Perth Hills
Visit to Straw Farm
Under a beautiful blue sky, the WA Branch and friends had a private viewing of Straw Farm in the Perth Hills. This is an excellent example of climate appropriate building and gardening. The owner undertook the design and building of a straw bale house and surrounding garden, including the rock wall, on his own.
The garden takes full advantage of northerly sun and contains some unusual features such as a coppiced eucalypt.
Though the owner claimed it would be at its best in mid-November, we were not disappointed and saw much in flower.
The garden is steeply sloping but this is addressed by creating terraced areas, easy steps and sloping paths. Little water is used on the garden and one of the key site benefits is its loam soil.
The garden is complemented by artwork, much of which is created by the owner in his spare time.
Zephs Nursery, Midland
Members visited Zephs Nursery for a meeting, talk by owner Scott Robinson and browse through the plants.
Scott is an aficionado on Mediterranean plants and highlighted two unusual plants. Firstly, a Ferula communis which appears similar to edible fennel but is not edible and has a huge attractive flower spike. He distributed seeds to the attending members and encouraged us to give him feedback on growth. He also highlighted the Hibiscus coccineus (also called a ‘Swamp Mallow’ or ‘Water Hibiscus’). It is a herbaceous perennial which grows well in mediterranean climates though it can also grow in moister conditions as it originates from the east coast of the USA. It is a plant which attracts bees and butterflies which are so important for gardens and the planet generally.
Members then browsed the nursery taking a close look at how a Sonchus canariensis (tree dandelion) should look in its dormant state. We are trying to promote less use of water, particularly when it is not necessary if a plant is in its dormant state.
These photos show the plant in full growth September 2021 (Spring in the southern hemisphere) and then the same Sonchus canariensis in summer/autumn dormancy with Zephs Nursery owner Scott Robinson at the MGS WA Branch meeting.
Garden Gathering and Plant Swap at Margot (Branch Head) and Guy’s garden in North Fremantle
Members, ‘Plus 1’s’ and MGS friends gathered in the late afternoon for a catchup and plant swap to start the year. There was lots of chatting between friends and a welcome to guests who are new to the MGS.
Margot introduced the garden and highlighted a few unusual Mediterranean plants before everyone enjoyed a close look at the three separate garden areas. A finale was to climb the stairs to Guy’s roof terrace to see the garden in plan view and look at the productive plants.
Armchair Gardening with ABC Dream Gardener Michael McCoy
Several members attended an all-day event at Margaret River, three hours south of Perth. Michael McCoy had to attend by Zoom due to a sudden Covid lockdown. However, he enlightened us with stories of some great dry gardens and answered audience questions at the end of the day. The wonders of technology! Steve Wood, one of our local plant experts, talked about the importance of soil and growing good food.
Visit to Wattleup Nursery (deferred from 31 January)
It was a very wet day for a visit to Wattleup Nursery, but a few hardy members made the trip and we all found some new treasures in the unusual collection of succulents to take home for autumn planting.
A good discussion was held over lunch with plans to visit another relatively unknown nursery later this year.
Visit to Fiona’s garden and local nursery, Bunbury
The WA Branch met at member Fiona’s new garden in Bunbury to see what had been planted in what was previously lawn. A pretty Rosa Chinensis ‘Mutabilis’, an old fashioned China Rose commonly referred to as ‘the butterfly rose’ greeted us at the end of the long driveway. Her extensive collection of potted plants including a huge variety of pelargoniums looked beautifully tended.
Then it was off to local nursery ’Owys’ where everyone bought interesting plants to take home. We concluded with lunch before heading back to various home locations far and wide.
Branch Head talk to Gardeners Circle - Perth’s largest garden group
WA Branch Head Margot Tobin gave a presentation on Mediterranean gardening to a large group of gardeners supported by several MGS members in attendance. It covered the What, Where and Why of Mediterranean gardening and was illustrated with many photos taken on MGS tours to Greece, Spain and California. It emphasised the key elements of Mediterranean gardens – providing shade, including water, having outdoor eating spaces and using climate appropriate plants.
Local members and prospective members visited Coogee Common for a tour of the Mediterranean kitchen garden and lunch at the restaurant. The site is just 300 metres from the ocean and is vulnerable to salt and wind. Our host gave a short talk on the history and development of the site which had been an old hotel.
The land had been completely cleared so the garden is just over two years old with two gardeners employed full time. The garden provides produce for the restaurant and 3 of its sister restaurants and clubs. Menus are based on what is available from the garden.
Despite the high temperatures and the announcement of a COVID19 hard lockdown halfway through our lunch, members enjoyed the get together.
A trip to Wattleup Nursery has now been deferred to winter as we were all keen to get home and prepare for the lock down requirements.
Exploring the lavender fields, Yanchep Lavender Farm
We visited the Yanchep Lavender Farm to the north of Perth. It is situated on sandy soil and is allocated enough water for the lavenders to receive sufficient drip irrigation about 5 months of the year. The lavender is harvested using a bee friendly machine and human labour.
The oil is extracted from the flowers using a steam process and all parts of the plant are used on the property. The lavender farm was established about three years ago to replace a turf farm and the owners have won several awards for the quality of their oil.
After tasting several varieties of lavender ice cream, we went to the Yanchep National Park for lunch and a walk.
The park was affected by fire in December 2019, so part of the walk took us through a surreal landscape.
On the walk we encountered kangaroos and kookaburras.
WA Branch Meeting at Zephs Nursery
The WA Branch meeting at Zephs Nursery generated lots of enthusiasm and discussion on Mediterranean gardening. International and Branch level updates were given, with Margot Tobin endorsed as the Branch Head going forward. Nurseryman Scott Robinson spoke about Pelargoniums and Geraniums, using a book titled “Hardy Geraniums” to illustrate the point that “hardy” depended on the climate and care should be taken to determine appropriate plants for our climate. He showed us a couple of examples of geraniums which would do well in the Perth area. Generally, pelargoniums that originate in South Africa should do well whilst geraniums from the Himalayas, such as Geranium Rozanne would not. The Geranium sanguineum (bloody cranesbill) self-sows and does well at Zephs. Members felt strongly that they would like to have a place to share experience of growing plants suitable for the Perth and south west WA climate, noting that soils varied considerably between the Swan Coastal Plain and the Darling Scarp (Perth Hills). Work has started on a simple website for this purpose.
Tour of Riot and Restraint - Coastal Mediterranean Gardening in North Fremantle
A group of members and prospective members welcomed in the new decade with a drink and snacks as we wandered in the late afternoon shade of the eight-year-old olive trees. A Dracaena draco (Canary Islands dragon tree) has branched perfectly and will eventually form an interesting canopy above head height.
Some WA natives are being trialled in pots and in the garden beds. In another area a new bed was planted with various salvias, agapanthus and other flowering plants. The tour was followed by a presentation and discussion on the 2019 AGM held in Greece. As it grew dark, a few of the stayers picked bags of figs to take home.
We visited two lovely gardens in the Perth Hills. The first was Pamela’s garden which is on a steep site with a beautiful view from the front of the garden over the Perth coastal plain. This is a very pretty garden and as the visit took place in Spring, we enjoyed a glorious floral display including proteas, limonium, liliums, gazania, roses, delphiniums, poppies, hebe, hellebores and even a stand of orchids. Everything was growing well in just the right situation.
After a sumptuous morning tea, we were treated to the large garden of artist Jenny Beahan. We meandered through with Jenny and admired the perfect placement of various plants and sculpture. Her use of colour really showed the artistic perspective on gardening. She has a good eye for pairing the right colour tone of a plant with its surroundings. Two French MGS members joined us for the day and were most interested in the native plants which included the everlastings in flower at Pamela’s and an extensive array of natives in Jenny’s large garden. Our visits finished with lunch at a nearby pub which was very well attended.
On a very hot day for early Spring, gardening and media personality Deryn Thorpe welcomed us to her large garden close to the city in Mt Lawley. Her English heritage influences the design and choice of plants for this garden though she and her husband work extensively with native plants on other projects. She showed us the Mediterranean section of the garden which is exposed to sun and has the hardiest of plants. The ‘fertigation’ system she has established was also interesting with water and nutrients supplied where required via the irrigation system in place.
We visited two lovely gardens in Gooseberry Hill. Perth had a week of rain and wind in the week prior to our visit so full credit to the devoted garden owners who presented their gardens so well. The first garden was relatively flat, full of Mediterranean plants complemented by interesting sculptures one of which welcomed us with oranges.
The second garden of the day sits on a very steep site with magnificent views over the Perth coastal plain. The owner amused us with some colourful stories on challenges she has. One that is yet to be solved is the presence of a large pine tree which constantly drops needles, overwhelming anything underneath. There was a myriad of suggestions, some of which can’t be repeated here!
Meeting and nursery visit
The meeting at Zephs Nursery was an opportunity for members and friends to discuss progress of the branch and plans for the future. Membership is increasing and awareness of the MGS growing. The MGS aims and branch role were reviewed along with a report for 2018. An MGS WA Committee was agreed consisting of Margot Tobin (Branch Head); Nieve Smyth and Carlindi Holling as Committee Members.
Scott Robinson of Zephs Nursery gave us his tips for autumn planting. His top three plants are: Salvia fruticosa; Stipa gigantea and Ruta chalepensis.
Visit to City Beach Garden and overview of Spain AGM and tours
We gathered everyone in the kitchen to grab a glass of wine before taking a tour around the interesting and diverse garden of one of our members. We circumnavigated the house by starting in the perennial walk, noting several unusual plants such as the Euphorbia lambii. Then it was up to the pool terrace, under the tree ferns, through the native garden and back to the kitchen via the bountiful produce garden. Figs were not yet ripe but there were plenty of other things we tasted. We then viewed a selection of slides from the MGS AGM and tours in Spain during October 2018. The photos and ensuing discussion generated much interest in mediterranean gardening and travel, particularly the visit to Heidi Gildemeister’s property in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Tramuntana Mountains.
Visit to Orange Grove Garden – Mundaring and Plant Swap
A visit to the large garden “Orange Grove” started with morning tea on the verandah. We then started our wander, some with cups in hand, meandering through the garden. Some went with our knowledgeable garden owner who pointed out various plants and told us of trials and tribulations. There were also many delights and successes, particularly the clever planting of several clematis into large plastic pots which were then buried in the ground. It is then much easier to control moisture and fertiliser to ensure good growth and flowering.
The garden walk started with stories about water, always a topic of conversation in Western Australia. Perth has had good rain this winter and many gardens are better for it. However, at Orange Grove, the water tanks had run almost dry for house and garden and it took much investigation to determine that some underground pipes had broken and further, a pipe from roof to tank had not been connected by a plumber.
There was much in flower, so the garden did not disappoint. The sculptures around the property added to the interest. One of the features of the garden was a very old wisteria shaped to look like a tree. It is doing well and stands out amongst the more commonly seen blue wisteria. A tree that caught my eye is a very old white cedar (called Cape Lilacs in Western Australia.) Its beautiful branches look like arms that could sweep one up!
The orange orchard was a mix of late fruiting trees and trees in blossom. Alas it was not the right time for any to take home.
After a leisurely picnic style lunch our visit ended with an enthusiastic plant swap. Everyone came away with several plants and there was time left to go home to dig them in.
Visit to the garden of Riot and Restraint, North Fremantle
A visit to the garden “Riot and Restraint” featured in TMG 92. Morning tea was taken as we wandered around the garden.
There was much interest in a succulent that has grown to about 1.5 metres just near the outdoor shower. It is Kalanchoe ‘Napoléon’s Bonnet’ but is also known as Kalanchoe ‘Shovel Nose’. It is probably Kalanchoe beharensis and goes by the name of Kalanchoe Elephants ear as well. Fortunately, a couple of members took cuttings as a week later it split and fell over so is now about a quarter of the size. I think it needs to be shaped into a tree as it is just too heavy when bushy.
This was followed by a photo presentation of the highlights of the Southern California AGM and tour. After lunch, we walked past a nearby garden with good colour selection and then back via our local succulent nursery Zerascapes where everybody found a new treasure to take home.
Inaugural meeting – Zephyranthes Nursery
The Western Australia Branch was formed with support of members, lapsed members and prospective members.
Biography of Margot Tobin
Branch Head Margot gardens in Fremantle with limestone and sandy soil. Salt laden winds blow most of the year but she has created a Mediterranean garden of two parts: “Riot and Restraint”.
An MGS member since 2012, she loves both the journal and travel having participated in conferences in South Australia, France, Southern California, Spain and Greece. Much of her time is spent in the garden, reading about gardens and writing about gardens. Several of her articles appear in the MGS journal The Mediterranean Garden (TMG).
THE MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN is the registered trademark of The Mediterranean Garden Society in the European Union, Australia, and the United States of America