Community

Green thumbs gather to get bushfire gardens growing – get involved

Ian Campbell 3 August 2019
Look for the green and pink flags for Tathra's Aug 25 open garden day, Pip Marshmen and Chris Hamilton. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Look for the green and pink flags for Tathra’s Aug 25 open garden day, Pip Marshman and Christine Hamilton. Photo: Ian Campbell.

With spring in the air comes another step forward in Tathra’s evolving and ongoing growth beyond the bushfire of autumn 2018.

As has been the case over the last 17 months a bunch of locals have seen a need and are stepping up to fill it with a Garden Recovery and Open Gardens weekend on August 24 and 25 in and around the village.

“We started helping a couple of people with their gardens – older people,” says Christine Hamilton.

“They were completely befuddled and overwhelmed with everything,” says Pip Marshman.

“And we realised that many people had damaged gardens or had lost their gardens and they just didn’t know where to start,” Chris says.

Aside from the sixty-five homes that were lost on March 18, 2018, dozens of gardens were damaged or destroyed by the heat, flames and intensity of that one afternoon.

Pip and Chris have assembled a stellar line up of green thumbs for the Garden Recovery Forum on Saturday, August 25 at Tathra Surf Club:

Tim Edmondson lives in Canberra and is an Accredited Horticulturist. He was the Australian Institute of Horticulture, Horticulturist of the year in 2010. Tim was instrumental in raising the grounds of the Orana Rudolph Steiner School in Weston Creek from the ashes following the 2003 fires in Canberra.

Susie Kontos works for garden company Yates. Following the Tathra Bushfires Susie offered advice and support to the community. With the support of Mitre 10 Pambula, Susie is coming to the forum to talk about soils and how to bring them back following fire for a greater chance of success. She has extensive horticultural experience and was also involved with the community after the Canberra fires.

Kathleen McCann of ‘Luscious Landscapes’ lives in Tanja and is a qualified Permaculture teacher. She is also a volunteer firefighter and was directly involved in fighting the Tathra fire. For Kathleen gardens are for healing, food, shelter and peace of mind.

Brent Whiter from Plants Plus Tura Beach Garden Centre has been very generous with advice and donations following the bushfire. Brent has been serving the community through his garden centre for over 32 years, in recent times he has taken on the Saturday gardening talkback radio program on ABC South East. Brent will team up at the forum with Tathra landscape designer John Plumb, who together create beautiful gardens. Like many John comes with his own experience of the bushfire.

Nick Huggins is the principal of Regenerative Landscapes Australia. Nick lives in Tathra and is currently the Director of Lifesaving at Tathra Surf Life Saving Club. Nick has studied and worked in landscaping for the past 20 years, always interested in new and innovative ideas. He has worked on both small and large projects and at the forum will talk about one of his current landscaping projects which you will be able to visit on the Sunday.

Other speakers include Andrew Morrison from Bega Valley Shire Council, and James Cook of Brighter Day Landscapes talking about bushfire resistant plants, and Fraser Buchanan with information on roof sprinkler options.

The day of discussion and ideas will be followed by tours of eight local gardens on Sunday, August 25, between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, just look for the green and pink flags:

  • Anthea and Henryk Markowiak, Thompsons Drive;
  • Libby Whiteway, The Island, Thompsons Drive;
  • Yetti and Peter Mitford-Burgess, Bay Street;
  • Pip Marshman, Andy Pool Drive;
  • Madeleine Meyer, Bega Street;
  • Jane Andrew and Nich Graham-Higgs, Ocean View Terrace;
  • Linda McCormack and Phil Smith, Wildlife Drive.

Chris says she was very lucky not to have been impacted by the fire, Pip, on the other hand, had fire falling down on her property from the cliffs above on Francis Hollis Drive, scary and stressful “but just the mulch caught fire, my brother was there to kick it out and patrol,” she says.

“Gardens are really important psychologically I think,” Chris says.

“They have a calming effect, even a very simple garden. And a garden is often the finishing touch around your house.”

Pip adds, “a lot of people are talking about losing their privacy, with all the gardens gone. Many neighbours are completely open to each other now.”

Pip Marshmen and Chris Hamilton, being blown away at Tathra Headland. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Pip Marshman and Christine Hamilton, being blown away at Tathra Headland. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Now that Tathra has experienced bushfire and is wiser to its ways, one of the key talking points of the Garden Recovery weekend is expected to be “What do we do now? Should we have a garden like that again? Should we have a minimalist garden, full of rocks that won’t get burnt?” Chris says.

Both hope the talk of gardening will inspire action in front and backyards around their town, and as people’s hands get dirty and they get creative – that they will feel the benefit of that in their own unique recovery.

“There is some magic about being part of the earth I think,” says Chris.

“A lot of people are still really struggling and I think this will help,” Pip says.


What you need to know to take part…

Anyone in the Bega Valley Shire is invited to attend.

Garden Recovery Forum, Saturday, August 24, 9:30 am for a 10:00 am start, finishing at 3:00 pm, Tathra Surf Club. Garden Recovery Visits/Open Gardens, Sunday, August 25, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Entry for both days is free by prior registration is appreciated –  email [email protected] or phone 0429 941 500 or 64941 475 before August 22. But people are welcome to turn up on the day.

Donations have come from Bega Valley Shire Council’s Fire Recovery and Resilience Grants, Bega Rotary, Melissa Pouliot – MP Media, Mitre 10 Pambula and Bega, Yates, Candelo Books, Riverside Nursery Bega, Plants Plus Tura Beach, Far South Coast Landcare, About Regional and Tathra Lions.

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