On Sunday, P and I decided to do something a little different and headed up to Coromandel Valley to check out an Open Garden at a place known as ‘That Red House’, which is owned by Luke and Talia Borda. This was my first time going to an open garden and as we drove along the winding roads approaching the house we weren’t really sure what to expect.
‘That Red House’ is difficult to describe in one sentence. It is glorious. It is a large, 1,700 square meter block built on the side of a hill and surrounded by farmland in the heart of the foothills of Adelaide, South Australia. The property is home to a wonderful garden, lush and green with more than forty raised beds and over a dozen fruit and nut trees.
The garden sits at the top of a long driveway and surrounds a modern, sustainable house that is designed to be warm in winter and cool in summer. As we walked up the long gravel drive I felt an immediate mixture of both envy and awe.
I am told that the Borda’s love of productive gardening started several years ago after a health scare which lead to an entire re-think of their way of life. They established a small vegetable garden in the leafy-green suburb of Fullarton and soon found they were growing an abundance of crops in their modest-sized backyard. By 2009 they were ready to take things one step further and purchased the property in Coromandel Valley with a dream of building an energy-efficient house and a productive garden that would provide them with year-round fresh food.
The family had a long list of prerequisites, many of which are on my own list of ‘things I’d like to have’ including a vegie garden that is large enough to provide for the family, large rainwater tanks which can service said garden, an orchard and room for some chooks. Not ones to shy away from a challenge, the Borda’s set about planning their space without any formal training in garden design and only their previous backyard experience to go on.
When they started working the land they discovered that the soil was virtually non-existent with a mountain of clay and rock hiding underneath a shallow layer of topsoil. It was at this point the family decided to install raised beds as a way around their soil problems and, as you can see, they have not looked back.
As you make your way around this garden it is clear that no stone has been left unturned and at every point consideration has been given to how best to utilise the space. Along the windows there are insect repellent plants which have helped keep Adelaide’s notoriously pesky mosquito population under control and even the front porch is put to use with a flourishing grapevine.
Passing through the side gate you are met with a small greenhouse which I took an instant warming to. Inside there are two raised beds which facilitate the growth of a select few summer vegies in winter (genius!) and also acts as a great place to nurse seedlings through that particularly precious stage of initial growth.
Past the greenhouse are two large rainwater tanks and more than a dozen raised beds, each burgeoning with fresh produce and displaying some novel uses of household objects to help support their growth. Off to the right of the garden is the chook house (made to mirror the shape of the main house) and a large run for them to roam. The chooks share their run with a small orchard which they help to keep weeded, fertilised and insect-free.
Back around to the other side of the house there are two large compost bins, more raised beds (including the single largest crop of basil I think I’ve ever seen!) and a closed in space for their resident pugs to enjoy the tranquillity. Everywhere you look in this garden there is something productive happening.
There are forty-four beds in total on this block, including several beds which double as retaining walls in the lawn area at the front of the yard. What particularly impressed me about this garden was how healthy and abundant all of their plants were. Their fruit trees, all in raised beds, were thriving. I guess I had always just assumed large productive tree needed to go into the ground but this has certainly proven otherwise and is something I’ll be keeping in mind when it comes time to overhaul our front yard (currently a mess of clay and tree roots).
This visit has really gotten my creative juices flowing and thinking about how we can better use the space in our garden, if you ever get the chance to visit this place in the future I thoroughly recommend it.