Patricia and I have been discussing the nature of an edible forest and how we should mimic nature as much as possible. We concluded that native plants would be the best plants to plant beneath the Eucalyptus trees as these types of plants should have natural defence mechanisms and ways to cope with them. Despite the eucalyptus draining the soil from all moisture, and despite them dripping a substance that inhibits the growth of any competition, if you look at the forests around Victoria, in many of them you find all kinds of interesting and useful plants growing under the eucalyptus trees. So we marked that area for some native screening trees and bushes that would also fulfil some other function such as attracting bees and birds. We thought of wattles, which also introduce a lot of nitrogen into the ground, and various types of bottlebrushes, but our knowledge of native plants was very limited.
So here is where my chance encounter became a fortunate encounter! One day I was surfing a little lesser known break to the south west of Torquay when I ran into Nick Day who now owns and runs the Otway Indigenous Nursery in Aireys Inlet along the Great Ocean Road. We had a good after-surf chat, and he seemed to know all about natives and their needs, so I motivated to “the team” that we should visit his nursery. A few phone calls later we arranged for a visit to his nursery. With it being school holidays, and Patricia’s parents visiting us, we decided to make it a family trip. We had no idea what we were going to get, if anything, at the nursery, so I rented a little box trailer, as the car was already chockers with 6 people.
Our first stop was 4 Kings in Angelsea for brunch and a delightful coffee on a cold, blustery Friday morning. Patricia who was driving to Anglesea was not willing to brazenly park the car and trailer over three open parking lots in front of the café. So this is where I took over to park and we proceeded into a warm cosy café for a leisurely meal.
Afterwards, we piled back into the car and drove to the Otway Indigenous Nursery.
What a nice down to earth operation! Nick’s main aim is to propagate and distribute plants from the local region – i.e. the Great Ocean Road and the Otways, using natural and organic methods. Even for this quiet time in the dead of winter he had a great selection to work though.
If I can say one thing – Nick is very knowledgeable on the local plants – sizes, colour flowers, shade, when they flower, bird attracting, frost resistant, growth patterns, he had it all on the tips of his fingers. Patricia had some discussion with him about the medicinal and edible uses of native plants – it turns out both of them are interested in this and are in the process of learning where they can.
Patricia being the colour coordinator went mostly for trees, shrubs and groundcovers with yellow flowers or yellowish leaves. After a joyful and very insightful time in the open nursery, with the kookaburras laughing from on high, we loaded the little trailer.
While we were loading the trailer Patricia called her dad and the kids to come and see the birds sitting close by in the trees. Nick was telling them how the Kookaburras often line up on the fence next to his shed and chatter away. What beautiful birds!
It was time to go home. Inside the trailer were Wattles, Sheoaks, Hop Goodenias, Boobiallas, Saltbushes, Prickly Currents and more.
The rest of Friday and Saturday was spent planting. We already had holes for the trees and big shrubs, but I had to drill, dig, compost and prepare holes for all the small shrubs and groundcovers. Busy two days. Altogether I planted 56 new plants – must be the most non-edibles I have ever planted.
Together with some Melaleucas and Wattles already on Dreamland, this is going to make a great display as a bird- and bee-friendly screen. In addition, the wattles will also put some valuable nitrogen back into the soil. We can’t wait for this beautiful native display to grow!
I must say by the time this goes out, we have had three heavy bouts of frost, and Nick’s plants are all still looking in good shape – so he got that part right!