38 ~ Australian Joint Stock Bank, 1892Cnr Bridge and Hill Streets

The Garden at Geall

When we purchased the property in 1997 we named it Geall (GY-al), Gaelic for 'promise,' because it fulfilled a commitment we had made to each other and because we could see what it promised to become. In the beginning there was really nothing but grass and a very few trees and shrubs. Only the fig tree, the peach tree, and the Euonymus survive. Almost all the original shrubs had to be removed for a variety of reasons and only the white lilac in the Entry Garden and a very old red rose in the Hot Border remain.

The property is Heritage Listed and so early on we thought to keep the plant choices, particularly the roses, to those available in the 1890's, when it was built. Although we do have many old roses, we were seduced by David Austin's English Roses and the plant choices gradually broadened.

The property was originally a bank with manager's quarters attached. When a problem occurred, the bank's solution invariably was to pour more concrete. We removed 120 square metres of concrete and replaced it with reclaimed brick set in a basket-weave pattern. The property is on a slope, which had been partially terraced. We removed some fill, extended the existing brick retaining walls, included several dry stone wall features and added steps between the levels. This has allowed us to create a garden which unfolds as you walk around it.

The structure, with the retaining walls, brick terrace and walks, and box hedges is formal. However, the plantings within that frame are relaxed and very informal. In spite of this being a small town garden (approximately 1200 square metres of garden) you will find growing collections of roses, hellebores, hostas, penstemons, euphorbias, achillea (yarrow), conifers, primulas, aquilegias, iris, species geraniums, and sedums. There are many little treasures to delight the observant, such as Arisaema consanguineum (Jack in the Pulpit), Convallaria majalis ‘Rosea’ (pink Lily-of-the-Valley), Abies Koreana ‘Silberlocke’ (Korean fir), Pulsatilla vulgaris (pasqueflower), etc. Unfortunately, not all will be in bloom during your visit. A partial list of the plants is available for use during your visit.

Gardening in the New England is always a challenge with dry cold winters and warm moist summers and this has been a particularly challenging year in the garden. Last winter saw more severe frosts than normal and after years of training the wisteria to frame the side veranda there was significant die back. The unusual heat this summer also took its toll with the loss of a number of established plants. Of course, this is Australia and we should not complain when we choose to have an English-style cool weather garden.

Like all gardens, this one is not 'finished.' We are working toward more year-round interest and adding more fragrance. Plants get moved around or replaced depending on performance. Although this is a labour-intensive garden we enjoy our time in it and have learned to relax about the imperfections and celebrate the feeling of peace and beauty we find here.

Tom and Marcella O'Connor

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