Gardening is about progression

“Gardening is a progression beyond the innocent cultivation of obvious plants” clive blazey

Gardening Skill 8-10: The world’s best gardens, Melbourne botanic gardens

We employ about 10 gardeners and have a staff of about 130, so this is our crude way of assessing staff.

We set very high standards which are difficult to achieve. We would love to have your view on our three simple steps, and also the time it takes to reach the confident and coherent gardening skill levels.

Australian gardens are in their infancy compared with gardening traditions that have evolved in Europe. The highly admired English garden evolved over 400 years and depended on importing and adopting flowers from overseas, since England’s native plant range was so poor. Australia’s arid regions are a rich source of plants but their arid textures rarely suit our need for cool visual refreshment during our hot summers.

Despite the fact that the botanic gardens in Melbourne and Adelaide are among the finest gardens ever created, a uniquely Australian style seems decades away.

A garden must arise from its site, nurtured by intuitive gardeners who understand the soil, the climate and the seasonality of the plants. Few gardens reach the level of fine art because the skills necessary to achieve this are so rare that it often requires a partnership of diverse talents.

Gardening competence is about progression

Gardening knowledge builds slowly over time. It requires persistence to build that knowledge about plant growing habits, climates and soils. The accumulation of knowledge takes longer and is even more comprehensive than that needed even by the most highly-paid medical practitioner.

Let me explain: for every one of the 800 plants and seeds that Diggers lists, there are about 45 variables that need to be considered for growing success in climates as different as Hobart to Cairns. For gardeners to accumulate 36,000 bits of information would take perhaps 20 years, which is about the same time it takes to prepare a child for adulthood.

Three steps to rating gardeners

Level 3: Confident Gardener

The knowledge base needed to grow plants successfully is just the basic level of gardening. If you were living in Bali where every family grows their own food, you would have been growing food for 10 years by the age of 15. Such is the difference between an agricultural, rather than tertiary economy. Most Australians today have to learn basic growing skills and may not reach growing competence until aged 30-40 years old.

Level 5: Coherent Gardener:

‘The power of intelligent combination’

To create a coherent garden takes artistic skill on top of growing competence, so that the garden, its house and its borrowed landscape are all in visual harmony.

Level 8: Elite Gardeners

Elite gardeners are largely found in world-class gardens (counted in the hundreds only).

More

“I want to get people out into the garden”

Georgina Reid visits Michael Bates’ striking Sydney garden

“This garden solves all its problems with plants”

Georgina Reid visits Ian McMaugh’s jungle courtyard in the urban subtropics

A brief reflection

Stephen Forbes (a Diggers Director) shares his experience as the former Director of the Botanic Gardens of South Australia

All in a day’s work

The Heronswood kitchen garden produces an enormous 3,000kg of organic produce each year. How do we know? Because everything is meticulously weighed and measured.

An oasis of green in the bush

Clive Blazey introduces this secluded getaway, not far from Daylesford and Ballarat

Beautiful Vegetable Gardens

Biddulph Grange: one of the wonders of the Victorian age

Heronswood gardener and Botanica tour leader, Julie Willis, visits a masterpiece rescued by the National Trust UK

Botanica Spring Garden (Japan)

Clive Blazey visits Japan for the Botanica Spring Garden tour

Botanical Ark (Daintree, Australia)

Clive Blazey visits Alan and Susan Carle's beautiful garden in the Queensland rainforest

Castel Ruggero (Chianti, Italy)

Margaux's family create perfect harmony, “A living personification of my mother and father”

Choosing perennial flowers for the

wilder parts of the garden

Cloudehill (Olinda, Australia)

Owner and garden creator Jeremy Francis takes us through the four seasons at Cloudehill

Collecting Amazon Lilies in the wild

Andrew Carrick tells the story of re-establishing lilies in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Create a summer flowering perennial border

Julie Willis creates Heronswood’s summer perennial border and explains its subtleties.

Cruden Farm (Langwarrin, Australia)

John Christie tells us why trees are an integral part of the gardens at Cruden Farm

Designing landscapes

Landscape designer Keith Edwards explains how he designs

Gardening can change the world

Georgina Reid wonders why we don’t value the natural world

Gardening is for the birds

Creating a safe space for bird life in your garden.

Gardening with Biologicals

Stephen Forbes explains the importance of what we can’t see in our gardens

Gardens By The Bay (Singapore)

Clive Blazey introduces the wonders of Singapore's Gardens by the Bay

Growing 200 fruit trees in your backyard

Marcelle Swanson visits inner-city fruit grower and author Louis Glowinski

Heronswood (Australia)

Is Heronswood one of the world's finest gardens?

Illuminating shade gardening

Canopies offer gardeners both respite and an opportunity to embrace gardening in the shade.

Meet Australia's citrus gurus - The Tolleys from Renmark

Clive Blazey discovers a garden where citrus, dates, mangoes, peaches and apples thrive

Moira’s Garden (Gaza)

Andrew Laidlaw describes how the first Global Garden of Peace is taking shape in Gaza

Ninfa (Lazio, Italy)

Clive Blazey visits the 'world's most romantic garden', the inspirational Ninfa in Italy

Playing with Perennials

Q&A with Heronswood's Gardeners

Get to know Heronswood's talented gardeners

Seed Savers Garden coming to Heronswood

Sharing the passion and skills needed to protect the future of heirlooms at our new garden.

Sissinghurst gardens is given the kiss of life

Tommy Garnett, our finest garden writer, describes the redemption of Sissinghurst

Szálás (Subotica, Serbia)

Ines Balint shares a special garden connection and love of food with her family in Serbia

The colour wheel at Heronswood

A new garden development that highlights why ‘it isn’t easy being blue’ in the flower garden.

The garden at Broughton Hall

A dramatic landscape garden that marries horticultural skill with an artist’s eye.

The grandfather of citriculture

Marcelle Swanson talks to world-renowned citrus expert Ian Tolley about his life's opus ‘Commonsense Citrus’

Three up and coming gardeners

Tony Fawcett explains why an outstanding gardener should be on every farmer’s list of go-to gurus

Tim Entwisle's Top 10 Favourite Plants

The Director of Melbourne's Botanic Gardens shares his botany of desire!

Two hundred years of hard gardening experience

Clive Blazey talks with Will Ashburner and Frank Broersen

Vegie gardening from Alaska to the Sunshine Coast

Kevin Redd doesn’t follow the rules, choosing to experiment with the vegies he loves, no matter what his climate.

Warrior for environmental change

Marcelle Swanson asks Joost Bakker about his philosophies for a sustainable future

Waste is a human Invention... there is no waste in nature

Clive explains how our waste is a symptom of an unsustainable lifestyle

Why garden?

Exploring new research into the wellbeing benefits of gardening.

Wildflower Meadow

One of our biggest aims at Diggers is to ensure that gardeners succeed.

Winter Solstice

Wisley (Surrey, UK)

Lisa Remato visits the inspiring RHS garden at Wisley

Related Authors

Clive Blazey

Clive is the founder of The Diggers Club, a pioneer in the rescue of heirloom vegetable and fruit varieties and author of seven books on flower, vegetable and fruit gardening.

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