Sharing the secret

Sunday, 02 September 2012

One of the friendly pigs at the Secret Garden & Nursery

What has this little piggy got to do with gardening, you may be asking? Well, in fact, this pig was one of the endearing features of a nursery I visited at Richmond (NSW) last weekend. Two tame pigs, who can be hand-fed, live at the Secret Garden & Nursery, located on five acres within the grounds of the University of Western Sydney. With free-range hens, ducks and some sheep, the rambling nursery has a delightful country atmosphere, as far removed as can be imagined from the soulless modern garden centres that comprise our main sources of plants these days.

Free-range hens wandering in the nursery

The nursery is a not-for-profit organisation run by North West Disability Services Inc. Proceeds of its plant sales fund horticultural therapy programs held within the garden, which aim to enhance the lives of people with mental illness or physical or intellectual disabilities through participation in gardening activities. Horticultural therapy has had a long history in heath care, and is now widely used to provide creative, recreational, social and vocational activities, and to give a link to the natural world, which we gardeners know is so vital to wellbeing.

Succulents and bromeliads for sale at the nursery

The people who attend this garden for horticultural therapy tend their own garden beds and help pot up plants for the nursery. There is a huge range of plants for sale, many being unusual types that are hard to find elsewhere these days. The prices are very reasonable. Succulents, bromeliads, herbs, cottage garden plants, fruit trees, hedge plants, grasses and hardy groundcovers are available. I found some interesting scented-leaved Pelargonium, a variety of Salvia plants and some healthy-looking trailing perennial Verbena x hybrida to buy during my visit. The friendly staff will help if you have queries about any of the plants.

Eye-catching garden art at the nursery

The plants are displayed within a garden setting, with some quirky features incorporated with an artist's eye at every turn: unusual sculptures and use of objects in the garden beds such as teapots, teacups, old birdcages and other interesting items add to the charm of the place. There are tables and chairs where visitors can sit and have a picnic, and tea and coffee are available.

Echium candicans in the display garden

The gardens behind the nursery are well worth exploring and include a number of fruit trees and other specimens. Citrus fruit from the garden is often available for sale. There was a stately plant of Echium candicans (mentioned in last week's blog) in full bloom (potted plants of it were for sale too). It is a great place to bring children, as there is plenty for them to look at whilst you grab a chance to peruse the plants on offer. It reminds me of some of the nurseries that used to exist many years ago but which have all been swept aside by modernity.

Primula malacoides growing at the nursery

The nursery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. To find the nursery, enter the main gates to the University of Western Sydney via College Drive from Bourke Street, Richmond (turn left at the traffic lights on the corner of Blacktown Road and Bourke Street to enter Bourke Street), then turn right down the dirt road at the security hut and follow the signs to the nursery. Telephone enquiries: 0414 784460.

The Secret Garden & Nursery is holding a Spring Open Day next Saturday 8 September from 9 am to 5 pm. There will be entertainment for kids including face painting and treasure hunts, as well as a sausage sizzle and Devonshire teas.

Reader Comments

  • By Lyn 2565 Monday, 03 September 2012

    Thanks for this very informative post. It is always interesting to discover new nurseries, especially where profits go to help others less fortunate. What a wonderful scheme, we will definitely be paying this place a visit.Yes, I like the fact that plants and gardening can be used to help people. Hope you enjoy your visit. It really is a place where you can fossick around and find something a bit different. Deirdre

  • By Manish 2085 Monday, 03 September 2012

    That"s amazing! We will sure be visiting this nursery! Great find! Thanks, Manish. With so many small nurseries having closed in Sydney in recent years it is good to find something so different. Deirdre

  • By meryl 2206 Monday, 03 September 2012

    Great nursery but a long way to go. I"ve been going once a year for a few years now (combining it with a trip to a nearby orchid show) and have found something rare and unusual every time. Secret Garden often has a stall at the annual Bilpin rare plants fair. Yes it is a bit of a drive but good to combine it with something else. Will be good to see the nursery having a stall at the Collectors Fair in 2013. Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 Monday, 03 September 2012

    Meryl is right, this great little nursery will have a stand at the 2013 Collectors" Plant Fair. Next year the Fair moves from Bilpin to Clarendon which is very close to Richmond. The Secret Garden finds that coming to the Fair lets more people know about them as you have done here Deirdre. At one stage they were in grave danger of having to close but now seem to be safe, thank goodness. PS some rain would be very welcome! Yes, it is great that there is support for the nursery to continue and it will be great to see them at the fair next year. I agree re the rain - my garden is extremely dry at the moment. Deirdre

  • By Richard 2112 Monday, 03 September 2012

    Yes I came across them at the 2010 Fair at Bilpin, where I bought some salvias from them, and suseqently visited them at Richmond. Fantastic nursery, although if it is raining (as it was on the day of my visit), I would recommend taking gum boots, as many of the paths through the nursery and garden were under several inches of water, and I ended up with my shoes and socks totally saturated - I did come away with some great purchases though! Thanks for that tip, Richard, re gumboots in wet weather. Glad you found some good plants there. Deirdre

  • By Carole 2230 Monday, 03 September 2012

    Thank you Deidre, it sounds wonderful I will put it on my "do list" as well as passing it on to others. A very hairy pig that, looks good. I had an echium but it would seem my site is unsuited, either too humid or too shady. The pig was soooo cute! Yes - that echium needs lots of sun and good drainage. Even so it only lasts a couple of years in Sydney before becoming really woody - needs to be replaced at that point. Still a gorgeous plant, though - needs a fair bit of room. Deirdre

  • By Helen 2154 Wednesday, 05 September 2012

    Dierdre. I can"t thank you enough. I have been looking for something in the Richmond area for my Garden Lovers group. This is perfect. Thanks also to Peta for the info about the Plant Fair next year. So good not having to do the long slow drive to Bilpin. Hope I can find your stall. Helen Thanks, Helen. Hope you enjoy your visit. Deirdre

  • By Lana 2073 Monday, 10 September 2012

    Thank you for herb tips Deirdre. last year I" ve try to grow dill in a pot outside but unsuccessful its turn from green to brown red colour and never grow tall, can you give me some advice please I use this herb in my cooking all the time as a part of my traditional eastern european cosine. Much appreciate, Lana Dumbrell

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