A cottage garden in Nowra

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The house at Yellow House Heritage Perennials Nursery, Nowra, NSW

I have always loved the South Coast of NSW, having spent summer holidays there for nearly two decades when I was growing up. The combination of lush rural countryside and pristine beaches was alluring, and remains so, despite a lot of changes over the years.

This past weekend, I found myself in the South Coast town of Nowra to visit the nursery and garden of Yellow House Heritage Perennials, for the first time, where an open garden and plant sale were being held. Many keen gardeners will have met Mim and Neville Burkett at the major plant fairs in NSW, where they sell their range of interesting and healthy plants. I have always been impressed by what they have on offer, and by Mim's genuine love for and knowledge of her plants.

Fennel flowers at Yellow House Heritage Perennials Nursery, Nowra, NSW

The nursery is located behind their delightful 1920s butter-yellow weatherboard house, which they bought in 2009 and have renovated. The garden surrounding the house is my vision of a true Australian cottage garden, where edibles and ornamentals flourish together exuberantly, and chickens cluck in a henhouse in one corner. Everything is grown using organic principles. The front garden, sheltered by a mature jacaranda tree, has deep borders filled with old-fashioned roses, shrubs and perennials, and the rest of the garden is divided into various 'rooms', including a kitchen garden, an orchard of productive fruit trees and a thriving herb garden. However, flowers weave their way through all the garden beds, and the decorative leaves and blooms of the edible plants are integrated into the garden picture, such as the yellow blooms of fennel pictured above.

One of the gates to the garden rooms at Yellow House Heritage Perennials Nursery, Nowra, NSW

Each garden room is entered through an interesting old gate that forms part of a garden picture, such as the blue one featured at left, which leads into the herb garden. There are delights for all the senses in the garden. Aromatic foliage plants, that give out wafts of perfume as one brushes against them, are found throughout the garden, such as scented-leaf Perlargonium, including peppermint and rose forms; fruit-salad sage (Salvia dorisiana); nutmeg bush (Tetradenia riparia) and passionfruit marigold (Tagetes lemonnii).

Daylily and Coreopsis at Yellow House Heritage Perennials Nursery, Nowra, NSW

Though the plants seem to be all growing together totally naturalistically, an artist's hand and eye are behind the combinations, playing everywhere with colour, form and texture. Many vignettes through the garden caught my eye: a burgundy daylily with a yellow centre intertwined with the brilliant gold of a double Coreopsis (pictured left); the bold hand-shaped foliage of hellebores contrasted against the dainty filigree foliage of maidenhair ferns beneath plump shrubs of Hydrangea in a shaded part of the garden; the upright spires of Acanthus mollis flowers towered over by soaring sprays of bright blue chicory flowers; a pairing of the felt-leaved grey Helichrysum petiolare with the finely cut silvery fronds of an Artemisia (pictured further on in the blog).

Acanthus mollis with flowering chicory, Salvia and sweet peas at Yellow House Heritage Perennials Nursery, Nowra, NSW

Mim has been collecting plants from old gardens for many years, to save them for future generations of gardeners, and does all the propagating of her stock herself, from cuttings, division and seed. Many of the plants are ones that were grown in my parents' Blue Mountains garden, created in the 1960s and 1970s. Mim has a particular fondness for a number of genera, and has built up quite a collection of each in the nursery, including Artemisia, Salvia, species Geranium, Buddleja, Achillea and Penstemon. The slightly cooler climate at Nowra enables these latter two genera to grow well; I have never had much luck with them in my Sydney garden.

Helichrysum petiolare and Artemisia at Yellow House Heritage Perennials Nursery, Nowra, NSW

I was delighted to find a number of Artemisia for sale: ones that are almost impossible to find in nurseries these days, which I plan to incorporate into my own garden. She also has an interesting range of Cuphea, in a variety of colours, and a cute pink and yellow one called 'Pink Mouse' found its way home with me. These are excellent small shrubs for the Sydney climate. Visiting the nursery and garden was a very pleasant experience: poles apart from a trip to a soulless chain nursery in the city!