Many years ago, a friend living on the northern beaches area of Sydney told me and other gardening friends about a delightful little nursery in her suburb: the erstwhile Belrose Nursery, established by Michael Cooke and then taken over later by Rob and Felicity Willis. Set in a sprawling old garden, it had chooks and dogs roaming around, and lots of novel features - as well as amazing and unusual plants displayed in creative ways. Many an enjoyable outing was spent visiting this nursery and acquiring interesting plants. Very sadly, it closed in 2009. So I was thrilled to be taken - by the same dear friend - to another innovative nursery in the same region last week!
New Leaf Nursery in Ingleside first began operating seven years ago, on the site of an old palm nursery. Starting from literally nothing, it has developed into an extensive, rambling complex that celebrates all things gardening, in a charming and quirky way, as far removed as can possibly be imagined from the soulless chain nurseries that have taken the place of the numerous individually owned establishments that we used to have in the olden days.
There are plants galore - and interesting ones too - arranged in different bays by their type or use in the garden: shade-lovers; foliage plants, including ferns, grasses and bromeliads; hedge plants; succulents; groundcovers; native species; flowering exotics and so on. There is a big emphasis on edible plants, with rows of vegie seedlings (that can be purchased individually!); fruit trees; perennial food plants such as rhubarb, asparagus and even horseradish; interesting native bush tucker plants; and lots of herbs, including the beautiful (and rarely seen for sale) purple-backed perennial basil bush.
Everywhere in the precinct there are repurposed objects adding a wonderful ambience to the place: a rusty truck, vintage sofas to sit on in a shady nook, ancient pianos, an 'Early Kooka' stove, an old bath and wooden rowboats. Some of the items are used to display plants, such as the cane doll's pram planted out with herbs and vegetables (shown at right). But many of the objects are available to amuse a certain demographic of the populations of visitors: children. Unlike many nurseries, this place actively encourages children to visit. There are pedal cars to drive, an enormous teepee to hide in, and many toys scattered about for them to play with whilst their parents browse through the nursery.
There are rabbits, chooks and guinea pigs to pat in a special 'Kids' Zoo' section, and baby chicks to look at. A whole section of the nursery is devoted to hens and ducks available for purchase, plus all the paraphernalia needed to keep them at home. Free-range eggs can even be bought! Comical scarecrows in various poses adorn the nursery. The whole place has a charming sense of fun, and I can't envisage a better way to introduce children to the idea that gardening is a wonderful and enjoyable pastime. On the day of my visit, the place was swarming with kids!
There is a big emphasis on sustainable gardening principles and a strong theme of recycling. A mountain of mulch out the front of the nursery, dropped off by local tree-lopping firms, is available for free for anyone with a bag or trailer to pile it into. There is a real community feel about this place, and it promotes an authentic view of the importance of gardening in our increasingly frenetic lives. Long may it prosper.
The charm of vintage gardening books
28 Feb 21
A trip back in time
21 Feb 21
Cane-stemmed Begonia cultivars are summer stars for foliage and flower power in Sydney gardens.
14 Feb 21
There are some unusual flowers on my grasses now.
07 Feb 21
These plants bloom for many months in my garden - and some are in flower all year!
31 Jan 21
Many scented flowers are in bloom now.