Book review and ANPSA Terra Australis garden update

By Jeff Howes

Terra Australia garden (J Howes)

I was in Canberra in May this year and visited the Arboretum to check on the progress of the ANPSA Terra Australis Garden. It’s a great design and growing well. The depression or soak was designed to fill in heavy rain and I was delighted to see it full. 

Terra Australis Garden (J Howes)
Terra Australis Garden plaque (J Howes)










I also looked in at the Arboretum’s book shop and bought a very good book about a Victorian garden before and after the February 2009 Black Saturday Bushfire. This fire resulted in the death of 150 people and the destruction of 1500 homes, a true disaster. I thought I would share my comments on this great book titled ‘Round the Bend. The creation, destruction by fire and recovery of Tambreet Gardens’ By Esther Leahy. Published in 2013. EG Publishing. PO Box 9093 Traralgon Victoria 3844.

Tambreet Gardens was a deserted 6 acre ex dairy block of land with a creek, in country Victoria not far from the small town of Koornall. Koornall is about 150kms from Melbourne in the Latrobe Valley. The author Esther and her husband Sean Leahy bought this land to build a house and fill the garden with exotic species, trees of antiquity; trees of Australia and around the world, many grown from seed collected in their travels. Their garden was only four years old when on 7 February 2009 the terrible Black Saturday fire arrived at their property. They stayed to fight the fire, being well prepared with equipment such as many water tanks, pumps and full protective gear. They did just save their house and the first pages of the book describe the heart rendering story of their struggle do so.

The rest of this 265 page book gives a page or two of accurate botanical information and details of each of the garden plants or trees. It includes information on the growth or lack of, both pre fire and post fire. As well, each of these entries include colour photos to complement the text. Details are also provided on the return of animals and birds.

After the fire they were surprised how many plants that were burnt to a stalk relied on their suckering ability to shoot from below the ground including many rainforest plants like Davidson’s plum Davidsonia pruriens, black bean Castanospermum austral and the brown plum pine Podacarpus elatus to name a few of our native plants. Many introduced trees did the same.

Book cover (J Howes)

A few of the many lessons they learnt in post fire rejuvenation were:

  • How to rejuvenate the baked soil
  • Avoid pruning for a year except for safety reasons and removal of torn and dangerous limbs.
  • Wait four years before deciding plant will not regrow.
  • Leave broken and blackened trees in situ.
  • After a year returning exotic, non-native trees returning outnumbered native trees many times over.

In summary a great read and a book that will help you will gain an appreciation on natures survival strength. Well worth scouring a copy of this book.

Jeff Howes
May 2022