Wirreecoo Garden – a labour of love by Nowra Group

By Lorraine Bentley

Located on the beautiful south coast at Huskisson, is the garden much loved by Nowra Group – called Wirreecoo Gardens.

It’s nestled in with the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, a fascinating venture along the boardwalk to view the mangroves and a pond, at 11 Dent St, Huskisson, and open every day. 

About Wirreecoo Garden

The original garden, started by APS Nowra group in 1985, was known as the Lady Denman Garden or the Husky Garden. Competition for scarce water resources from many trees on sloping clay ground made the choice of site questionable.  

The disastrous bushfires of Christmas 2001 saw the garden almost destroyed. Although some plants survived and regenerated strongly, most were wiped out. Badly damaged trees had to be removed allowing more sunlight to enter the garden. 

A positive outcome of the fire was the chance to rethink and revamp it. A mounded garden was formed to display plants at their best and catch much needed water. A new garden theme was adapted ‘Linking Local Flora to Fauna’ to highlight local wildlife’s dependence on local plants.  A decision was made to give the Garden its own name and in 2003 it  was  renamed Wirreecoo Wildflower Garden. 

The Nowra tam

The APS Nowra group continues to maintain the garden with monthly working bees. For example in February this year, at a working bee, an energetic team of Giselle, Hugh, Maureen, Norm, Nick, Annabel, Colleen and Valerie, checked and controlled the Pittosporum undulatum popping up everywhere, removed Asparagus fern and other weeds, cleaned up the front section, tidied up the Lomandra, cleaned the panels, removed the rubbish and cleaned museum stickers from the seat and panel supported by some museum volunteers.

It was a very satisfactory outcome for a busy morning, with a full team of happy volunteers working away to make a difference.

There is always something in flower in the garden. I found the Bleeding heart (Homalanthus populifolius) on the Sunday before the meeting and noted it as a stunning addition to the garden. Of course they were never planted but found their way to Wirreecoo for us to enjoy. The Brown cuckoo-dove is often seen on them so could spread them. Hibiscus diversiflolius has sprawled further and needs to be controlled also but is flowering beautifully so can be left alone for a while.

Homolanthus populifolius
Hibiscus diveersifolius

Jervis Bay Maritime Museum

Just close by is the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum which houses the Lady Denman. This ship was built by Joseph Dent in 1911 and carried passengers on Sydney Harbour for 67 years. 

Upon her retirement in 1979 an intrepid band of  volunteers inspired by local identity, Dick Young and local Member of Parliament, John Hatton embarked on the seemingly impossible task of returning  the old ferry to her birthplace. The story of this iconic Walter Reeks-designed vessel, from 1911 to her final installation in the museum in 2000 is told through displays on board the ferry. Restoration to her mid-1960s appearance is an ongoing project. The Lady Denman is listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register and the National Register of Heritage Vessels.u