Rod’s Place. Gardening with a Magician.

Each time I visit Rod’s place, located in the heart of the dry Wimmera district, I do so with a heightened sense of anticipation. I always take my camera along and even the offered glass of chilled Pinot Grigio does not distract me from my snap happy tour. His house and garden is a feast for the eyes. Although he claims that nothing much has changed since my previous visit, I can usually spot major revamping. Lets’ take a walk together through his garden.

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Gardening on the verge and the last of the gravel country lane.

One of the major developments is the spill over of Rod’s garden onto the road verge. This began some years ago with a few tough succulents and a rosemary bush or two which thrived in the granulated sand. Since then, he has added some red flowering bottle brush, Callistemon, and a sprawling silver and purple flowering Dusty Miller, some irises and red flowering geranium. Along his fence line are vertical walls of creeping geranium, orange lantana, large agave, and ornate old wire fencing intertwined with rusty bedsteads. Passers by stop in their tracks and gaze in awe. It’s a work of art and enormously inviting in a wild kind of way.

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Part of the front fence

At his end of town, the paths are still rustic, consisting of hard compacted gravel, country paving that suits this rural village. All the town paths used to be so. But sadly ‘progress’ is now just a block away: the local Council is rolling out regimental width white concrete paving. This is happening despite the advice from R.M.I.T’s architectural department, where the students identified that the traditional gravel paving enhanced the visual and historic feel to the town and should be retained. Ugly concrete paving will be another blow to the town. Government grant money, which must be spent, often ignores aesthetics.

Eww
The front entrance.

The narrow walkway to the front door takes you through a dark forest of succulents mixed with three metre high shrubbery. Rod initially planted out his front garden with rescued agave plants, found growing in abandoned ruins in the countryside or at the tip. To attain height, he has added large pots, urns, and statuary: these are usually placed on top of some found tin object to obtain further height. Other plants, such as geraniums, grow a few metres high in their chase to reach light. There are very few purchased plants in Rod’s garden.

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An icon within an icon.

Statues of Buddha feature throughout the garden, but their placements are meant to surprise and amuse. This golden Buddha sits inside a painted corrugated iron tank which is raised onto an old wooden tank platform. The Buddha faces the house, the blue painted tank faces the street. Others can be found about the garden, often in seemingly random positions, on top of fence posts, or inside cages, or lying about, waiting to be painted.

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Dense shrubbery and Buddha head

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Amid the dense planting in the front yard, Rod recently broke through to create a tiny red brick path leading to another small painted niche and shrine.

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New shrine in the front garden

The back yard is now a forest. When Rod arrived here years ago, there was an old apricot tree, a sad-looking 100-year-old grape-vine and an old shed. Now the garden is a wonderland. The ancient vine is a monster, twisting its way around the garden and into the front yard. Other statues peep out from the shrubs. One colourful wooden Torii gate is topped with a terracotta chook sitting on a barbed wire nest. Rows of Chinese warriors, bought years ago from the Reject shop, line up in a tall painted wire cage. A classical statue sits on top of an old truck. Frizzle chooks and roosters run amok in the understory. I nearly stepped on a day old lost chicken.

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Statues, statues but not all in a row.
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Statues with creeping geranium
A Chinese emperor
A Chinese emperor midst the shrubbery out the back.
a cage full of Chinese warriors.
A cage full of Chinese warriors.
old truck with xx
Old painted truck with statue and urns
A head floating in thick creepers
A spooky head floating in thick creepers
chook, barbed wire nest and Torii gate
Chook, barbed wire nest on Japanese Torii gate.

Rod is an artist who is always on the look out for something quirky to add to the mix. He fertilises his garden with sheep manure collected from his brother’s farm and adds thick mulch in summer. He is on town water, but uses this sparingly. The garden thrives due to the microclimate he has created. The garden provides deep shade in summer and protection from frost and wind at other times.

the back yard.
The back yard walk.

I have thousands of photos of Rod’s garden and have chosen these few(!) to demonstrate what can be achieved with found junk, some good quality statues and urns and plant cuttings from the tip.

Coming soon: Rod’s house.

33 thoughts on “Rod’s Place. Gardening with a Magician.”

  1. Love that garden. Its natural wildness and beauty along with the colour means it doesn’t need any topiary to be a winning garden. It is just plain artistic! Congratulations to the photographer too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, what a glorious tumble. I love the icon within an icon- the Budha looks very serene. What environmental vandalism to concrete the beautiful laneway. It makes no sense whatsoever – a concrete path is impervious and in such a dry climate it is nonsensical to lay concrete with Government money which could be used for a far better purpose. Our Brisbane City Council is just as daft.

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  3. You forgot the additional ingredient that makes the garden work, perspiration. The ideas are brilliant but the work to make it happen is equally important. I love your sneaky little photo of a person, I assume it is Rod, talking at the front entrance. I was making note of the plants he uses, wondering if we couldn’t use a few in our garden. Do they get the 40+ temps that we have had this week? That is what really fries our garden, even using natives. And now the damn grasshoppers are doing their best to obliterate things again… Lovely post Francesca. I can tell through your writing and photos how much you enjoy Rod’s garden. I would too, would love to get a camera into it!

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    1. I do love Rod’s garden. He does do a lot of physical hauling and lifting of things and is always at it, when not working in his regular occupation. yes, Jeparit gets many days over 40c – it is close to the Mallee district and the heat there is extraordinary. Jeparit borders a couple of deserts so the temperatures are extreme, not unlike Alice. He plants things close together and so in the end, they make their own shade. Huge succulants were the starting point, then structures and statues. Ground or low planting is not his scene. The lowest garden is out on the verge.
      Yes, that sneaky photo is of Rod. wait till you see his decor in the house Ardys! I am saving that one for a while- I have too many shots to sort through.

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  4. What a joy and vision to behold. I remember you showed me some very stark photos of Rod’s garden about 20 years ago – lages succulents and cacti planted all about awaiting a foot-hold for what has become an artisan’s homage to all the senses. Fantastic pix and story – bring on the house pix – PLEASE.

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    1. Thanks Jane, You know how hard it can be to get a garden going in a dry, harsh climate. I know how much you have achieved out of Broken Hill. The Wimmera climate is similar I suspect.

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  5. This garden is nothing short of spectacular, Francesca, and how wonderful that you know personally the person responsible for creating and maintaining it. I would love to stroll with him and listen to him explain why he chose this or that plant and placed it here or there.

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  6. Perfect complement to Rod’s house. A marvellous garden to explore and get wonderfully lost in time & place both in situ & vicariously. I love the wire front fence. And am grieving the modernisation of the footpath, surely heritage but conveniently under in the auspices of bureaucracy.

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