Sharing the secret

Sunday, 02 September 2012

One of the friendly pigs at the Secret Garden & Nursery

What has this little piggy got to do with gardening, you may be asking? Well, in fact, this pig was one of the endearing features of a nursery I visited at Richmond (NSW) last weekend. Two tame pigs, who can be hand-fed, live at the Secret Garden & Nursery, located on five acres within the grounds of the University of Western Sydney. With free-range hens, ducks and some sheep, the rambling nursery has a delightful country atmosphere, as far removed as can be imagined from the soulless modern garden centres that comprise our main sources of plants these days.

Free-range hens wandering in the nursery

The nursery is a not-for-profit organisation run by North West Disability Services Inc. Proceeds of its plant sales fund horticultural therapy programs held within the garden, which aim to enhance the lives of people with mental illness or physical or intellectual disabilities through participation in gardening activities. Horticultural therapy has had a long history in heath care, and is now widely used to provide creative, recreational, social and vocational activities, and to give a link to the natural world, which we gardeners know is so vital to wellbeing.

Succulents and bromeliads for sale at the nursery

The people who attend this garden for horticultural therapy tend their own garden beds and help pot up plants for the nursery. There is a huge range of plants for sale, many being unusual types that are hard to find elsewhere these days. The prices are very reasonable. Succulents, bromeliads, herbs, cottage garden plants, fruit trees, hedge plants, grasses and hardy groundcovers are available. I found some interesting scented-leaved Pelargonium, a variety of Salvia plants and some healthy-looking trailing perennial Verbena x hybrida to buy during my visit. The friendly staff will help if you have queries about any of the plants.

Eye-catching garden art at the nursery

The plants are displayed within a garden setting, with some quirky features incorporated with an artist's eye at every turn: unusual sculptures and use of objects in the garden beds such as teapots, teacups, old birdcages and other interesting items add to the charm of the place. There are tables and chairs where visitors can sit and have a picnic, and tea and coffee are available.

Echium candicans in the display garden

The gardens behind the nursery are well worth exploring and include a number of fruit trees and other specimens. Citrus fruit from the garden is often available for sale. There was a stately plant of Echium candicans (mentioned in last week's blog) in full bloom (potted plants of it were for sale too). It is a great place to bring children, as there is plenty for them to look at whilst you grab a chance to peruse the plants on offer. It reminds me of some of the nurseries that used to exist many years ago but which have all been swept aside by modernity.

Primula malacoides growing at the nursery

The nursery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. To find the nursery, enter the main gates to the University of Western Sydney via College Drive from Bourke Street, Richmond (turn left at the traffic lights on the corner of Blacktown Road and Bourke Street to enter Bourke Street), then turn right down the dirt road at the security hut and follow the signs to the nursery. Telephone enquiries: 0414 784460.