"A cottage garden in Nowra"

I visited a lovely garden on the South Coast.
Sunday, 22 November 2015     

The house at Yellow House Heritage Perennials Nursery, Nowra, NSW

I have always loved the South Coast of NSW, having spent summer holidays there for nearly two decades when I was growing up. The combination of lush rural countryside and pristine beaches was alluring, and remains so, despite a lot of changes over the years.

This past weekend, I found myself in the South Coast town of Nowra to visit the nursery and garden of Yellow House Heritage Perennials, for the first time, where an open garden and plant sale were being held. Many keen gardeners will have met Mim and Neville Burkett at the major plant fairs in NSW, where they sell their range of interesting and healthy plants. I have always been impressed by what they have on offer, and by Mim's genuine love for and knowledge of her plants.

The nursery is located behind their delightful 1920s butter-yellow weatherboard house, which they bought in 2009 and have renovated. The garden surrounding the house is my vision of a true Australian cottage garden, where edibles and ornamentals flourish together exuberantly, and chickens cluck in a henhouse in one corner. Everything is grown using organic principles. The front garden, sheltered by a mature jacaranda tree, has deep borders filled with old-fashioned roses, shrubs and perennials, and the rest of the garden is divided into various 'rooms', including a kitchen garden, an orchard of productive fruit trees and a thriving herb garden. However, flowers weave their way through all the garden beds, and the decorative leaves and blooms of the edible plants are integrated into the garden picture, such as the yellow blooms of fennel pictured above.

Each garden room is entered through an interesting old gate that forms part of a garden picture, such as the blue one featured at left, which leads into the herb garden. There are delights for all the senses in the garden. Aromatic foliage plants, that give out wafts of perfume as one brushes against them, are found throughout the garden, such as scented-leaf Perlargonium, including peppermint and rose forms; fruit-salad sage (Salvia dorisiana); nutmeg bush (Tetradenia riparia) and passionfruit marigold (Tagetes lemonnii).

Though the plants seem to be all growing together totally naturalistically, an artist's hand and eye are behind the combinations, playing everywhere with colour, form and texture. Many vignettes through the garden caught my eye: a burgundy daylily with a yellow centre intertwined with the brilliant gold of a double Coreopsis (pictured left); the bold hand-shaped foliage of hellebores contrasted against the dainty filigree foliage of maidenhair ferns beneath plump shrubs of Hydrangea in a shaded part of the garden; the upright spires of Acanthus mollis flowers towered over by soaring sprays of bright blue chicory flowers; a pairing of the felt-leaved grey Helichrysum petiolare with the finely cut silvery fronds of an Artemisia (pictured further on in the blog).

Mim has been collecting plants from old gardens for many years, to save them for future generations of gardeners, and does all the propagating of her stock herself, from cuttings, division and seed. Many of the plants are ones that were grown in my parents' Blue Mountains garden, created in the 1960s and 1970s. Mim has a particular fondness for a number of genera, and has built up quite a collection of each in the nursery, including Artemisia, Salvia, species Geranium, Buddleja, Achillea and Penstemon. The slightly cooler climate at Nowra enables these latter two genera to grow well; I have never had much luck with them in my Sydney garden.

I was delighted to find a number of Artemisia for sale: ones that are almost impossible to find in nurseries these days, which I plan to incorporate into my own garden. She also has an interesting range of Cuphea, in a variety of colours, and a cute pink and yellow one called 'Pink Mouse' found its way home with me. These are excellent small shrubs for the Sydney climate. Visiting the nursery and garden was a very pleasant experience: poles apart from a trip to a soulless chain nursery in the city!

 Reader Comments

1/5  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 23 November 2015

Your description of Mim"s garden invites a visit. It is my idea of an Australian cottage garden, where flowers, shrubs and herbs all intermingle, forming a delightful, and practical, picture. Many people seem to have difficulty in growing penstemons in Sydney, I am fortunate, they appear to like my conditions, and flower happily. Great blog - thank you! Thanks, Margaret. Lucky you with the penstemons! They are the most gorgeous cottagey flower. Deirdre

2/5  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 23 November 2015

Lovely little journey thru a very pretty garden - love all those plants mentioned. Glad to hear someone is saving old fashioned plants- I am seeing lots of gardens being demolished (bulldozers take down whole houses and gardens round here) and the site is replaced by a McMansion with just a token lawn and a few green bits out the front the exact opposite of Mim"s place. Yes it is quite horrid what is happening everywhere with development. It seems we are all meant to live without gardens in the future??? Deirdre

3/5  Christine - 2429 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 23 November 2015

Thankyou Deidre for another great blog - re-read two or three times, as usual!! I agree with the sentiments by Margaret and Sue above - too many lovely old rambling gardens created with love over many many years are being bulldozed daily to make way for soul-less houses and "gardens". Thank goodness for enthusiastic and creative gardeners and personalised nurseries. Couldn"t imagine life without a cottagey rambling garden!!! There are so few nurseries left like this one. Long may it continue. Deirdre

4/5  Lynette - 2114 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 23 November 2015

I popped in on Mim earlier this year & found a soulmate. A delightful lady with a wonderful garden. It"s well worth a visit. Thanks, Lynette. I believe people can visit the nursery by appointment, or else see the nursery stall at the big NSW plant fairs such as at Clarendon and Kariong. It will also be great to have them at the Cottage Garden Club next February. Deirdre

5/5  Anne - 2518 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 24 November 2015

I first visited this garden not longer after they moved there. I was able to visit it again this year as they opened during the Berry Garden Festival and I drove the little bit further and indulged in a few more plants - love those little perennials which are so hard to come by. Some lovely roses in the garden too. Now is so big now!! remember it being a much smaller place. Glad you have seen the garden. I love the plants they sell. Deirdre

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