The Eucalyptus Collection
In short, the collection is a spontaneous journey led by the spirit of the landscape; the sunlight that filters through the eucalyptus trees and the smell of the air after a tropical storm. It is a reflection of the past, the colours of the present, and an optimistic outlook for the future. If you’re curious, feel free to read on.
I was 21 years old when we first moved out to the block in rural Darwin/Garramilla. It was dense virgin bushland and we cleared a small area in the middle where our little recycled house would sit. I have always loved gardening so the landscaping was at the forefront of my mind.
Having lived in Victoria for five years I imagined a Victorian style formal cottage garden, with lavender fields that would have trimmed box hedges and neatly cut green lawns. I liked the idea of having little spaces where we could and enjoy a cup of tea, or more likely a glass of wine. I dreamt of a chefs vegetable garden where I could walk out and pick dinner and cook for the family. While it was all good and well to be a dreamer, we didn’t actually have any water. We had to cart water three thousand litres at a time for a 20km round trip. It would take about 4-5 hours to fill the tank and it was a really crappy job.
I tried anyway. Despite the termites, lack of water, the tropical heat, humidity, sandy soil and the wildlife eating my plants I was still extremely optimistic. I would grab a bucket and use the grey water from the washing machine and sprint in and out of the house watering all my plants. They all died. The garden at this point was four metres of turf at the front step to stop mud coming in the house.
Frustrated and still carting water, I turned my focus to learning about landscaping and educating myself around the appropriate plants of the region. I would watch Gardening Australia religiously, and as Costa would give us the jobs list at the end of the episode my darling partner would commentate “and on the block, nothing… because we don’t have any water.” I read a lot about NT native plants and started to build a better knowledge base around what we could grow. The more I learned, the more observant I was around the plants, wildlife and changing landscape across the seasons. You may know Darwin as having two seasons, the wet and the dry. But we have learned from our traditional Larrakia owners there are 6 seasons in Darwin/Garramilla on the Gulumoerrgin (Larrakia) calendar. With the change of each season I started becoming a better listener to the bush. At all times of the year I love watching the light filter through the trees. It has become a ritual of mine to take a morning bush walk after the first seasonal rains. The air smells earthy and I observe new plants popping up of what the birds were eating over the dry and I like to spot the new growth on the deciduous trees.
By the time we got a bore it had been about 4 years of studying the landscape and we finally had the water to have a garden. Ironically the garden that I chose didn’t need any water at all. My mindset had shifted from trying to create something that didn’t belong, to appreciating the space I am in. I now have a beautiful native garden that compliments the surrounding bushland and adds to the biodiversity of the landscape. There is no irrigation and everything is thriving.
In reflection, I had matured as a person over the years and learned an important lesson. This garden isn’t for me, I am the caretaker. This garden has its own ‘microbiome’ and it’s apart of a bigger picture. It should be built to last long after I’m gone. The landscaping should reflect a healthy microbiome, where everything has its place. So if we want to get down to the nuts and bolts of it, this collection is a coming-of-age story. It’s an appreciation of self growth. It’s a celebration of the Australian native landscape. It's years of observing the light, the rain and the plants. It’s a story about me falling in love with the place I am in, learning to be curious, and being present. The ideas that I had when I first came to the block not only didn’t suit me, but they weren’t holistic. It was almost like I was kidding myself into wanting something that wasn’t for me, because I wasn’t quite sure who ‘me’ was yet. I can’t imagine being out in the garden every week trimming a box hedge, to be honest i can’t even be bothered putting the washing away. It’s kind of like saying I’m gonna go to the pub for one beer… it’s just never happened.
So there’s the story. I’m always up for a chat about my artwork and love to hear how people connect to the pieces. Don’t worry if you don’t know the proper art words – I don’t either so we can just talk about it like normal people.
I hope you saw something that made you smile today and had the capacity to pass it on.