Nestled among 10 hectares of bushland, Tony Meehan’s garden has earned the coveted title of Grand Champion at the 2023 Wyong Garden Competition, also securing first prize in the ‘Whole Garden over 1000 square metres’ category. What’s truly amazing is that Tony’s garden was only established in 2020 when he and his partner, artist and musician, Karynne Courts, moved to their Wyong Creek property.
Tony’s aim was to create a garden that would not only delight the senses but also harmonise with the surrounding forest. It’s a labour of love, one planned for his own satisfaction and pleasure and not public accolade. Karynne is a willing encourager who blends her artistic talents with Tony’s endeavours in horticulture.
Karynne’s artistic hand assists Tony’s plant combinations, here with pink everlastings and kangaroo paws. Garden art, like this echidna, adds whimsy.
When asked about his initial priorities, Tony says getting the hard landscaping done took centre stage in the early days. Steps and retaining walls were meticulously crafted to give a sense of structure to the garden. Close to the house, areas were zoned so there is a grand chook pavilion, an orchid house and a place for vegetables. These zones are more intensively maintained closer to the house but as you venture further away, the mantra was clear, ‘the more natural, the better’.
Tony takes fire safety seriously, clearing space around the orchid house to ensure protection from any bushfires. His commitment to preserving the natural environment is evident. He sourced most of his plants from nurseries like Sustainable Natives and Apunga Native Nursery that specialise in bush regeneration, and he sought advice from Nola Parry at what is now The Wildflower Meadow at Erina (formerly The Wildflower Place).
Soil quality plays a big part. Tony’s garden sits atop a mix of sand and shale, which means drainage varies throughout. Some areas are free-draining, while others can have quite heavy soil, all with a clay base underneath. Tony’s solution to this challenge is simple yet effective – he’s been adding compost by the truckload. Adding organic matter improves water retention but also enriches the soil with organic matter, making it more fertile for new plants.
The waterfall looks natural but it’s all artifice.
Tony’s garden is a work in progress, constantly evolving and adapting. Some plants may come and go, either due to their limited lifespan or the ever-changing conditions in the garden through rain, drought, frost and heat. But for Tony, that’s all part of the joy of gardening – it’s a continuous journey of discovery and refinement.
Tony points to his favourites, ‘I absolutely adore everlastings and grevilleas,’ he says with a gleam in his eye. But he doesn’t stop there; his garden boasts lillypillies and mint bushes, all classic native plants that thrive in his local climate.
A place to sit and dream is essential. The fire drum expands the useable time in the space.
The diversity of Tony’s planting is staggering, ranging from native species to a colourful array of hybrids and a testament to his willingness to experiment and embrace the unpredictable nature of gardening. C
WORDS PAUL URQUHART
PHOTOS LISA HAYMES. MAIN PHOTO TONY MEEHAN